How to be a Boss Dad
A Father's Day chat with Steven Jamison on raising children to own their own freedom.
Steve Jamison is a husband and father of four. His children range in age from thirteen to four years old. I had the privilege of working together with Steve at the same company and in the same industry for several years. I admire how he has committed to being present for his family and purposefully adjusted his career path to fit his vision of what a father should be.
The conversation has been transcribed and condensed.
WRBP: How do you make it work in a home with two working parents and four children?
SJ: It’s a Dance, a TBD, WIP, DIY kinda situation. Everybody’s situation is unique. But I can tell you honestly the biggest thing you can so is lean back on the love that you have for each other and the fact at the end of the day you share the same desire of making each other happy.
Everything evolves with time, parenthood, marriage, personal aspirations. You just got to find ways to make it work day in and day out.
WRBP: What have been your cues when you are out of balance, that you are in a red zone and you need to pull back?
SJ: when the drinks go down too easy or not being able to sleep at night, or finding myself getting up for no reason. I would also say being short, or angry for no reason. Sometimes it takes for my wife or my kids telling me, hey whats going on. My last job I was working so much and thinking so much about work that it was one day the kids said daddy whats going on it seems like you are angry all the time.
I was like wow, I didn’t realize how I was creating that kind of energy for my kids and my wife .
That made me look back and decide I’m not going to be like this. So sometimes it is other people being around you asking you what is going on. Then you sit back and say, yea, I guess something is going on.
WRBP: What works for you to pull you back to your center?
SJ: I would say I’m still working on it, because it wasn’t something that was a common practice of my dad nor my mom when they were working. But I try to take days to just be by myself, and find time to separate myself from everybody.
For example, one of my good friends has moments where he just calls out sick, stays homes and relaxes. I often felt the guilt of doing that and I honestly still do. My wife would tell me to just take a day off, and I would push back because I'm not sick so I’m not taking time off. If you really think about it taking a day off here and there actually helps you recharge your batteries.
So now when I get to those moments where I feel like this is getting crazy, I tell my wife that I am taking tomorrow off. So no "honey do" lists or items, I'm just relaxing - reading a book or go for a walk, and do it that way.
WRBP: You and your wife both worked in the advertising industry at one point. Did you find the industry to be family friendly to your role as a father?
SJ: I was fortunate to work for good people who were understanding. But advertising is an industry that is predicated on youth and the expectation that you will be able to work at all times of the day. It's funny how in a creative industry people lack creativity when it comes to adjusting to a working parent. There are only so many times they're going to allow you call out sick because your kids are sick, or if you have to go to a doctor's appointment, or if you need to call on the road because of commitment with your family.
For me I knew it was going to be a source of conflict, not only for our marriage but also for what I wanted to be as a parent, as a father. I had that long conversation with myself about what's more important, my career or being a dad. Not seeing my kids having a better connection with someone at the day care. Or not having those moments not knowing what my son or daughter really likes because I only see them when I wake them up or when I eat dinner with them and put them to sleep.
That was a big point in my life, probably around my early thirties when I started to look at people at in the office not because of their stature but for what their life looks like. You ask yourself is that what I want my life to look like? For me, I realized at that point I needed to figure out a way to create some stability. Work and home balance so I could feel good doing both and not put myself in the predicament that I saw so many others do. I didn't want to make a decision of one or the other and then just live with the guilt and become a disconnected person."
In the rest of the below video, Steve goes on to connect the dots between his journey as a working dad, what he observed in Michael Jordan viewing "The Last Dance" and what he learned from Michelle Obama watching "Becoming."
WRBP: What parenting traditions are you trying to modernize and work through to update?
SJ: I was talking with my wife Clara last night just about this. My mom raised me to "do what I tell you," and "do it just this way, follow direction." I was telling Clara that I don't want our kids to grow up like that. I realized as I got older that many of the people who are very accomplished in their careers are able to operate outside the norm.
They are comfortable doing things their own way. They're comfortable with using their voice to disagree and suggest an alternative. They're confident in their thinking and they're ok with opposition. So they can define themselves and get further ahead in their careers.
So I was telling Clara that I want our kids to feel like that. I don't want them to be disrespectful. But I do want them to be self confident. I want them to be ok doing things a different way and not just follow the rules.
If you don't have that mentality you can find yourself living in self-doubt and never separating yourself from the pack and being your own authentic self. Then you are just within a system run by people who are independent and are at the top. That is one of things we talked about last night and try to figure out since that is not how we were raised.
Steve also goes on to discuss how he is working through teaching his children about respect, both giving it and standing up for self respect.
WRBP: Have you had any family discussions, or with your oldest child about the Black Lives Matter movement and what is going on in the county?
SJ: There were points when I would get angry that my 13 year old was oblivious to what is going on. I had to step back and understand where that obliviousness is coming from. Then I realized I need to point with the thumb, and I might not be doing a good job as a parent in educating him. So this was a wake up call for me to be more aware and active in providing more consciousness to him.
It also gave me a perspective of where the rest of America is, if it's not affecting them or they haven't experienced it, it's hard for them to have a sense of perspective of where all this emotion is coming from. So we've had a consistent conversation about, and its grown over the weeks.
In our church (we stream), they dedicated two services to talk about it. We have dialogues with our kids after services on what they heard and took from it. Last week we had a march in town, so we had the kids participate, observing social distancing. So they could see what it is to actually feel so strong about something that you are going to be vocal about it and you're going to get together with the community. So I asked them what did they feel seeing all these people come together.
Steve goes on in this video to question why his sons' school wasn't discussing the Black Lives Matter movement but also how this moment became an opportunity for his wife Clara to share with the family about her experiences facing discrimination.
WRBP: What are your hopes and dreams for your children? You'll be able to rest contently when you know your children are...
SJ: When my children know that life is limitless for them. When they understand that there's nothing that gets in the way other than themselves. When they can whatever day or time it is come up with an idea and say you know what I'm going to do it. So that they don't feel that they need to get someone's approval to do something that they feel strongly about.
That for me is the core tenet of what Clara and I strive everyday to give to the kids. The understanding that when you need to so something, don't make excuses and don't let anybody tell you that you can't do it. You can do it as long as you put your heart into it and you feel that passion about it to make it happen.
Not everybody is going to be booksmart or want to work in a white collar job. Some people are not going to be comfortable working for someone else. That's totally fine, they can do whatever is that they want to. In doing that, they have to understand the mindset of nothing can get in their way. And they have to understand the responsibility that comes with it.
There comes responsibility with freedom. It's up to you if you want that freedom, to be responsible and not make excuses why you can't do something. Own your own freedom.
For the full hour long conversation.