The Washington Post

Patrick Lewis: ‘A lot of career choices I’ve made are because I wanted to be an involved parent’

Patrick Lewis, a harried working dad with five kids, says he has made career decisions that have allowed him to spend time with them. (Dayna Smith/For The Washington Post)

Patrick Lewis, 45, lawyer for Special Counsel.

My wife, Fiona McMahon, and I have five children ages 5 to 16. Part of the reason for the juggle and why it’s so hectic is because Fiona works full time, too.

On a typical day, I get up at 5. I’ll drink my coffee, then get everyone up. Fiona makes breakfasts and lunches and checks homework. And I’m the crisis manager, in charge of finding things — a shoe, a school uniform, a permission slip. Then we’re out the door by 7 and I drive the kids to three different schools.

Fiona does more of the cooking. I do the laundry. If I don’t do it every day, we’re buried.

After school, there’s Girl Scouts, Boy Scouts, Cub Scouts, sports, play dates. Since I’m bringing them in the morning, Fiona will typically get them to wherever they need to be. But sometimes she runs into traffic or has a meeting. Then I have to drop everything and go. That’s where the real chaos comes in — all the driving, coordinating schedules, getting people where they need to be.

A lot of career choices I’ve made are because I wanted to be an involved parent. I started out as an associate with a respected law firm, expected to be on call 24 hours a day. I tried to find ‘work-life balance’ in that culture and it just doesn’t exist. So I left and looked for employment that would be engaging and challenging, but not so high pressure that I couldn’t have time for my children. I’ve been a coach for soccer, football, baseball. I’ve been a Scout leader. We’ve traveled with our children. I’m very engaged with them, what they’re doing, who they’re becoming.

Sometimes I have guilt that I’m not providing for my family as well as I could have or as well as other men do. There are moments of anxiety and tension because of money.

But there are very few things in this world that can give you the joy you get from parenting. There are the big, profound moments. Then there are times like last night, when I came home from work. My daughter said, ‘Guess what my homework is? I have to give someone in my family a hug.’ And I gave her a hug. In that mundane moment, standing in the kitchen, I experienced that joy.

Brigid Schulte

Brigid Schulte writes about Good-Life: work-life issues, time, productivity, gender and income inequality. She is the author of the bestselling Overwhelmed: Work, Love and Play when No One has Time.

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