Guilt about working too long/too hard

I met Arjun Sen at a conference recently. He left a high profile job in Marketing to spend more time with his daughter. He realized one day that his work had been all consuming and was taking away time from his kid and so he quit. He started his own consulting company that allowed him to dictate his own schedule. He has written a book about his experience (raisingafather.blogspot.com). Check it out.

A few days later, I met a consultant from a Big Four advisory firm who had ‘Anton Days’ (days her son Anton was with her) when her kid was younger. On those days, she made sure all her clients and her coworkers knew that she was available only for certain hours. She did not take calls or meetings outside of those hours. People she worked with respected her decision and worked around her schedule.

While many of us feel bad about not spending enough time with our kids, not too many of us act on it.  I do believe, that it is tough to do what Arjun did, but I believe it is definitely possible to do what the consultant did. It doesn’t hurt to set expectations in our workplace for some personal time. I work for a global company and frequently have to interact with people from all over the world in different time zones. For many years, I have let it be known that I don’t take calls between 7 and 8AM in the morning (kids are getting out of the house) or between 6 and 8PM at night (my time with the kids). My coworkers largely honor these wishes and work around these times. It has worked for me so far. Would love to hear other people’s thoughts on this.

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3 comments so far

  1. AnLee on

    It’s not the quantity of time, but the quality. It’s great to make an appointment with your kids everyday so they have your undivided attention with no phone, computer, or other distractions. Don’t beat yourself up over how much time you spend. Just make the time you have meaningful!

  2. Bhishma on

    It definitely is about the quality of time spent with them since I have been on maternity leave with baby #3 for the last 6 months (we’re entitled to 1 year in Ontario) and I have a 2yo son with me full-time and a 5yo daughter with me part-time since she’s in school. Spending “quality” time means that dinner is done, everyone is fed, clean and not sleepy and the house is somewhat tidy…….which is almost impossible to have all at the same time. It means that I steal a few minutes here and there to do things with each of them. So being at home full-time doesn’t mean I get to be “with” them full-time. I love that I am here for all the funny things they say or the kisses and cuddles. And I definitely will remember to schedule time with each of them separately and then “family time” when I go back to work.

  3. sanjivtx on

    I agree. Quality of time is key. If you are spending enormous amounts of time with your kids but are disengaged and/or stressed, in my opinion, it doesn’t help.
    My wife and I (both of us work) have decided that we will make a conscious effort at having dedicated one on one time with our kids – her time with the kids and my time with the kids every day. Granted, it won’t be a huge amount of time every day but it will be focused time: no phone calls, no Blackberry. In addition, every weekend we will consciously carve out ‘family time’ to do something fun together.
    Given the pressures of our jobs and our fairly busy social calendar we have to consciously make an effort to do this. It will mean reducing our social obligations but we are fine with that.
    Anyway, watch this space. I will keep you posted on how this goes.


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