Laura’s note: Today’s guest post deals with the topic of parents who say they “never” miss a special occasion. I’ll be back tomorrow – thanks!
by Camille Preston
I recently attended an all-day learning event where business leaders shared their wisdom and experience. It wasn’t even 9:15 and the first two speakers had both gloated about how they never miss an important event for their children. While I felt conviction and a deep sense of pride in their statements, both times, I cringed.
Parents Who Claim to Do It All
The first speaker said she never missed a recital, performance, or special cupcake moment. As I stepped back to ponder her words, I noticed my own guilt. In fact, I even repeated her words, “I never missed a…” When I did this, I inserted all the things I had missed only two weeks earlier. I missed my daughter’s second year pediatric appointment (confession: I may be afraid of her doctor myself… so this may not have been a bad thing to miss). I was with my daughter on her birthday, but I chose to speak to a group of philanthropists that evening, and the list goes on.
I decided to cut the first speaker some slack—she was a single mother doing it all and deserved my full attention. When the second speaker spoke about how he never missed a t-ball practice, however, my BS radar was on high alert. First, he spoke about how many games his dad missed. Then, although he was talking about values, he spent his talk trashing his own father and celebrating the different decisions he was making as a parent with a demanding career. There was a level of disingenuousness that I couldn’t overlook.
Now, both speakers have big careers, with high visibility jobs, significant travel demand, and numerous speaking engagements and appearances. I can’t help but doubt that their speaking agents consult the t-ball coach before booking. In addition, it is a privilege to be able to leave work early to get to the t-ball diamond—not everyone has the seniority and flexibility to do this. Do they turn down any engagement that conflicts with their children’s schedules? What do they do when there is a wet season and games get rained out and rescheduled? Do they reschedule their speaking engagements?
This is precisely what I was thinking about when I learned that I had missed another event—the end of year school picnic at our pre-school. What? I was in total disbelief. I had left a meeting early, literally ran 1 mile to my son’s pre-school to be late, sweaty and out of breath for the piñata party that he didn’t want to attend. How is it possible that the very next day, they had another party in the afternoon? Who thinks two days of events back-to-back is a good or necessary thing? Was my kid the only one being picked up by childcare at the picnic?
Being Realistic and Reliable
As I write about this, I am noticing my own privilege. I aspire to live in accordance with a specific set of values and adhere to high standards. Most of the time, I am able to do this due to a simple fact: I have a supportive spouse and a great team that supports my life and work. Sure, I miss a picnic or party from time to time but most of the time, I am able to be present for my children and my clients.
After my face-to-face encounter with the parenting hoax, however, I have decided to start asking myself three questions whenever I’m faced with something that appears to be a potential parenting/work conflict. First, next time someone tells me they never miss their child’s special moments, I’m going to ask, “Is it true?” Given that all of our children’s moments are special, the answer is obvious. Second, I’m going to ask, “Is it kind?” By this, I simply mean, when we prioritize one event over another, whose feelings and needs are being taken into account? Is it really kind to cancel on a client in crisis in order to bring your four-year-old to a birthday party for a kid he barely knows? What is the long-term impact of this decision? Finally, I’m going to ask, “Is it necessary?” Missing your child’s birthday altogether may be unforgivable, but dipping out to give an evening talk, especially if your child is two-years-old and going to fall asleep by dinner, arguably isn’t unforgivable and may be a good use of time.
The reality is that that we all have expectations about what we should do but sometimes, these “should-dos” lack logic and fail to respond to the needs of the people we love most in the world. For working women who are often under tremendous pressure to do it all, bearing this is in mind may be especially essential. After all, it could be the difference between finding the perfect balance between family and work – and burning out.
As CEO of AIM Leadership, Camille has over 20 years of experience working with individuals and teams to identify specific actions they can take to amplify impact. A psychologist by training, she is particularly skilled at recognizing the underlying patterns that inhibit performance, and helping people unlock their capacity for excellence, action, and impact.