This morning my son sent me a text with a link to a story about some high-flying hedge fund manager who abruptly resigned his nine figure job after being presented with a list of twenty things he had failed to show up for by his ten year old daughter. Patrick went on to thank me for always being there for all of his games and concerts. I have been thinking about this all morning. I can’t get it out of my head. Did I really do the right thing?
It is easy to jump to the easy conclusion that, “Of course you did the right thing!! You were there for your kids!!” Part of me has no regrets since watching your kids play baseball or hearing them perform beautiful music is about as good as it gets as a parent. But, the truth is, I have always jumped at any chance to get away from the relentless pressure of my job. Having active children was a convenient and admirable excuse for walking away from the pursuit of my career periodically.
I have always fought an internal battle with myself over, for lack of a more descriptive term, success. I don’t know where it comes from, but being judged to be successful and relatively well-off has always brought with it a strange tinge of embarrassment. Growing up, I never much cared for rich people. They always seemed to be the ones who caused my Dad the most trouble at church. At school, especially college, I always resented the rich kids from New Jersey who all drove BMW’s around campus and threw their money around on the weekends while I was slaving away in a freezing cold warehouse building pallets 30 hours a week.
So, there grew up within me a raging battle between the guy who desperately wanted to make something of himself, and the guy who promised himself that he would never ever be like those New Jersey boys. The battle still rages.
So, yes, Pam and I never missed events in our kids’ lives, great and small. But I can come up with my own list of things I missed because of my choices. Had I been more committed to my job perhaps I could have:
1. Had enough money to pay for my Son’s two year grad school degree, saving him that debt.
2. Been able to have built that lake house in Maine by now, a place where my kids and one day their kids could gather for vacations.
3. Been debt-free myself by now, giving me the freedom to devote more time to writing
4. Taken my family to Europe over the summer to tour the great capitols of Western civilization.
5. Given more money to charity
Decisions we make have consequences. For me, choosing to underachieve has had many up sides. But, these five consequences add up to a formidable down side. And they are just the first five that have come to mind. I’m sure that if I thought about it longer, the list would grow.No matter, I made my choice. There are no do-overs. I got two great kids out of the bargain, and despite my ambivalence, having money is better than being poor. Just as being rich does not bestow goodness on the rich, there is also nothing noble about poverty. So, I suppose that if I had it to do all over again…I would.