My family recently gathered together at my daughter’s preschool for her Pre-K graduation. As my almost-five-year-old walked down the aisle in her little cap and gown, I saw glimpses of the baby she had been and the young woman she will one day become.
It struck me deep in my heart how quickly all of this time goes. Blink and it is gone.
I started my businesses when she was just six months old. I began working from home in the quiet hours, when she napped, but as she grew and my company expanded I had to do more work while she was awake.
Sometimes I feel such guilt when I think back to a few days when she wanted to play Barbies but I had a deadline. A child doesn’t understand this thing called deadlines. She understands Barbie and Ken and Peter Pan, and how important they are in her little life.
It wasn’t until she hit about four years old that I truly understood how quickly time was passing. The prospect of kindergarten loomed before us — then, it was a year away; now, it’s only a matter of months.
At some point during my working-mom career, I quit working as much. I had learned a few lessons along my working mother’s journey, and I thought they would be great lessons to share with you.
- E-mails will wait. The great thing about them is they’ll remain in your inbox unopened for days. Unless someone is bleeding, as I tell my children, it is not a huge emergency. So other than doctors and medical professionals who might have to save a life, you could probably avoid checking your e-mail on the weekends and after hours and play a game with your kids instead.
- Work calls suck up more time than vacuum cleaners suck up trash. You can say you’ll only spend five minutes on the call, but even if that conversation lasts no longer than this, your thoughts will remain on what was said much longer. Don’t answer the phone if it isn’t work hours and you don’t have to. Give your attention to your child; that’s whom you’ll really want to remember talking to in the future, anyway.
- Be there – really. Don’t think about work while at home. Hard to do, right? But so important. Our kids are smart. They know when we are millions of miles away, whether we are burned out or working a new contract in our head. Put all of that away during family time. Let it rest. You’ll find you are much happier if you live in the present with your children than if you spend your time trying to figure out the future or clean up the past.
- Play make-believe games. It’s hard to do. A lot of my friends — me included! — become tired from endless rounds of Barbies. But your child will remember you down on the floor with Ken in your hand, fighting the obnoxious Captain Hook with a sword made of cardboard. And one day you’ll be glad they did.
- Take time to look into those little eyes a few times a day. Really look into them. Are you giving them all of yourself when you can? If so, they will feel it. If not, bring yourself back to them.
- Money only goes so far. Seriously, though I miss the money I was making for a few years when I was working so much, I don’t even remember what I spent it on now! Where did it go? The things I do recall most – story time at the library, days at the park, picnics at the beach, forts in the living room – haven’t cost a thing.
- Blink and it is gone. Yesterday your children were being born. How old are they today? 5? 10? 30? Just that fast, they grow, and then it is too late to do the things you wish you had done, or say the things you wish you had said. Take that time now, today, tomorrow, and the next day. Make them a priority.
This isn’t to say you have to give up your job or feel guilty when you work. It’s only to say that work has a place as do our children, and we need to remember that it’s easy to let those places blur together when, in reality, we should try to keep them separate so we can enjoy them both.
If we are all consumed with our work, we are missing out on rare opportunities, and before we know it our children are marching down the aisle of their preschool (or high school, or college) with a diploma in hand, ready to begin a new phase of independence. What will you remember most about your life together when they pass you by and smile?