Fatherhood: Challenge, Responsibility, and Leading Yourself First | Lee Chambers
Understanding Fatherhood: The Young Lee Chambers
Before becoming a father myself, I had little grasp of what it truly meant to be a dad. Lee Chambers the boy had fleeting memories of his own father, who worked hard to ensure our basic needs were met, but played little part in our upbringing and lacked the emotional intelligence to help me and my brother develop our self-awareness as young men. This became part of my own story when I struggled with my mental health at university.
Having moved away from my parents and started to enjoy the autonomy, I found myself battling with my child to man transition. I began to avoid situations, struggling to dig deeper and express who I was authentically. My own father hadn’t provided me with the tools or the blueprint, society said I was to be a million different things, and I didn’t have the key to unlock myself. I isolated myself for two weeks before my parents came to take me home.
This experience ignited something within me. When I was to become a father, I would ensure that I empower my children to ask the questions needed to find themselves, encourage them to take action and find things that resonated, and what they enjoyed. I would facilitate them to be independent, and experiment to garner a greater understanding of their own minds. And I would champion them to find their authentic selves and express this to the world in their own way.
Life Is Full of Challenges; Fatherhood Is But One Of Them
I built myself back up and went back to university. I managed to graduate in International Business Psychology and got myself onto a coveted graduate scheme. Success, some might say. This was the Autumn of 2007. Six months later, I hit another challenge. My professional qualification opportunity was removed, no funding available. A week later, I was made redundant. Once again, I had to step back and think about my future.
I decided to set up my own company and fund my own qualifications while working for local government. This approach all went rather well, leading to me making a good income, buying my first property and meeting my wife. I was working both a job and running a 6-figure business on my own, and this took up a significant amount of time. When my wife became pregnant, we had some choices to make. Neither of our houses were family homes, and my wife wanted to be closer to her parents. We rented a bungalow and prepared to welcome Myles into the world
Lee Chambers, You Are Now a Father
Two weeks after his due date, Myles finally entered the world. Sadly, it was not the emotional moment from the movies. He was purple and unresponsive, and very quickly taken to the other side of the room. I’d never felt that feeling of fear and helplessness in my life. After a few minutes, he started to cry, and I was able to hold him. He had the most challenging start to life possible, and now it was my responsibility to help him navigate his own challenges.
I worked at the Council for another month but then decided that missing the time before he went to school was simply not worth the tradeoff. I walked with him in the pram every day. He would smile for the ladies and charm everyone he met. He was always so happy, and would often drink so much milk he would end up being sick. It turns out that my magical skill is winding babies, who knew! Life was going swimmingly. PhenomGames was making a good income, we bought our first family home, where we still live today. We got married and cruised around the Caribbean, Myles was a hit with so many American ladies.
My wife became pregnant with Annabel, and we started to get the spare room ready. With my wife back at work, I enjoyed my time with Myles and prepared for a time with slightly less focus on him. I had just turned 29, and had started to think of all the things I might want to achieve before I was 30. But only a week later, disaster struck.
What’s Happened Daddy?
Over the course of a week at the start of June 2014, I became seriously unwell. My immune system attacked the connective tissue in my joints and left me immobile and unable to look after myself. Myles came to the hospital on Father’s Day and looked at me with his big eyes. His face said, “What’s wrong, Daddy?”. He was too young to understand that Daddy couldn’t get up and play. My image of being a father playing with my children in the garden was fading.
I made a decision. I would take ownership of my recovery. I would do everything I could to regain my mobility and be a father who showed that he could take accountability for his life and face his challenges with courage. Soon after being discharged, Annabel was born. Seeing her there made me understand that she would be learning to walk soon, and that I would be walking with her on that journey. That power of why got me through those days of stiffness, pain and struggle. After 11 months, I could walk a mile unaided. And a few weeks later, Annabel started to walk. On Father’s Day, we went walking together. A new chapter began.
Fatherhood Requires Love and Leadership
Fatherhood is very fulfilling, but we have to be honest. At times it can be stressful; it requires deep connection and tests the boundaries of our patience. The experience of serious illness made me suffer, and though that suffering, I grew as a man, and as a father. My children bolstered me through those difficult days. Having my own business has allowed me to spend a significant amount of time with both of my children, and now they have started school, I am incredibly grateful for that.
Being a parent is like being a leader. Your children will follow the messenger before they follow the message. They will call you out for being a hypocrite. They will ask you questions that make you search deep inside of you. They will test your patience while showing you the true value of connection. It’s important that you empower your children to navigate the world, embrace their endless curiosity, foster creativity and learn how to communicate their feelings and emotions. It’s essential that you let them find their limits, learn to fail and experiment, and be able to articulate if you could have done things better. And all this starts with how you show up as a parent, every day.
The Start of Essentialise Workplace Wellbeing
After recovering my mobility and gradually becoming more well in myself, I embraced the burning desire to help other people. I continued my education in psychology and sleep and made a decision. When my children had both started school, I would channel that time into a business that improves the health outcomes and happiness of others. From that ambition, Essentialise Workplace Wellbeing was born. We work with individuals and companies to promote health awareness, create wellbeing strategy that embeds, and build cultures that promote care and coaching. I thoroughly enjoy my work making a difference.
With both my children now at school, a different period of fatherhood begins, where I am part of the education. I have been helping them look at concepts around resilience, growth mindset and how words matter. I will continue to help them craft the skills that will be vital for both finding themselves and the future of work. When I asked them what Daddy does for a job, they said, “You’re a Life Coach, you help people get fit and healthy”. I said to them, my job is a bit like being a Daddy for the whole world, and when you're grown up, I want the world to be a happier place.
Lee Chambers MSc MBPsS is an Environmental Psychologist, Wellbeing Consultant and Founder of Essentialise Workplace Wellbeing. He lives in Preston with his family, and is currently writing his first book, “How To Conquer Anything”, which is due to be released in November 2020.