Today, as I was out driving, I heard one of my daughters’ favorite songs. “Cat’s in the Cradle”, by Harry Chapin was playing on my car radio. I couldn’t help but wonder if I had been no better than the subject of the song or if maybe I had actually been more of a factor in their life than the father had been in that song?
We look into the eyes of our newborn children and want so many things for them, but basically we want them to be healthy and independent. If they come equipped for these two things, everything else falls into place. Health is not within our control, only a healthy life style. On the other hand, independence is a skill we either develop in them or they develop in spite of us.
Our children develop independence through and by the way we nurture them. We can be part of their life or we can be absent in it. When we are absent in their lives, they will become dependent on someone or something else to fill the void.
The problem we all face is the issue of that difficult balance between work and family. In today’s competitive, fast paced, over connected world, the balance may be lost all together. The demands on our time to be successful at our careers so that we can earn the living wage we need to support our families can tip that balance away from the very lives we are earning the living to support.
So what are we to do. First and foremost, we must clearly decide that family is our priority. If we do this, we will be better equipped to make decisions based on our family life as opposed to how much money can I make and how high up the ladder of success can I climb. I have not forgotten balance. We can not ignore the need to work to make a living, but if we make money our first priority, it becomes too easy to lose sight of everything else.
When I was working and raising my children, I set boundaries. As a teacher, I often faced hours correcting papers and working on curriculum. The catch here was that I could take it home with me. The danger….I could take it home with me. It was a delicate balance and sometimes, no oft times, required my doing that work late at night after they were tucked in. In the later years of my career, working as a tax planner, the tax season would demand long hours over the course of several months. I made a commitment to hold two evenings a week open for an earlier departure from work. I also committed to not going into work on Sundays. This required that I work harder and also more efficiently on those other days, but my commitment to family was my motivator and for the most part, kept me on task.
I know what you are thinking, easy to say but not always easy to do. I will admit that your employer must be on board with your commitment to family, and mine was. When you have a boss that demands so much of your time that there is never any time left for family, then you must answer the tough question, is this the right job for me? As I stated above, there will be times and or seasons that demand more time, but if your employer is at least willing to compensate with flex time following those high demand periods, then hopefully you can find your way through.
For me, the instant “Cat’s in the Cradle” is played, I am singing along with Harry. But it does not take long before I begin to wonder, was I just the same or did I drop everything to catch some ball with my daughters at least enough times that they noticed the time spent more than my absence. …..I can only hope I did.