When my son was born- I had top tier status on 2 airlines attending to clients in what was a small consulting practice. I could not get off the road in a substantial way, so I made a few changes to remain connected:
1. When I was home. I was home. No laptop, no work as long as my wife and son were awake. We created as many opportunities for family time or for father and son time as we could.
2. I was an early adopter for remote video and no matter the time zone, made certain that we SAW each other as well as talked daily. Conversation was not much- but presence mattered.
3. As my son got old enough to get geography and mail and such, I started sending pictures, post cards (snail mail) and sharing stories of the road- good and bad. At 3 my son understood (sort of) travel delays and cancelled flights through the term “Adventures in Travel”. I would bring back something for the house (NOT a present for him) that gave us opportunities to talk about the world. And we did our level best to have 5 minutes of adult conversation without distraction as often as possible- with the agreement that it was not about logistics, household stuff, bills, schools or anything else that could be handled by email.
4. I worked (when I was in town) in a shared office suite. One of the other tenants brought her golden retriever, Buck, with her every day. If either my wife or our part-time nanny brought my son in, no matter what I was doing, I took a break. It was a short interruption since I knew that Buck was the real attraction.
5. It may sound counterintuitive, but a bore down on my time commitments to exercise and meditation. I realized early on that if I did not make time for what would sustain me, the addition of a child to a very full life would soon derail my ability to do anything well.
6. Perhaps more important than any of this was understanding that I was going to screw it up. What we were doing was hard and no amount of tech or effort was going to make it easier. It would barely make it possible. My wife and I made time to listen to each other and to talk about our fears and failures in as constructive, blame free ways as we could find. Some days were better than others.
In the end, we decided that as Lily Tomlin says “The problem with the rat race is, if you win, you are still a rat.” We realized that something had to give. We were not giving up each other or the kid- so we gave up the lifestyle. We moved from San Francisco to Little Rock, AR, providing more green grass and a less frenetic lifestyle. I went to work for a Fortune 400 running a business unit that was in my area of expertise. Still traveled heavily, but with much less stress and frenetics scheduling. My wife could spend a few years focusing on our son before launching her own small business.
If there is a lesson here it is that we were unable to make that big a change to our DINK lifestyle and sustain it. No matter how important your family is- being a spouse and a parent means that your decisions have an effect on those you love. In our case, we made a lifestyle decision we would NEVER have made without a kid.