Anyone with young kids will know the familiar bedtime routine that robs you of every spare minute before 9pm. One such evening a few months ago, after the kids were tucked up and I was heading downstairs I heard the familiar ‘ping’ indicating a new email had arrived on my iPhone. Reaching for it as I descended the stairs I did a double take when I saw that it was from my 11 year daughter – “Daddy, can you come and talk to me…”
So i spin round and head for her room. And the conversation goes something like this:
Laura: “My foot really hurts”
Me: “Oh really? Thats not good, show me. Ill rub it better for you sweetie”
Out comes said foot
Laura: “It really hurts here..” Points to part of foot and starts to cry
Me: “Gosh, is it really that bad?”
Laura: “Well, it’s my new shoes.. they are rubbing my foot..” Begins to sob
Me: “Hey, come on, its not the end of the world. We can take them back if they hurt you and get another pair”
Laura: “No we can’t. And its going to be my fault because i chose them and they dont fit properly…”
Can no longer speak she is sobbing so much.
Me: “Don’t be silly, why cant we take them back?”
Laura: “because you dont have a job………….”
It’s a fine line to tread in terms of how much you involve your kids in your daily angst, especially issues like unemployment. I don’t want my kids growing up ignorant of what life is all about, taking things and others for granted and ending up the local spoilt brat. But then again, I want then to have a childhood. I want to protect them, give them the chance to explore their innocence and not lie awake at night fretting about things that really should not be on their radar.
Of course, this angst is all driven from within me, from my personal experiences. At that very moment, when she said those words, it hits me like wall and in an instant I’m back to my own childhood. I was acutely aware of my fathers two periods of unemployment – once when in was 7 amd then again when I was 13. And I dont use the word acute lightly. We went from a life of ignorant normality to one of having nothing. Benefits didn’t really figure in the equation and I remember the second time being the most impactful. We ate the same thing pretty much every day – bacon, egg and chips – all bought cheaply and in bulk from the local farmer!
As an emerging teenager I was finding my emotional feet and just becoming interested in the fairer sex. I can tell you, there is nothing that crushes your self esteem as much as having the fact that you only posess one pair of trousers and one jumper – for both school and knocking about – in front of the girl you are trying to impress. The embarrassment. The humiliation. The teasing. The slow but constant crushing of my self confidence before it ever had a chance to emerge.
Those years took a significant toll on my self esteem and it’s only really in the last 10 years that I have come to terms with the impact it had on my life and my levels of self confidence. Despite having a very successful and varied (if not a little crazy!) career, I was dogged in the early days by thoughts that it would all go horribly wrong, especially when it was going well. It’s hard to explain to anyone who hasn’t felt the sensation. I know there is a term for it somewhere but I don’t recall what it is.
Anyway, it is this very experience that came flooding back in my daughters room that night. As I come back to reality and the memories fade, I pull her to me (my son also joins in – he’s 8 and often choses to sleep with his sister they love each others company so much) and we all share a hug and a tear in silence. After a moment, i look her in the eye:
Me: “Dont worry poppet, we will get the shoes if you need them. Things are not that bad! And anyway, I’ve got lots of friends out there looking out for me so I’m sure it will be ok”
Laura: “Are they your friends from Twitter?”
Me: “Well, I guess so yes…”
Laura: “They sound like nice people…”
Me: “Yes. They are.”
5 months after that conversation and things are very different, as many of you will know. Where my journey of self employment will go I have no idea, but so far it’s proving to be a great one. And I have to say, nearly everything im involved in has, in some way shape or form, come from Twitter or my presence on it.
Twitter + Contacts = Relationships = Friends = Opportunity.
P.S. The shoes were fine. It appears the pain was more emotional. 🙂
Really lovely post Gareth.
And the good news is it appears that, beyond the old conventions of the employment contract, the social contract and the social capital of this new networked world has much to offer in terms of depth and richness if one fully gives of oneself and participates with integrity within it, like you do.
Your children have that to be proud of and their own wonderful journey ahead of them, together with the happy revelation that surface details like clothes aren’t nearly so important when one’s on Twitter and got a digital reputation to wave around!
Thats it really, “fully gives oneself and participates with integrity” – you got it there! And lets hope that my digital reputation is big enough to cover my ’embarrassment’ if im ever short of clothes again 😉
Thank’s for commenting, appreciate it.
What a great story. I am presently unemployed and I have a 4 yo. I know this subject well thank you.
Hi Robert, thanks for the comment. Good luck in the job search and keep the faith! You have my thoughts with you.
Wow Gareth. As a parent who has been through a lengthy period of unemployment, thanks for sharing. Kids really make you think sometimes, eh? Glad to know things are turning out ok for you, and your kids. 😉 Keep it up buddy!
Hi Marc. They most certainly do. They bring you back to reality so quickly it seems. Good luck with the travels and see you on the other side!
You learn more about someone capable of writing and sharing this story than you’ll ever learn from a CV, formal reference or informal recommendation. Inspiring and humbling – thanks for sharing!
Hi Jon. Thanks for the comment, really appreciate it. I guess its a window into somebody, that you just cant get through the traditional means, like you say. How are things on the island?! Let me know when you are back, catch up would be great.
Gareth, thank you for sharing such a deeply personal story. When someone asks me the ROI of twitter, it is a story like this that helps me explain it. On Twitter, I’ve had people help my husband when he was out of work and countless other friends. What a great lesson for your little ones to see that friends, off line or online, are what pull you through tough times. I hope to help support you as you embark on this new phase.
Hi Trish, thank you for stopping by and commenting. It’s just one of the returns i have got from being involved with twitter and the wider social experiment. It calls to a need in all of us to relate, which some people seem to have forgotten. Hope things are sorted for your husband and really appreciate your support. Look forward to seeing you again really soon.
Beautifully human post Gareth.
There’s something uniquely special about the view of life our children share with us… Always with love & care, often with vulnerability, sometimes mistaken but always seeking to understand not judge.
My kids get Twitter and given their age, appreciate the fun, support & interaction. The business value is irrelevant to them yet it’s that aspect that draws critique from some adults – they perceive no business value and fear the vulnerability required for great interaction.
We all need role models and it’s a shame those adults don’t have the one your kids have.
Hi David. Thanks for the comment. Im constantly telling people that its the personal stuff – the inane as many refer to it – that makes it. Its because we connect on a personal level that creates the basis for rich business relationships. But some people just dont get it!
you need a like button for that comment 🙂
What a great story, and a timely reminder of just how precarious work-life can be, as well as how much our kids pick up on.
Its a fine balance, you can so easily mistake a permanent job for security. And as for the kids, they dont miss a trick do they!
Ouch! That hit a nerve! I was in my teens when my Dad lost his job very suddenly. My mother was not the type to try and shield us from it. Quite the opposite! Like you, we had the same menu every week for quite some time and my mother cancelled my drama lessons, which were my only real passion! (What’s more, she never reinstated them when my Dad got a new job!). And it was the first time I ever saw my Dad cry. As a parent, I totally get your point about the balance between teaching kids about the real world so they don’t grow up spoilt, and not frightening them and making them feel insecure. And now – I’m in desperate need of paid employment! And any help from people ‘out there’ will be gratefully received!
Hi Lara, thanks for your comments and im glad the post resonated with you. Shame about the drama lessons though! Did you go back to it later in life? And sorry to hear about your unemployment – are you on twitter? If not, i can recommend it 😉
What a fantastcic post Gareth. As a parent of a 3 year old (with another one in the loading bay due for delivery in early October) the regular fear and insecurity of one day “losing it all” – especially when things are going well is one that really rings true.
Thank you for sharing such a personal tale, I’m sure there will be many others out there who can relate to this post and it’s always nice and perspective-enhancing to know your, “not the only one” when having similiar feelings, fears and concerns. It’s one of those, “phew, and i thought i was the only one” kinda moments.
Hi Ben – love the ‘loading bay’ reference! If its any consolation, two is a great number and a 3+ year age gap helps a LOT with sibling rivalry issues! I spent much of my life in fear of unemployment, mistakenly thinking that a permanent job was more secure. In some ways of course it is, but in others not. I also think this fear compromised my ability to be truly honest wiht myself and my employer at times which i think is a bad thing.
Thanks for reading and commenting.
I enjoyed your post – very personal.
I’ve stayed as part of a corporate, partly because I need to take care of my family and partly because I’m not sure I have the guts to do the portfolio thing yet.
As for your points about twitter, I’m not sure I have found what you appear to have found yet. It’s good for widening your information influences though.
Hi Julian. My decision was made for me so i guess i was forced into my current situation. I have been talking about doing my own thing for a few years now, to consolidate and use all the knowledge i have gained, but, like you, never felt brave enough to take that big step.
Sometimes you need a push and in my case thats how it worked. Also, im sure that my next permanent role, if i have one, will come from this activity, and most definitely not from sitting in front of a screen scanning job ads on a job site!
RE twitter, def a good information source and i guess has come into its own since i have taken this journey. It has a multitude of things to offer, which vary depending on your needs.
Thanks for commenting, appreciate it.
Absolutely agree with all the above comments. Really touched by the humanity of your great post and inspired by how things are turning out for you.
All the best.
Hi Ade. Thanks for commenting. Sometimes you just have to say stuff i guess! So far so good on doing my own thing so here’s to the future!
I hope your foot is feeling better, it should be by now 🙂 Thanks for helping your dad, I know he appreciates it very much and I think everyone who read your tale does too. Have a lovely summer.
Its laura here, I was very happy when I received your comment regarding my dads blog! I really appreciate it! As you would expect my feet are not hurting any more and it turned out I didn’t need new shoes at all! When I first found out my dad was writing about me in his blog I was quite pleased, but you can imagine my brother found a different view of things, like he does!
Once again, I appreciate your comment very much and hope that good things will happen to and with you.
All the best,
What a great post and a lovely thing to read on a Monday afternoon. Glad things are all working out better for you now, as somebody fairly new to Twitter I am constantly blown away by how lovely everybody is and how when there’s someone in need, everybody rallies around to help out.
See you for ‘teaoclock’ soon.. 🙂
Hi Emily! You are so right. The warmth and support within twitter is amazing and largely unconditional which I think says a lot. Personally I think many people find it an antidote to the normal working environment and interactions that many organisations have cultivated. Thanks for commenting and look forward to more #teaocklock banter!
Great post, Gareth. I like the way children get straight to the heart of things. When I moved out of London and was away from home four days a week my eldest (4 at the time) learnt the days of the week almost immediately so he knew when I was going to return home. That had a big impact on me.
You and I are both going freelance at the same time and both have young families. I’m delighted it is working out for you (seems to be for me so far too). I think your children (and mine too hopefully) will like having a dad who enjoys what he does. I think it is really important. So keep on enjoying it beacuse that energy matters at home.
Yes, they can stop you in their tracks can’t they! And you are right, that positive energy translates so well at home and is so much more constructive than the type that goes with a stressful or negatively oriented career. Good luck to you too, let’s catch up and compare notes soon!
Beautiful, so very beautifully shared. Thank you.
I haven’t been using twitter so much these last few months, being in a new relationship, and still dealing with a chronic long term illness has meant I haven’t had the time, nor energy that I once had to spend on twitter.
Today though, I was seeking to reconnect with people that I care about on here, that have added value to my life by my having met and connected with on Twitter. You are one of those people, and that is how I discovered this blog.
Thank you for being you. Thank you for being a leader, and helping many others connect both on twitter, and in real life, thanks to you being instrumental in creating tweetups.
Your story touched me deeply, this week was a tough one for me, I’m not sure whether my relationship is going to make it beyond the honey moon stages, and because of my illness, I am faced with grave financial concerns.
Reading your blog post reminded me, that we are all human, the fact that we may face difficulties is not an indication of our failure. The only failure is in opting out, neither of which is in my nature to do.
I’ve been contemplating writing a blog post about my own challenges with my illness and how it’s effecting my ability to work, serve clients and develop my business, for about over a year now. I’ve avoided doing it, because I didn’t see it as “good marketing”, I didn’t want to become known as “the woman with xxxx”.
Reading your post has gotten me closer to writing that blog post, because I know that the effect it’s had on me, is positive. It’s helped me understand you as a person, admire you more, and, in turn helped me understand myself even more.
There was a time in my childhood where money was tight, and, a bit like Laura, I got upset when I needed new shoes because my old ones were too small. I didn’t have a Daddy that was able to listen and show me understanding like Laura did, as he was too stressed with his situation. What happened to me was that I felt guilty for my Daddy having to spend any money on me, and subconsciously this turned into a feeling of being guilty for eating. The result? Eating disorders, those don’t effect me these days, but as a result of them, I have digestive issues that are an added challenge to deal with, on top of existing illness (or perhaps those have contributed towards creating that illness).
Having had that experience as a child has also effected my confidence in my career, like you. This is the time in my life I am choosing to surround myself and build relationships with positive, encouraging, supportive people.
I am rambling now, I apologise, but what I wanted to express is how important the way you dealt with this, it’s amazing, it’s wonderful. It shows what a wonderful Daddy you are, and that is a true reflection of integrity, love and kindness you have as a man.
Thank you for sharing.
Wow, Claire, what a story. I’m humbled and touched by your honesty and sheer bravery. I had no idea of the challenges you were facing but then why would I? I see you on twitter and at the tweet up and simply make assumptions about what you are up to, why you have not been around much and what you might be getting from life.
As a society we seem to have developed an aversion for many of the human fundamentals like trust, and honesty in particular, especially in the workplace, feeling the need/pressure to present ourselves and our lives in a certain way – a way that conforms to someone else’s framework.
How many books have you read about the power of failure, of facing and rising to challenges and how many leaders have you heard wax lyrical about the same yet when we as individuals face life challenges we are encouraged to keep it out of the limelight, hide them away like dirty secrets.
It’s so wrong and only makes things worse because we inadvertently end up shielding ourselves from the very love and support we need from others in life to make it through.
Claire, if this post has inspired you to write the blog post you have been thinking about writing then I’m truly amazed and humbled. Write it. Reach out. Step forward. I know good things will come of it. 🙂
Amazing post Gareth. Thanks for sharing. I love how much of inspiration can come from kids perception and how much we are reminded of it while we trying to raise them the best way we can. Indeed you have loads of friends.
Hi Peter, thanks for the comment. Kids have a such a clear view of life sometimes and I often wonder how much we, as adults, go and distort it all! If ive heard people say we should introduce children into the boardroom once, ive heard it a million times but alas, it never happens!
Ive only just read this Jonsey and it is amazing : ) well done.
Thank you! And thank you again for the Intro to Alex. It was the beginning of this next chapter in my life!
What a cracking post and jaw-droppingly wonderful, human comments.
You said to your wee girl: “Ill rub it better for you sweetie”. Such a great dad thing to say. Even those of us – ahem – past our prime still remember the lovely things our dads said to us when we were young (if we were that lucky). So nurturing.
I will tell you my own story offline about poverty, eating the same thing for weeks (porridge) and the crippling shame of having one outfit as a teenager. Except in my case it was a very short halter-neck dress + platform shoes – not all bad then 🙂 Joking aside, it is no joke and leaves our self-esteem damaged for a long time.
From a work point of view, we tend to walk around with a mask or at least projecting, consciously or not, versions of ourselves that deflect attention away from who we are or towards a desired image. For example, I am really enjoying getting to know a warm, funny colleague who I had thought was ‘important’.
It is great to be reminded that we are all so human. I also thought for a long time that I was the only one who had overcome crippling lack of self-confidence. Of course not – there are more of us than I could ever have realised.
Re employment. You’ll be fine, whether employed or on your own. You are a star.
Halter neck dress and platform shoes? Anne Marie I really must hear that story! We have become too used to creating this mask you mention, despite organisations saying they no longer want you to leave your personality – the real you – at the company entrance. Yet, they really dont want that do they?!
Thanks for the comment and your generous assessment of me! 😉
Lovely post. Lovely children. Lovely Daddy. This tough part of being a parent probably highlights why some of us are too frightened to find new challenges when we should, I feel.
Indeed it does Andy. I have been so painfully aware of my past that keeping my self employed and the money coming in has become a bit of an obsession privately chiefly because I couldn’t face the embarrassment/shame of it all going wrong and my kids being involved/aware of that.
Different story if it was just me and my wife i guess. But to be honest, even back before we had kids I still had the same paranoia – thats how deep rooted the insecurity is. A vicious circle!
Thanks for stopping by.
“Do unto other as you wish others to do unto you – all the rest is commentary”. Thank you for being part of our journey (HireMatch.me).
When you walk Laura down the aisle (probably both of you in a brand new pair of celebratory shoes), you will look back and remember this story, and how that little step of stopping and remembering the importance of life and love brought out the best in so many people. It is a pleasure to work with you (and be your friend).
Hi OraRuth. Indeed – some of the old sayings are definitely the best – Thats why they have made it down the generations. Im sure the shoes story will still be with me in the future at her wedding, possibly may even make it into my speech! And its a pleasure to work with and be your friend too! 🙂
I have been fussing about tiny frivolities today (they seemed important until I read this post and all the genuine and heartfelt comments). Thanks for bringing me back down to the ground a – even though I felt a slightly self-indulgent bump as I landed.
I have been working free for a few years now and can’t imagine going back … keep on your path, gold is strewn all along the way …. you don’t even have to reach the end to collect!
Hi Vince. Thanks for the advice and support. It’s a great journey for sure and so far, im finding it very rewarding. Im trying to keep the fussing to a minimum and the kids are sure helping that! See you on the path 😉
So I think i will be looking forward to a very embarrassing speech on my big day! Hopefuly you will forget about it all and i will be free from humiliation!