“Way too often we bring the best of ourselves to work and the leftovers home.” – Esther Perel
This has been a slap in my face when I realized it’s true. I’ve been putting all my prime energy at work — the fun, energetic, solve-all-your-problems attitude version of myself. I go home tired, irritated, no energy left for my family. My thought is it was justified since my main role was providing, and I’m doing it fairly well. But turns out it doesn’t align with my values.
Strong values makes easy decisions
What I do now is have “slow mornings”. I do not go to work until my kids wake up, have breakfast, and I spent time with them (with as little gadget use as possible). I also make sure I’m around when it’s bed time, regardless of deadlines and deliverables. Those can wait until my kids are asleep.
One of my core value that I identified is family comes before work. I couldn’t count how many times I ditched work to spend fun times with my kids now. Ditching work is easy if the question is should I have fun with my kids or be guilt-ridden procrastinating while I try to work? Of course my default answer is have fun with my kids. My prime energy is for my family.
What’s my work structure looks like now?
The only time I’m guilt-free working is when they are sleeping. However, working only when they are sleeping isn’t sustainable. I still need to work. After all, providing is still my primary role.
My kids wake up at 6-7am, then I stick around to spend time with them up to 10am. I officially start my work day by then. I try to go home for lunch, late afternoon walk, and dinner, then go back to my office until bed time at 9pm. This is a hard stop of my work hours. It’s very important for me to be there at bed time. Usually, if I still need to deliver something within the day, I’d just set an alarm at 11pm to wake up and continue working.
I preferably not want to work beyond 3am because I wouldn’t have good energy when my kids wake up. If I’m still not done by that time, I’d reset expectations.
Where do I compromise?
I want to be good with family and work. My work enables us live a good life. So where do I compromise? Sleep. Year-over-year I’ve been needing less sleep. I’m at 6 hours/night now. This is why I have more coffee in my blood than water. 😛
There’s a 2 hour gap between my average time in bed and average time asleep because my kids usually takes sometime to sleep. We ask about their day, pray, and say thanks for everything we’re grateful for (usually for new toys). It’s extra fun when they start talking.
Why am I doing this?
Kids belong to themselves. The process of them leaving you starts when they leave your body. – Marriage Story
Well, in my case it started when they left my wife’s body. I can imagine it’s a long steady process of them leaving slowly until they are capable on their own.
“They grow up fast, spend time with them while you can.” is a recurring theme when I read about parenting stuff. This is why I try to spend as much time with them as I can. Soon enough they wouldn’t even want to hang out with me anymore (and that’s okay).
I’ve accepted that the next 10-20 years of my life will be mostly about supporting them. Things I selfishly want to do, I can do later on if I’m still given the time. All the time spent with them is well worth it on it’s own anyway.
Ultimately, it’s a meaningful experience to witness a human being that was part of myself grow to be their own self. And I just want to witness as much as I can.