I joined Allison+Partners in February 2020. Having worked in agencies for my entire career, I knew early mornings, late nights and frequent travel were the price of admission. Before the pandemic, I had a regular routine down: Out of the house early before my daughter woke up, back home after she went to bed, and weekends as a sort of catch up before Monday came for us to do it all over again.
It felt like the right way to work and live at the time, but looking back, I’m not particularly proud of how I did things. As my spouse still frequently reminds me, I went back to the office three days after she gave birth – clearly not my finest hour.
When the pandemic turned the world upside down, I felt the impact most as a parent. The early mornings and late nights didn’t go away, but they now meant I had been promoted from my previously “part-time” dad position into full-time parenting. As millions of others experienced, the change was abrupt and difficult to personally reconcile. Making things even stranger: in fall 2020, the pandemic continued but schools reopened, so my spouse went back to her job as a teacher while I continued to work from home.
My old morning ritual now a distant memory, I became responsible for breakfast, wardrobe, hair and ensuring a backpack was properly packed before my daughter went out the door in the morning. This adjustment wasn’t without its rocky moments, but we developed a system – and both learned a lot along the way. I became good enough at getting her to school that she was usually the first one to arrive in the morning. Recently, one of the other parents at my daughter’s school suggested I should become a “class parent” and facilitate communications on activities between the teacher and other parents in the school. I was stunned and flattered. This level of engagement in my daughter’s school would have been unheard of just a couple of years ago.
When it came time for me to return to the office two days a week, it came with mixed emotions… and a couple of tough conversations where I had to explain why dad wouldn’t be at home every morning anymore. Over the last two years, I had gone from being mostly invisible in my daughter’s weekday life to essential. Despite all the losses that resulted from the pandemic, it changed my life for the better in this regard, and for that I’m forever thankful.
As we celebrate Father’s Day this year, I feel like there’s nothing easy about being a parent: You make mistakes, you learn, you try to do better the next day. Sometimes you succeed, and sometimes not so much. Throughout this entire experience, I learned that the most important thing a parent can do is show up. When you do that, all the other stuff somehow falls into place.
Phil is a Senior Vice President in the technology practice at Allison + Partners. He has nearly 15 years of agency experience working on everything from start-ups to some of the world’s largest tech brands. He currently serves as a leader for the agency’s Samsung B2B work.