When my second daughter was born, I decided to become a coparent to better balance household roles and responsibilities.
I designed my time around family and not my professional career.
Here is what I am learning as I embark upon this journey.
Family photos courtesy of Leila Seppa.
Since 2017, I launched two nonprofits, helped a company get acquired, wrote a bestseller and – most amazingly – became a Dad when my first daughter Haven was born. I plunged into it all without thought.
I had many hands in many pots, whisking wildly away to ensure that many disparate soufflés would rise and shine. The recipe called for many cups of effort, a heavy dose of coffee, and a pinch of madness. Conference calls, changing diapers, coaching sessions, pediatric appointments, recording sessions at the studio, birthday parties, book launch parties, sell a deal, fix a meal, and don’t cry baby, that wound will heal.
But, to what end? I felt that my world was not correctly balanced and made finding the harmony of self and family the central focus of 2019. I wrote down the word “CLARITY” at the center of my vision board so I would be motivated and inspired to find my evolving purpose in life.
Work continued, Haven grew bigger, and the world spun on. The vision board stayed above my Macbook in the home office. CLARITY glared at me daily.
Suddenly, Bay Ela Skorupa barged into our world. Befitting a newborn, she became the center of our existence,
And then, during a sleepless night trying to coax Bay to sleep, a Moment of Truth arrived in the form of a podcast streaming into my ear.
It was 3am. I was walking outside while Bay dozed in my arms. One foot fumbled in front of the other under the curtain of the cold darkness. These walks to aid her sleep could last hours so I listened to a talk featuring Anne-Marie Slaughter on the Motherly podcast. The discussion centered on the continued lack of value we place on caregiving and parenting in our society.
Anne-Marie’s wise words echoed in my brain as I fell asleep at dawn.
The next day, another hike while Bay slept on my chest. The thoughts from the previous night kept rattling in my head.
As I reached the apex of our hike, a waterfall at the end of Cascade Canyon, I felt a profound sense of clarity seep into my heart and brain.
My time is now for her.
For her older sister and her caring mother.
She, not me.
I made a decision then and there strive towards being a “coparent” to empower Haven, Bay, and Heather with whatever they need to thrive.
Paternity leave for me would not end, I would strive to make family the dominant focus of my existence.
“Coparent” is a nebulous word used for many parenting configurations, such as same-sex partners, separated parents, or similar. For me, it is the principle that a child maintains a strong relationship with both parents and that I would design my life around family, not any professional ambitions.
What does that mean in tactical terms? We still need an income so I returned to my role as VP of Leadership Development at AllCloud on a part-time basis. I’m still promoting my book while pounding the drums of support to launch Mobile Pathways. Mondays, Tuesdays, and Thursdays are reserved for work. Wednesday, Friday, Saturday, and Sunday are reserved for cuddles, doodles, stacking blocks, reading books, playing in the sand, Polish lessons, FaceTime with the grandparents, and simply marveling at the exquisite lightness of being present with family.
I’m now 8 weeks into my coparenting role and here are my recent learnings:
While writing this piece, I learned coparenting has many definitions, none which are really applicable to our family decision. There are some fumbled compound word concepts that strike close like “shared-earning parenting relationship”, a phrase which is as heartfelt as “collateralized debt obligation”. This also isn’t paternity leave, though I leverage that term for my explaining my decision in one sentence. In professional situations such as conference calls or coaching sessions, I coin the concept as “partial paternity leave” so I can set boundaries for family days, with exceptions for urgent matters. While these words are effective, they still don’t feel right as paternity leave is a finite concept. My goal is to design a family-first schedule for the duration of their childhood. In our society, where even paternity leave needs promotion via entrepreneur rockstars like Alexis Ohanian, there isn’t a fitting term for this sort of family construct.
We can grasp the profound via mere observation of the ordinary. Bay reminds me every day about my tenuous grip on patience. There is no fast-tracking her to sleep and her presence reminds me to stay patient and present. She teaches me to focus on learning patience, a vital skill that I desperately need to focus on. In tandem, Haven’s bilingual speech capabilities create phrases about our world I never considered, ideas I rarely thought possible. She shows me the ordinary beauty of an extraordinary life that I often neglect to appreciate.
I now have more time for play-dates, daycare drop-offs, and walks to the kiddie park. Rarely do I see my Dad friends and so I’ve made new Mom friends. With two daughters and a wife at home and Mom friends when I venture out, my world has never been so maternal. I’m not sure what the impact will be here but I believe this must be a good thing. In a paternalistic society that is being divided by escalating hyperbolic and aggressive language, we all could use a more motherly tone to express our thoughts and beliefs.
In hubris saturated Silicon Valley, we measure our careers and professional endeavors with grandiose terms such as “scale”, “disruption, or “growth”. Is that path truly fulfilling? By taking a step inward and making my world smaller, my happiness grew manifold. Holding Bay on warm summer nights as the moon rises. Watching Haven score a goal in soccer. Cooking Wednesday family breakfast, lunch, and dinner. Moments that are simple and constrained, small yet profound. Priceless.
Nothing helps teach the concept of sharing than another person entering your life. Haven is at the stage of life where she views possessions as an extension of herself so sharing does not come naturally. Her sister’s presence widens her worldview that toys and experiences are better when shared. This permeates out to Heather and me, who focus strongly on the impact of the Start Something Good Foundation or Mobile Pathways. Our familial happiness grows collectively as we all focus on learning how to share better and wiser.
At first, I feared the loss of income required a re-planning of the household budget, which was already frugal with a small home, one car, and endless bargaining to get a better deal. But the sheer nature of having two children makes extraneous expenditures rare. We canceled a summer trip with family as we couldn’t fathom the long flight. Nights out got scrubbed off the calendar. We accepted Mealtrain support with ready gratitude. And in the end, these “sacrifices” boiled down to a simple fact: more time at home. Together. Stronger. Better.
I’ll be honest, I have no idea where this decision to be more of a coparent will lead. We are hovering financially so it cannot last forever. Yet I know in every fiber of my being that the decision is correct, regardless of the outcome. Being more by giving more to my family is honest, upstanding, and simply feels morally correct.
The one thing I know for certain is that together with my wife Heather is that we’ve created a legacy. I’ve created new technologies, new companies, and new nonprofits. The latter gives a lot of money to those who need it the most, the former provides a living for our family.
But at this point in life, I feel like Heather and I have gone one better.
We can only do so much good in life.
It’s temporary, not infinite, right?
Perhaps not. We’ve created a mini-version of ourselves.
Our characteristics, memories, and passions will live on through Haven and Bay. So if we cannot create a better world in our lifetime, I know two badass women leaders that are just getting started.
And I get to be with them every day.
Nothing makes me happier.