Tuesday, May 6, 2014


You might think you can have it all, and do it all, and be all things, but you can’t.  I know.  I’ve tried.


We all try, and we think we want what we see everywhere: beautifully-crafted meals that look as good as they taste; kids whose clothing is not only clean, but also color-coordinated and not pajamas that they insist on wearing to school; a dog who is photogenic and sweet, not a menace to the neighborhood who leaves giant piles of dog crap on the lawn, and whose descent into old age is not met with cancer and irritability but rather with grace and a gentle “slowing down”; perfectly toned bodies wearing impeccable outfits; quality time spent with your children every day without yelling… the list goes on.


The REAL difficult part of parenting is not the children.  I love them.  They love me.  Even when they’re exasperating, they don’t make me want to throw in the towel.  Hell, I’m having another one, I must enjoy some of it!  In fact, I enjoy lots of aspects of parenting.  I enjoy my children, even if I’m just listening to them build a fort in their room while I’m downstairs washing the dishes.


No, the difficult part of parenting is the fact that even though we are sometimes told that it’s okay to sacrifice, we are bombarded with images and rhetoric that indicate that it is clearly not okay to sacrifice anything.  We feel like we are being judged (and we probably are!) by the world at large because of the choices we have to make just to keep going.  And until yesterday, I didn’t realize that this rhetoric applies to fathers as much as mothers.


Tony and I had an interesting discussion last night that was, admittedly, more interesting in my head than in real life because we agreed with each other and because we kept stopping our conversation to insist to Jamie that if he wanted to go outside, he needed to wear shoes.


I know.  We are the worst.


Anyhow, Tony forwarded me an article about partner-track CPAs in their 30s not really being able to follow the established partner track and live the lives the want.  That is to say, to become partners in CPA firms, they should sacrifice home life to develop business, which is not something many men of today are all that willing to do.  To their credit, most of the 30-something men I know who have families want to be a part of that family, not routinely spend 60 hours a week at the office plus networking events plus poker nights plus the Rotary Club plus plus plus.  My point was this: would it do any real good if Tony were to spend all that extra time at the office and in after-work networking events/activities?  Because if he really wants to be home with his family, where do we think every other 30-something male professional with a family wants to be?  And aren’t those the business prospects that need to be developed?  So how does one find those men who work hard for 40-50 hours a week and then spend the rest of their time with their families?  Because he does want to get ahead at work, like most of us do.  And he does want to be a part of this family in a real way.


It’s another example of the difference between expectations and what we are actually willing to sacrifice.  I am not willing to sacrifice spending time with my family in order to routinely whip up organic, non-GMO, gourmet meals from scratch.  Instead, we eat packaged meals from the freezer section at Costco, I use canned chicken broth, and my children eat old-fashioned sliced bread, full of gluten.  We even put sugar-filled jam on that bread.  I am not willing to go crazy on birthday party decorations, working my fingers to the bone three weeks in advance of the party making a hundred origami monster trucks and themed cupcakes for a Pinterest-worthy event.  We will have cake made with real butter and real chocolate and it will be delicious and the kids will not care one bit about what it looks like.


Tony, on the other hand, faces a more difficult set of decisions.  He’ll have to sacrifice some family time over the coming years in order to advance his career.  Who knows?  As my business grows, maybe I will, too.  There are only so many hours in a day, and there are lots of important demands on our time.  But the rhetoric, even the well-meaning photos of sunsets with smarmy quotes entreating us to cherish every moment and ignore other demands, needs to be ignored.  Full stop.  We cannot do everything, we cannot be everything.  I love my children and they know it.  Tony loves our children, and they know it.  Beyond that, isn’t it a form of love to show them that sacrifices must be made?  Can’t it be love to show our kids that hard work is it’s own reward?  What about those of us who want to work hard and build careers?  Aren’t we good parents, too?


The answer, of course, is yes.  We are good parents.  Time spent with children is not the only factor in consideration.  Nor is cleanliness of house and children, quality of food, or magazine-spread worthiness of parties.  We must also be a good example of reaching for our own dreams, working hard, and sacrificing family time when the need arises.

1 comment:

Leland said...

God, you guys talk about real boring shit at home, huh?