Yesterday was mother’s day and father’s day is not far off. Although these holidays are meant as reminders to celebrate our own mothers and fathers, I think they are also reminders for all busy leaders for the importance of spending time with those you love.
The time was the early eighties, when women were entering the workforce in greater numbers than ever before. Many of us were struggling with the choices we made to have a career and a family even though we’d come a long way, baby and could bring home the bacon and fry it up in a pan. It was a period when we made excuses for not spending enough time with those we loved by convincing ourselves that “quality time” (no matter how miniscule in terms of minutes, hours or days) was enough.
The speaker, a well-known and ground breaking civic leader, was speaking to the hearts of a room full of women who were wondering if having it all was a good thing. She was reminding us to remember the importance of what really matters. She said: “When you’re in the twilight of your life, you’ll never wish you’d spent more time at your job. But you might wish you’d spent more time with your family.” She could just as well have been speaking today to any organizational leaders of any gender.
Her words made a huge impression on me as I was starting my own family and working at a large company. This company was not that different from those today. It would take anything I chose to give to it without apology for leaving behind what was most important to me – my family.
Although I continued working full time in demanding positions, I made career sacrifices in order to be with my family. I recognized that I might pay a price for that, but it was a conscious choice. Although I may have sacrificed my career to a degree, I was satisfied at work. More importantly, I had amazing, happy children; great friends; and no regrets about how I spent my time.
As we work our way out of the Great Recession, we watch organizations demanding more of us as they continue to focus on efficiency. Consider your own well-being and that of your family and friends as you contemplate the choices you make. Are those choices, including those about how you spend your time worth it? Some questions to consider:
What values drive the choices I make around the things that are most important to me?
What adjustments to my lifestyle am I willing to make to honor my deeply held values?
Am I making the choices that sustain me and those who are most important to me?
What would my family and friends say about the choices I make on how I spend my time? (p.s. ask them)
Remember that your organization is always willing to take whatever you give. The lure of that giving is seductive. What choices do you need to make today so that decades from now, you can say you’ve had no regrets about how you spent your time?