While CEO pundits such as Sheryl Sandberg of Facebook and Marissa Mayer of Yahoo continue to promote the idea that work is really ALL that matters, there are still plenty of us out there that know what our real jobs are. For me, a software developer, author and mother of three amazing children, it really is ALL about my three amazing children.
Fortunately for my children, I realized early on in their lives that I had only one chance at really getting this parenting thing right. I also realized that their lives and most importantly, the quality of those lives depended on this realization. Because of this, I have continued to pursue my professional career as a software developer and author, but I do so in a way that does not compromise on my ability to be a “present” parent.
So what is a “present” parent?
Quite simply, it is one that is present – both physically and mentally. For me, that means being there most days when they come home from school so I can sign papers and talk to them about their day. It definitely means I am home every night to make them dinner and then sit at the dinner table and eat it with them. It also means that even when I am working from home, I am able to break away from my work and tend to their needs when that need arises. And it most certainly means that I do not spend every day and night so lost in my thoughts about work and all the things I need to accomplish, that I fail to recognize the needs of the child standing right in front of me.
It means that I choose to work from home, even though this means that I make substantially less money. It means that I still do a good job, even though I work from home. I just make sure that I set everyone’s expectations and only accept jobs in which I know I can succeed in without compromising my parental duties.
It means that I am ALWAYS looking for the right work/life balance and that I do NOT “lean in”. I guess you could say that I am really leaning out, but for a VERY good reason (actually, three very good reasons).
Now, before you go assuming that I am trying to imply that Mrs. Sandberg and Mrs. Mayer are bad parents for advocating work, think again. Because, I am not. I do not know either of those women and have no idea whether they are good or bad parents.
I only know that we are all limited by the same 24 hours in each day and that there is only so much you can do (no matter how good of a multi-tasker you are). I also know that the best people to raise children are their parents (and not a series of nannies, daycare’s, schools, video games, whatever). So in the end something has to give. Someone else can be the CEO of the next great tech company. Perhaps it will be one of my children