If you’re a meticulous planner, the arrival of a child is like a shock wave through your system. If you pride yourself on your ability to improvise, parenthood will challenge your resolve and creativity in wholly unexpected ways. And the worst part is there is no solid advice out there. Every parent-child situation is unique, and the concept of work-life balance contains myriad pitfalls and ambiguities. It’s something every new parent experiences, but for some reason the question of how to begin to approach balancing work and family is a question most often asked only of women.
So in honor of Father’s Day, WeWork asked two of its dads, Roee Adler, the head of WeWork Labs, and Adam Braun, COO of WeGrow, how they approach the one thing you cannot schedule or prepare for, and how building a culture around parenthood is moving WeWork into unexpected territory.
Split home-time duties
Adler and his wife, a postdoctoral research fellow at NYU Langone Medical Center, both have demanding schedules on top of caring for three young children. “Right from the get-go, the question of how we’re going to balance it had to be worked out,” he says. “It was a key conversation in our household. We had to consciously try and do a better job.” They developed a routine where they would alternate leaving work early so they could spend afternoons with the kids, helping with homework and being there for, to use Adler’s phrase, the “anchor” moments at each stage of their development.
Braun describes his approach to his career as “all-consuming” before the arrival of his now two-and-a-half-year-old twins. “I used to be able to actively choose when I wanted to focus entirely on work versus focusing on the person who was in front of me,” he says. “Once you have children, you no longer get to make that choice. There are many moments when, say, I need to do a late-night phone call from home and if my son wakes up in the middle of the night screaming, crying because he’s sick—there is no choice there. I have to tend to his wellbeing.”
Find support at work
“[At WeWork], we have developed a culture where someone can say, ‘I’m sorry, I have to drop everything and leave,’ and we all rally for each other,” says Adler. Braun points to the innovative WeGrow program as a concrete pillar of that supportive culture. “We now have a school in the same building where we work,” he says. “My children will start there this fall. Enabling employees to be that physically close to their child throughout the day, I think is a remarkable statement by our company.”
Look for harmony, not balance
Braun would like to see a redefinition of the increasingly buzzy phrase “work-life balance.” Says Braun, “I don’t really believe in the idea of work-life balance. Instead, I’m trying to achieve work-life harmony. It’s like when you listen to a symphony: To achieve harmony there are different notes playing at different levels at different moments, but they’re all mostly present in some capacity at all times. That’s what I strive for.”
Do what works best for you and your family
Adler was a little hesitant to prescribe a one-size-fits-all parenting strategy. “Everyone is different, and all choices are solid options if you and your family are comfortable with them,” he says. “In your heart you’ll know what to do to find a solution. Don’t listen to anyone else, and trust yourselves.”