Career vs. Family: The Uncomfortable Showdown
Joe DeProspero has two sons, a wife, and is complimentary birth control for anyone who sits near him in a restaurant. His writing has been described as “outrageous,” “painfully real,” and “downright humiliating.” He talks about the highs and unsettling lows of parenthood while always being entertaining and engaging in the process. Author of the dark comedy fiction novel “The Boy in the Wrinkled Shirt,” Joe is working on a parenting humor book. He currently lives in New Jersey and can be emailed at firstname.lastname@example.org or followed on Twitter @JoeDeProspero.
Potentially the toughest overall challenge of parenthood, at least for me, has been devoting the appropriate amount of hours to my job and to my children. Frankly, I’ve been considering writing about this for months, my hesitation stemming from the fact that I could be interpreted as a not-so-dedicated worker, if any of my colleagues were to read this. But alas, it’s a discussion that needs to be had.
I’m a disaster in the morning. Meaning, I have no patience, I fly off the handle if the littlest thing doesn’t go smoothly. And this is especially problematic when you have two uncooperative children to get fed, dressed, and out the door in time for school. And that’s not even taking into account the time it actually takes to wake them up and get them into the kitchen. I’ve gotten passive aggressive emails from their school, more than once. They remind me that school starts promptly at 8:30, that bringing them in later than that sends the wrong message to the children. Well, I encourage them to spend just one morning with mine, forcing a flailing leg into a pair of pants, trying to determine if he’s having a tantrum because he’s sick and tired or because he’s just being a jerk. When I had only myself to dress and feed in the morning, I could wake up late, shove a granola bar into my mouth and bring a thermos of coffee for my commute. Done deal. But now, the very real possibility that my kids will wake up before I do, in inconsolable moods happens more often than I’d like to admit. And when this does happen, I have a decision to make. How much am I willing to allow my children to affect my reputation at work?
This past Halloween, I found myself in a situation at work where I was torn between the responsibilities of my job and those of parenthood. In the office, there was a project going on that required me to be there till about 1:00 p.m. My 4-year-old son, Antonio’s Halloween parade at school was happening at 1:30. I work about 30 minutes from his school. So even the slightest of delays would mean me missing the parade, which I adamantly did NOT want to miss. Not only do I adore Halloween, but I want my kids to look back at moments like that and remember me being there. You can probably guess that the work project wound up getting delayed. And I was left with a choice. Leave the office and risk looking like I abandoned an important project or stay at work and disappoint my son. I opted to split the difference. I stayed an extra 20 minutes at work, tying up loose ends and ensuring the project would get done (mainly by colleagues I was leaving behind) and then literally raced to my son’s school to catch as much of the parade as I could. I ended up catching the last 1/3 of the parade/concert, feeling partly like I’d let both my boss and son down at the same time. My boss, to his credit, encouraged me to be with my family that day. At the same time, I also know that staying instead of leaving would’ve had a more positive impact on my overall career. But at the cost of my absence at a significant moment in my son’s life? I made the decision to say no, regardless of consequence. And I’d do it again.
Don’t get me wrong. I work my ass off. Anybody who’s seen me on the job knows this. But that struggle of balance will always be there, no matter my efforts. And as any parent knows, once you’re done with the middle-of-the-night feedings and tantrums, impossibly frustrating mornings at the breakfast table, the last thing you want to do is push yourself even further. But we do. We all do. If you’re anything like me, you constantly feel pulled in at least 25 different directions, your career, parenthood, household duties, and even hobbies relentlessly (and hopelessly) vying for your brain’s undivided attention at all times. However, at the end of each day, I’m far more proud of the accomplishments I’ve made as a parent than as an office worker. I’ll never be a CEO, I’ll never own a house you could get lost in. But my sons will remember me for (hopefully) being a mainstay in every aspect of their lives. That, to me, is exponentially more important. To read more about someone who feels very much like I do (albeit in a much higher rank), read about this CEO who quit his job to be a more present father and grandfather. Granted, he’s actually at retirement age anyway, but it’s still an admirable stance worth reading about.
Follow me on Twitter @JoeDeProspero.
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