Quick question to the fraternity
Being a dad.
Being a dad and starting a new business.
Being a dad and starting a new business during a pandemic.
Most parents will agree that #1 is a challenge all by itself. Move to #3 on this list and you’re probably pulling your hair out (if you have any left) or chewing the ends of your fingers (the nails are already gone).
Well, 2020 has been one of those years that has forced many a parent to go straight from the normalcy of a regular job, daily life and routine to #3… absolute chaos. We’ve been thrown the proverbial kitchen sink in one go. Parents, in most cases (the ones I know of at least), are a resilient bunch, a tolerant bunch, a patient bunch…well, they gotta be, right?? But 2020 has tested the patience, resilience, and tolerance of this lot too.
We were one of the unlucky families this year that had to deal with the (non-health related) effects of COVID. During the year, I started a new job at a start-up in an entirely new industry – a challenge that I was really enthusiastic about and looking forward to. But alas China… oops, I mean nature, had other plans. Seven months into the role and the company couldn’t sustain, so 50% of the workforce, including yours truly, was gone.
I sort of moped around for a bit, but knew I needed to get on it right away. So, what does any enterprising Sindhi do at a time like this? Business…. Import/export. The old stereotypes were coming true. And so, I got right into it, setting up not one but two businesses simultaneously, hoping, praying, and burning the midnight oil to make sure they sustained and grew.
At the same time though, Kian was now home from school, subject to online lessons, virtual classes and all that jazz. With an active 4-year old and a quickly crawling/walking toddler around the house, the 2-bedroom flat was slowly starting to feel a lot smaller.
I had camped out in the dining room, with our dining table now serving as a quasi-desk and office space. There was a laptop, papers, pens… a mess everywhere. And for a change, it wasn’t the kids making the mess. Who gets dibs on the screen? Who can host meetings and listen to their sessions loudly, while the other has to duck away in the hallway or the bedroom (subject to shabby internet)? These were all becoming critical questions.
The cramped space and lack of outlets (in every sense of the word) also meant that things could get tense and heated quickly. If things were not going well with the businesses, then it was easy for me to lose my cool with the kids and Gaile. I had to hold back and watch myself through it all, ensuring they never bore the brunt of my frustrations, anger or disappointment. Yes, it was occasionally hard not to lose it when they were clambering all over me as I typed out an email or attended to a phone call.
Zoom calls which became the new medium of interaction this year were common for both Kian and me.While I respectfully stayed out of his calls with his classmates and teachers, for some reason, the kids thought it fair to interrupt mine and tell my teammates, colleagues and workers all sorts of ridiculous things – what they did at school; what toys they had or what they had eaten for breakfast that day. Important papers suddenly were missing, or worse had doodles on them suddenly (and not mine)…
It obviously helped that Gaile was around, but sometimes she too could only hold them back so much. Credit also goes to all my Zoom call recipients, who tolerated, smiled through (and maybe even encouraged) the guest appearances from my kids.
You can see why #3 during 2020 could be daunting. Through it all though, I have to say though, this year brought us closer as a family. It allowed us to learn, understand and appreciate each other better. It helped us understand what our boundaries truly are, and how far they can be stretched. For me, the challenges of the professional life were never bigger, yet, having my family right here, right alongside me (literally) through the entire journey was comforting and encouraging. In fact, I have to say, the idea for one of the businesses – Picabook – was borne through listening to and engaging with Kian. His input and feedback; his ideas; his insight has been immensely valuable through it all, allowing me to pivot and adjust as we go along. But papa, this doesn’t work… you should do it like this…
Sage advice from a 4-year old! How come I didn’t think of it like that…?
I guess you’re never too old to learn and probably also never too young to teach. Despite everything that has happened this year, this old dog learnt some new tricks in 2020!