If you’ve been following this blog for the last few years, then you’ll know about my struggles as a work-at-home dad. I have a tough time trying to balance my professional duties with my parental ones. The third shift is brutal, but sometimes necessary, and I just don’t know how to shut it down. But I recognize my position of relative privilege and I know that it could be worse. I get that.
But I still struggle, because I feel like I can do more. That I should do more. But then again, in the last few weeks, I’ve encountered an emerging theme among some of the things that I watch, read and listen to. This theme isn’t exactly novel and it’s certainly been explored before. It’s said that no one on their deathbed wishes they had spent more time at the office.
Ambition can be a positive attribute, and we all want to be successful, but at what cost?
Professional wrestler Chris Jericho wrote in A Lion’s Tale:
As great as the fame and the money are, sometimes I wonder if working at a Taco Bell and being able to tuck your kids in at night isn’t a better gig.
Despite what my 1,000 or so followers on Instagram and 4,000 or so followers on Twitter may lead you to believe, I’m not famous. Not by any stretch. And I’m certainly not wealthy, though we have been able to eke out a comfortable, middle class existence in the third least affordable city in the world.
While I’m not so sure that a career at Taco Bell would be able to sustain a family living in Vancouver, I can certainly appreciate the message Chris Jericho is trying to convey. You’ve got to treasure these little moments, because these are the good old days, as frustrating and as exhausting as they might be.
YouTuber Casey Neistat echoed this sentiment in a recent podcast (which I mentioned in a recent vlog):
And then there’s this other weird thing, which like a 20-year-old Casey could never imagine, like all I really want to do is be home with Candice and baby and make videos. I need someone smarter than me to tell me it’s okay to say no.
Ten years ago, I wrote that the most powerful word in a freelancer’s vocabulary is “no.” The ability and privilege to turn down work you don’t want to do for any given reason is incredibly empowering. And freeing. Truly, you can work because you want to and not because you have to. And when you don’t have to work, you probably want to spend more time with the family.
Far and away, becoming a dad has been the biggest life change I have ever experience. It’s been much more profound than going to university, getting married, or buying our first home, because these were all extensions or continuations of experiences I had already had. Parenting is a whole other beast. This is uncharted territory, because here is a helpless human being who needs me 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.
Or at least she used to.
And I want to be there for every moment of it. That’s why I get so overwhelmed with guilt when I tell her that I have to work… because it’s not completely true. I don’t have to work right that moment, because in my line of business, work can usually wait. That subsequently ushers in the guilt of privilege, because by all measures, I’ve been pretty lucky.
The esteemed David Letterman, while interviewing Jerry Seinfeld for My Next Guest Needs No Introduction on Netflix, said:
I’ll tell you something. I wish now, looking back at my life, I should have left 10 years ago, because then I could have taken some of that energy and focus and applied it to actually doing something good for humans.
Now, he wasn’t speaking directly in the context of parenting, but the theme still holds. In his mind, he worked too much and for too long when he could have “better” spent that time doing something else. His son Harry turns 15 later this year. I bet he wishes he could’ve been around to tuck him in every night.
Or maybe I’m just trying to justify my decisions and feel a little less guilty about doing what needs to be done.