It’s the end of another long day. The drive home was quiet, trying to unwind from all that occurred at the office. My brain is tired. As I close the garage door and step into the house I can smell dinner cooking. Enchiladas. She’s so good to me. I step into the kitchen and the boys come popping out from under tables yelling “Surprise”. It’s not much of a surprise since they do it every night, but I smile as I kneel down to give them hugs. I give my wife a kiss on the cheek as she pulls dinner from the oven. The welcome train doesn’t stop as I head down the hall to the bedroom. My dog sits in the doorway smiling at me. My wife’s dog is sleeping somewhere; he’ll say hello when it’s convenient for him. I take off my tie, kick off my shoes, and sit on the floor as we tell each other about our day. I change quickly and sit down to dinner. Afterwards, I grab my keys and step out the door. “Daddy has a meeting boys, I’ll be home after bedtime” I try to explain. My oldest clings to me, tears in his eyes, “but I didn’t get to play with you today” he pleads. “Tomorrow, I promise” is all I can say.
These are defining moments. Not just for my children who crave my attention. But for me and my wife. It’s who our family will be and how our life is defined. There are those days where my wife and I look at each other and ask “Why did we have kids”? We see friends who decided not to have kids. They travel the world and have nice cars without crayon melted into the seats. But the truth is that we wouldn’t have created this life together any differently. We wouldn’t trade any of it. My son who wants to put on elaborate musical shows for me or the other who wants me to teach him all about super heroes and Star Wars. Playing tag with my dog in the front yard while the neighbors wonder why I’m chasing him. And training with my wife for whatever fitness challenge we found on the internet.
Losing those things frightens me. It tears me apart as I weigh the growth of a professional career and all the demands that come with it against the precious little moments that come as I step across the threshold in the evening. It’s a catch 22. Without the wife, children, house, and dog(s) you seem unbalanced. People wonder about you. But projects, board meetings, conference calls, golf outings, and corporate dinners don’t appreciate a 4 year old who tells poop stories.
Who is it that you want to be at the end of the day? Who is it that deep in your heart you wish you were? If you were to ask Barack Obama who he is first and foremost, he would say “I’m the President of the United States”. You wouldn’t here “I’m a father, husband, son, friend,…” But there are probably moments where his daughters just wish they could go to the park with their friends. One day they’ll want to go on a date without secret service.
The societal pressure is intense. Make more money. Buy more things. Get the next promotion. Contentment seems frowned upon. And in those moments I ask myself, what is it worth to me? No one at the end of their life ever says “I wish I had spent more time in the office”.