Dads are Different : Interview with Joel Rao
MumsVillage caught up with Joel Rao, Regional Manager of a South-Africa based Tech firm. He shares his lessons on being a young husband and father, parenting and how having a family enriched his life beyond expectations.
MV: How did having a family change your life?
My wife and I dated for four years, and 1 1/2 years was long-distance. Coming home and reuniting with her triggered my decision to settle down. We got married young – I was 24 years old. Now I am 27 and we have two daughters. Becoming a family man made me a better person. It made me incredibly focused. It gave me tunnel vision because what I do is no longer for myself but for my family.
MV: What was it like getting married in your early 20s?
It was a scary decision at first, especially because I wasn’t exactly sure what I was going to do for my career. Looking back, I can see it was the best decision ever. It is hard for my peers to understand but it was a really good thing to settle down. In fact some older men tell me if they ever had a chance to do something right, they’d marry their wives younger.
MV: How do you balance career and family?
Nobody told me that an 8-5 situation with travel would be so tough with a family. As a first-time Dad, I assumed I’d be there when my kids were born, bathe them, tuck them in bed and develop that bond. The reality was intense – meetings delay, stuff happens and you come home and the baby is already asleep. Thankfully, I was still young so with time I was able to put in checks and balances so I could get things done and still have time for my kids.
MV: How did you do this?
I started going into the office earlier so I could leave earlier before rush hour. My emails are scheduled for later in the day that way I can respond to email from home. I am blessed to have a job that allows me to work from wherever I am. When I am not travelling or in meetings, I am at my home office working. My kids see me around and that makes a big difference. I spend time with them in the evening then when everyone is asleep; I work late at night or early in the morning. Additionally, I cut down on other activities – I cut out everything else that happens on Saturdays except playing in a Christian Band and spending time with my family.
MV: What is it like being a young Dad?
Well, you have this constant fear. You need to be at your best so that you are able to provide for your family. This hunger to succeed for the sake of my family has kept me on my toes. When it comes to parenting, we always have to sacrifice for our kids and we know that what we do, we are investing in their future. You’re literally building an empire for your children. Because of this, being a dad has forced me to become super-organized, with my time and my finances. I’d rather have that pressure now because it gives me a proverbial head start.
Any Dad that has daughters will attest that sometimes you feel like there is too much oestrogen in the house. This protectiveness you have as a man when surrounded by women. But I wouldn’t change a thing. My brother and I had a two-year age gap so I enjoyed growing up with a built-in best friend. My wife and I therefore decided to have our kids close together and to have them by the time we are 30. As a parent, you have to play with your kids and keep up with them. So the younger you are the more energy you have to play with your babies.
MV: What do you do for recreation?
My oldest daughter has developed this phase where it is all about bouncing castles, so I take her to places where she can jump on them. When it is hot, we do a lot of swimming – we have a pool so I taught them how to swim.
MV: What role has your wife played?
Beside every successful man, there is a woman. The women in our lives are so organized. A woman can see your potential way before you actually see it. That vision shapes a man. My wife decided to be a stay-at-home Mum and we’ve been blessed to not only have our daily needs but to live a good life. Without Esther, I don’t think I’d be where I am today.
Related: Dad Interview with Neil Ribiero