On Fatherhood

Andy Jonak
June 17, 2021

I love being a father – it is the number one job in my life. Being a father is one of the most defining parts of my life, and I wouldn’t have it any other way. As I imagine is the case for most parents, I can’t picture my life without my kids. I feel the successes and accomplishments of my children as much as they do, and I feel their pain when they have challenges, no matter how big or small. I am always so proud of all they strive to accomplish, whether big or small, whether they succeed or not. That’s a big part of my job as their father.

I approach all things in life in my first belief – that family comes first. I know most feel that way, but we all know it’s not always easy, especially in what we all do in IT, as IT is one of the most demanding career choices.

Whether we like it or not, there’s no actual “off switch” in IT.  Because IT is integral to our customers’ businesses and operates 24×7, most of us in the IT industry feel we need to be on and available 24×7.  Whether positive or negative, that’s the reality of our industry.  So when those outside of IT read these words, please don’t feel bad for us as it’s the career path we’ve chosen. There’s no other place I would rather be than in IT.

So how do you balance family and career, especially in IT?  It’s not easy, but just like anything else important in your life, it’s about priorities. For me, my first priority is being father, even on top of the career that I love, and my actions throughout all aspects of my life reflect this. I put family first and value the work-life balance over anything else.

I’ve found that putting family first and being a father first have made my career better in immeasurable ways. How so, you ask?  First of all, it constantly reminds me of what I am working so hard for: taking care of my family. Outside of reminding me that family comes first, being a father helps me dictate the actions I take throughout my career, from strategic to tactical, as the choices I make and things I do (or choose not to do) will affect my family. My family is a package deal in my career. As goes my career, so goes the effect it has on my family.

Being a father is pervasive in my daily work routine as well. For example, if I have a big meeting to attend, a big presentation to give (in person or remote), or have to go on stage to emcee or host a big event, I often picture my kids sitting in the audience watching me in the crowd. It helps me visualize and reminds me of what’s important, which is them, and it inspires me. If I perform well with my kids “watching” me, that will hopefully be the case for the rest of the crowd. That’s a direct result of my being a father.

Being a father also helps me boil things down in who I am –  your work persona and your family/father persona should be the same. As we always say in sales, you must be genuine. I joke with both my colleagues and my kids that with me, what you see is what you get. I am the same person in a business situation as I am at home, and I believe it’s reflected in how I act, speak and write.  

I speak the same, have the same goofy smile I’ve always had, show the same friendly personality, and engage what some say is my unfortunate ability to speak and write too much at times. It’s all done with the same mannerisms I’ve had pretty much my whole life, which reflects what I’ve learned from my father. I’m not a different person in business versus at home, nor do I want to be. It’s who I am, and you can take it or leave it, my quirks and all.  Being a father is the reason for it, and my kids remind me in all they do and how they act. That’s a wonderful thing.

My kids are 20, 18, and 16 as of 2021. As my oldest was about to be born, I remember worrying about how I would balance being a father with a demanding career in IT, especially in sales. Then I saw her after she was born and realized it was the other way around; how will I balance being in IT with being a father, which changed everything for me.  Holding my firstborn, beautiful daughter for the first time made me realize without question that she and my family came first and career second. I felt the same way as my middle daughter and son were born, and all I kept thinking was family first.

How has the past year and the pandemic affected how I am as a father? First, it’s helped me double down on what’s essential. It has reinforced what’s important. Second, it helps me make sure I do my best to carve out time for them as every moment with my kids is precious, especially as they get older and spread their wings. I’m so proud of them for growing up and starting their own lives, as all parents undoubtedly are, even though it makes me a bit sad at times, as I want more time with them.

Part of me misses when they were younger, and we did everything together, but like just about all parents, I am proud of every step they take throughout their lives.  As they get older, their interests pull them in many directions outside of family-oriented activities. That’s OK. That is what’s supposed to happen. Working through the pandemic and the WFH environment has made time and priority with my kids even more important and precious. My kids see me working hard, but also see me making time for family and what’s important. I want and need that to be a lesson for them that they carry throughout their lives: Work hard in all you do, but don’t forget what’s important. Not only should you not forget (that’s just words), but be sure to live it every day.

As I write this early on a weekend morning as the sun is coming up (my favorite time of the day) with my wife and kids still asleep, I reflect on the balance of being a father and the other things in my life. I don’t want to write this post after they are up since we have things to do, and I don’t want to take time from being with them.  

I love being a father and put that first in my life. Being a father brings me profound joy and makes my life better in too many ways to count. I can’t imagine it any other way and don’t want to.

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