This newsletter was originally written in October 2023. However, before it was published Dave’s father passed away suddenly. It has been updated in April 2024.

October 2023
Since becoming a dad for the first time at Christmas last year, my life has changed in many fantastic ways. There are the obvious things – nappies, winding and of course the gift that keeps on giving – sleep regression. And while I had been warned about the incoming sense of ‘perspective’ I was about to be bestowed with, becoming a parent also brought into focus a number of areas I needed to address in order to be the best version of myself for my daughter, Cara.

Being honest – my ability to manage stress, learn, and find the passion I had for my role had eroded over time. Without really even noticing, my experience of work and its impact on my life had shifted from overwhelmingly positive and was drifting towards the negative. It was at this stage I started my first coaching engagements.
You might think that extended paternity leave is the perfect solution to disconnect and re-establish the balance – and to a certain extent that is right. It’s an incredible period of time, and creates space for parent/child bonding like nothing else. But, I knew that if I wanted to make that effect last beyond the date I returned to work, I would need to be deliberate about using that time to establish new norms and practices. My advice for anyone who feels they are in the same boat:

Get out of your ‘left brain’

My weeks during work had become increasingly routine. While I do love a routine – much of my thinking was analytical, task based and repetitive. Challenging myself to cook a new meal each week, read more, take up adult drawing (colouring for adults – just to be clear!), and learning the piano (for all of 1 day) helped break this cycle of left brain thinking and tap into my right brain.

Invest in learning

For a few years I had felt I was not on as steep a learning curve in work, owing to the length of time I have been in my role. A simple conversation opened up all sorts of ideas for development opportunities not solely available in my daily role. The plan now is to undertake a part time professional diploma in UCD. While a simple idea, it’s giving me a renewed sense of energy that I can get back to learning and challenging myself.

I’ve never been one for a gratitude journal and likely never will be! But – small practices I’ve developed are important reminders throughout the week and are immensely valuable in overcoming day-to-day stress. An old manager of mine once said – “if you love 80% of your role and 20% is a pain, that’s not such a bad place to be” and he is right. Reminding ourselves of that is important.

I could go on and on about the other realisations I’ve had this year but I’ll spare you! I’d summarise my experience by saying that sometimes it can take a significant life event for you to realise there is work to be done, but it doesn’t have to. Using the time off I was afforded gave me the space to create new habits for myself that have sustained while I’ve returned to the office. Being deliberate about those changes and sticking with as many as I could have got my spark back.

April 2024

You never know quite what is around the corner. What seems like an innocuous phone call can actually be the beginning of a few months of turmoil. I decided not to share the original newsletter at the time as the tone didn’t seem right. However, what I did want to add is that despite a challenging few months – I am glad to report that the practices I’ve established in the last year – in terms of reflection, learning and trying to build resilience – have been most helpful.