Nigel Marsh is a working father. He is also a renowned speaker and author of the terrible excellent book Fat, Fired and Forty. Do dive in to his highly candid interview where he essentially says we’re all going to hell.
1. Please use three adjectives to describe yourself.
Enthusiastic, Loving (you asked me to be candid so I thought I’d spare you any bullsh*t, false modesty, or British reserve), and Uncertain.
2. Please tell us a bit about your family - number of kids and ages.
Been married for 15 years to Kate. We’ve four kids - Alex 12, Harry 9, Grace and Eve (identical twins) 7.
3. What do you do professionally, for how long, and do you enjoy it? What about your wife?
I am the Chairman of Leo Burnett Australia - a communications company which has an office in both Melbourne and Sydney(its an American firm whose HQ is in Chicago). I’ve been in the communications industry for 20 years. In recent years I have also started writing and speaking on the conference circuit. I enjoy all 3 roles. My wife used to do the same job as me until I ruined her career, figure and confidence by getting her pregnant three times in quick succession. She is now a full-time mom and homemaker.
4. Talk to us about your own work-life balance as well as how you and your wife manage the joys of parenthood and couplehood (or chaos, whichever you prefer).
I’ve come to believe work-life balance is not about achieving perfection; it’s about making intelligent choices. At this stage in our marriage our roles are relatively clearly defined - I make the money, Kate looks after the house and kids. We try and do this in a way that means I still spend significant meaningful time with both the kids and each other as a couple, but the truth is we have fairly traditional or ‘old fashioned’ roles.
5. You don’t have a typical 9-5 office job - does that make things easier and more flexible? How does a typical day in your family unfold? How did it work before you were fat, forty, and fired?
My not having a traditional office job makes it enormously easier to be a proper part of the family. Each morning I get the kids up and take all four of them to school, then spend an hour helping Kate with the chores. This would have been unthinkable before. I then work until 4:45 when I rejoin the family. My evenings then basically involve 3 things: (1) helping Kate with ‘Arsenic hour;’ (2) doing kids stories and putting them to bed; and (3) having an hour and a half of rampant, filthy sex (one of the last three things isn’t true).
Before I was Fat, Forty and Fired my routine was simple: get up at 6am, shout at kids and argue with Kate, leave for work at 6:30am, come back from work at 8:30pm, shout at kids and argue with Kate, go to bed drunk, get up at 6am and do it all again.
6. What is the most difficult thing about life as a father?
Uncertainty. I want to do the right thing but I find it so hard to know what the right thing is. For example only last month I read a book by a supposed expert saying you should slowly and lovingly introduce alcohol into your kids lives in the safe home environment at an early age. I then went to a talk by another so called expert who said 47% of kids who are introduced to alcohol by their parents before age 14 develop a dependency on alcohol as adults versus 7% for those whose parents didn’t let them drink at home until the legal age.
7. What is the one piece of advice you’d give to a new father?
Surrender. Both to your new role and to the inevitable mistakes you will make. There is no point in pretending that your life will carry on as it was before: it wont. There is also no point in hoping you wont make mistakes: you will.
8. What is the one thing you could not do without on a daily basis?
The support,companionship, and advice of Kate.
9. What is one thing you wish you could change about your current situation?
Money. I have no complaints and indeed believe that the struggle to provide for your loved ones is part of the joy of life, BUT that is not to say I wouldn’t mind a lazy million falling into my lap…
10. Loaded question: Do you think fathers don’t get enough cred(ibility)?
Without a shadow of a doubt. They are totally unappreciated and portrayed terribly by the media. It’s as if real men go to the office for 10 hours a day, cut costs, talk rubbish about shareholder value, and sleep with their PA’s while Dads who actually prioritize their families are part-time lightweights who wet their beds and can’t deliver double-digit growth and enhanced margins. I believe we are all going to hell in a handbasket if we don’t sort this out. There is a creeping soul rot in our society that subtly encourages men to chase and stay in fundamentally unhealthy patterns of behaviour.
***If all goes according to plan, Nigel will be guest-blogging for us soon; please drop a note to let us know on what topic you’d like him to write.