Today is a momentous occasion. For the first time since the summer holidays began on July 23rd, I’m up to date on my emails. Operating on a 5-10 day email delay is frustrating and, in an industry at precarious as design, potentially disastrous.
I’ve been a parent since I was 20, which is my entire adult life. I built my business around toddlers with tonsillitis and school days that finish at 3pm. It’s a seat of your pants approach to life where you throw money, time and energy at which ever black hole is currently screaming the loudest.
At 36, my mate Dave (founder of StudioDBD) has just had his first baby. After 6 emails, 3 missed calls and one false start due to a child care let down, we finally sat down to compare notes on our children, business and balancing the two.
GG – Ay up Dave, you’ve been a parent for a month now, how’s that working out for you?
DS – It’s dead easy. Not sure what all the fuss is about. By day four we’d even managed to get showered by half past three in the afternoon. So yep, all in all a massive success.
GG – I was still in university when I had my first kid. I think having them constantly in the background has really influenced how I work. I’ve always had to hit a milestone and get straight back to the kids. You’ve had years to build your business. Do you think Aoife’s arrival will change the way you operate it?
DS – Er, what business?! In all seriousness the business was forgotten for a few weeks. I’ve gone from being the kind of person who checks his phone all the time, to the kind of person who only picks up his phone to take (yet another) photo of my baby doing exactly the same thing as she was doing on the last 4567 photos.
I have to get better at time management. In the past I’d agonise over a small bit of type and spend ages on a layout. I think that’s still really important, but I need to be more decisive. A lot of the time with my work, the first thing I design is best. I’m seeing being a dad as a really good way to stop procrastinating.
GG – Those first years are a balancing act. I remember speaking to a product manager at Universal about a video pitch while I fed my new born. She stopped mid-conversation to ask what was making such a weird noise and I had to explain that he was a very noisy feeder. I always wonder if my toting a newborn was the reason we didn’t get that job.
DS – I know of a designer who lost some work as he took too long to reply to an email during paternity leave. I think he replied the next day. Are we really living in a world when people are so demanding that they can’t wait 24 hours for a reply? I just feel that if someone wants to work with you on something and you are honest enough to say ‘look, i’m having a kind of life changing experience right now. Give me a few days to get my head straight’ and they’re fine about it. Those are the kind of people I want to work with, I’ll make up the time for them.
GG – I’ve got 13 years parenting experience on you and I still don’t think I’ve cracked it. I doesn’t matter whether I’ve got 6 weeks or 6 days, I still produce the majority of my work in the hours leading up to a the deadline. I do wonder how much better my work would be with more headspace. What about you? Are you feeling more or less creative?
DS – It’s still early days I guess, but staying creative is bloody hard. There’s no denying that when you’re sleep deprived and more concerned if your baby has done a poo than what typeface to use on a certain job, then your creativity takes a pounding. I was hoping that would pass.
GG – I’m still hoping it will. Mine are 13 and 9 now and they’ve had a huge chunk of my attention, far more than if I’d been employed. But I can’t shake the feeling that I’m ready to bust out and focus on my career. It goes against the mum code, but I want someone else to be responsible for sick days and summer holidays now.
DS – It’s the exact opposite for me! It’s hard for dads because we’re still expected to be in work and providing. I find myself shutting down my mac to ‘beat the traffic’ when really I just miss my baby.
GG – I remember being really ashamed of myself for leaving an important conference (that someone else had paid a lot of money for me to attend) because of that same reason. It’s nice to hear you say something we as parents aren’t always brave enough to vocalise. We’re expected to keep the kid thing in the background, despite them being the key reason we haven’t packed it all in to bum around the world.
DS – People used to say to me that having children will change your life and I used to think ‘Yeah, right. It can’t be that different surely’. Yet in all the chaos and confusion and during all the late nights, early mornings, nappy changes and sick episodes there’s this kind of love that you can’t really explain. It’s different to anything I’ve ever felt before and you have these feelings of utter emotion that just tell you that everything will be ok in the end. One way or another it will be. Especially when she smiles at me…after five hours of continuous crying… I kind of let her off.