Some days I am a shit dad. There I said it. My head is up my own ass worrying about shit I can’t do anything about and I’m there in front of kids who only want to play with their dad. But I’m not there. I’m physically there but in my head, I’m at work worrying about some pointless shit that I actually really don’t care about but I can’t shake it. My kids, 3 and 6, only want to wrestle Dad or play games, and I sadly am looking at the time (sometimes) as an inconvenience. That statement is shit to write and even shitter to feel. I love my kids. They are my world and when I’m present, I am a really good dad. Actually, I’m a great dad.
So what gets in the way?
The problem is how I transition from work to home. How we move between our spaces is a really powerful but often an under-discussed topic. When I was being trained to be a Physical Education teacher, the transition between activities, between classes, between teachers was explicitly taught and highlighted as a key process in helping manage behaviour and building flow into the lesson.
But how many of us structure transition time into our day?
The booking of meetings back to back is a normal practice. Classes in school have transition time but that has more to do with physical movement between classrooms than it does mental headspace. Transition is an afterthought and so often we leave a little piece of ourselves in the previous meeting, classroom or conversation. Something may have riled us up. Something may be left undone or unsaid. Whatever it is, we aren’t yet fully in our new space.
Space as an example of transition done well
If we think a spaceship docking at the International Space Station, there is so much care given to the transition from one to the other. One wrong move could spell death for many so there are no stones left unturned when it comes to safety protocol. Once the spaceship docks, it locks into the ISS and pressurises a compartment between the two. Once pressurised, the hatch at the spaceship will open and the astronauts will move into the transition space. They close the hatch behind them and then open the hatch at the ISS. The process is done with extreme care. Each space is vital and movement between each is careful and considered. What if we transitioned with the same precision?
How can we create the transition chamber between our rocket (work) and our International Space Station (home)?
The car often provides the transition chamber. For many, a drive home can assist with shaking off the ups and downs of the day…but are you pressurising the chamber?
What do I mean by that?
What I am referring to is how deliberate your car ride/transition is. What questions do you ask yourself? Do you just tune out to the radio and hone in on the negatives of the day? Usually, our medial prefrontal cortex takes over and our mind wanders. As Daniel Goleman writes in Focus, our mind wandering tends to be ‘negative, full or rumination and worry’. It is all about me and my inner story. We amplify past conversations, hone in on the negative and then let that breed or brood. This automaticity is habit. For anyone who has ever tried meditating, the wandering mind is non stop. It is a beautiful part of being human BUT it does take us out of the present moment and into our heads. In there, it is nothing but stories that we tell ourselves. We automatically shift to focus on our worries. The great news is that our brain through neuroplasticity can be rewired to focus on the negative. Instead of letting the mind wander as you drive home, use the What Went Well strategy. Developed by Dr Martin Seligman, founding father of Positive Psychology and author of Flourish, What Went Well is a deliberate focus on the positives of your day.
What Went Well
- List three things that went well during your day
- Explain why each one went well for you
Set up a trigger for this practice. It might be that before you turn your car on, you complete this practice. Doing this, as Goleman writes in Focus, is ‘goal-oriented attention and it inhibits mindless mental habits.’ This helps pressurise the transition space so that you can control and contain the happenings of the workday. It allows you to focus on the positives of your day and it also provides a physical space for you to do so.
Dr Adam Fraser calls this space the Third Space. A pressurised hatch between two worlds where you take the time to move from work to home and vice versa. The below video explains the concept beautifully.
Personally, when I don’t have a long drive home so the carryover from work is usually pretty substantial. My third space is the bedroom. As soon as I walk in the door, I head straight in there and go through a little transition routine. This helps to pressurise the third space so that I can deal with the items of my day and step out of my work mode and into husband and father mode. I set my clothes out for the next day. I get into comfortable clothing. I make a few notes and then when I’m ready, I leave my phone in the room and step out as a husband and father. This ‘sacred pause’ as Jiro Taylor, founder of the Flowstate Collective, allows me to breathe in and breathe out. It allows me to pause and take stock. It helps me to shift my mind to present. In his book, The Third Space, Dr. Adam Fraser says that there are three steps that need to be completed during this time.
- Reflect – how do I interpret what just happened to me?
- Rest – can I be still and present?
- Reset – how will I show up?
This ritual can help you to stop and get whatever is in your head out of your head. Write it down. Make a to-do list for tomorrow. Create a list of Most Important Tasks to do in the morning. Once this has been completed, take a few moments to be mindful. It might be a short meditation. It might be three breaths. It might be lying down on the bed with your eyes shut. Whatever it is, this is all about stillness.
How fast is your heart pumping?
Slow it down by taking deep breaths, in through the nose and out through the mouth.
Check in with your body.
Are you feeling any tension? Breath into that and let it go.
The breath is truly powerful and can flush your tension away if you let it. Then through intention, ask yourself how you will be with your family? They do not know anything about your day. Your kids will largely not care about your day. They only care about your interactions with them now. So be deeply present. Cherish this time. Give them your ‘A’ game.
This process helps to pressurise your third space. It helps you to move from one space to another. It is helping me to be the best father and husband I can be. It is helping me to put my own oxygen mask on first and it helps me to be better at the different versions of myself.
Header image: Unsplash.com