This week is half term. If you’re the working parent of a school-age child, what do you have planned? Are you going away for the week to spend quality time with the family, or will you be going into the office as normal? Maybe you’ve compromised by arranging to work from home for all or part of the week?
A friend of mine, who has two youngish children and a demanding career, is off to Wales for the week. He told me he’d chosen a cottage deep in the Brecon Beacons not only because of the area’s natural beauty, but also because there was no internet at the property and he knew he would be unlikely to get a signal on his mobile phone. It was the only way, he said, to guarantee that he would be able to turn his back on work entirely. It struck me as a bit sad that he should have to go to such lengths to switch off – in more ways than one.
Today, too many of us work too hard and for too many hours a week, which results in us spending less time than we should do, or would like, with our partners and children. We justify the long hours spent in the office or on the work laptop at home by saying that we are providing for our families. Of course this is true, but many people forget – or don’t realise until it’s too late – that children aren’t small forever. They grow up fast (faster than ever these days, it seems) and before you know it, they’re off doing their own thing and those special years have passed.
When children are small, they want their parents around. It is their parents’ time and attention they crave, not the material things mum and dad can provide. As I say to clients: “Youngsters want your presence, not your presents”.
Financial pressures are particularly tough in today’s economic climate, and career progression is important too, but neither should come first in your life. Even if you are the main breadwinner, it is vital that you spend time with your children.
The introduction of flexible working hours have made things easier for parents to attend their children’s school play or pick them up from school each afternoon, while new technology allows more people to work from home. Take advantage of this, but also think twice about whether you need to attend that conference overseas or if it really is worth pursuing a career move that will give you more money and prestige, but will also take you away from home more often.
Providing material wealth for your children – a nice house, car, holidays and clothes – might seem essential, but providing emotional wealth by giving them your love, support and, crucially, your attention will make them richer in the long run.
* Article originally featured on Benussi & Co