Something that has crossed my mind numerous times as I ponder the whole “lean in” obsession is simply, how does our utter focus by both parents on career mobility affect that generation we’re raising? I see article about The True Cost of Leaning In in terms of financials (hiring nannies and such) but the true “true cost” might be a less visible one, paid by the children of a generation where the pressures come from all sides to be absentee parents.
I’m thinking sort of emotional latch-key kids. This was a problem back then, and I feel like it still is now, but it’s not really being talked about anymore. It’s less a matter of our kids being home alone now; we’re there, or someone’s there to watch them. But even when we are “there” now, are we really there emotionally? There are many occasions on the weekends when the kids want to do something but I’m busy on the computer, answering correspondence, blogging, strategizing, and other things that are fulfilling to me.
It’s important for humans (women and men) to seek personal fulfillment and pursue their dreams, I’m not by any means saying that’s a bad thing. I’m just kind of surprised that I haven’t heard anyone talking much about this other part of the equation. When the blanket of our time is too small to cover everything we want to do, yanking it over to one side leaves the other side exposed. Maybe we just don’t want to acknowledge that we can’t do it all.
Life is a balancing act of priorities now, and I feel like it’s also a running guilt trip about all the things I’m not doing with my kids. There’s never enough time at night to practice the weekly spelling list with each, cook a good dinner, do bath time, and somewhere far down the list, the mythical “me” time during the week, so it spills over to the weekend. And for the kids, the weekend is the biggest opportunity to spend time with me. But those precious weekends have to be divided up amongst so many other priorities. There are some ways around it. When I was editing my first documentary, I pulled a good number of all-nighters to make time for that, and I really enjoyed those, actually. But you can’t do all-nighters every week without it catching up to you.
Honestly, I don’t know if all this is negatively impacting our kids or not in a significantly harmful way. And we won’t know, not for another decade or so. This may be the exact equivalent of “TV will rot your brain!” where studies now indicate that not only does it not rot your brain, youngsters who watched lots of TV may actually be smarter for it. But it could swing the other way, the way smoking used to be regarded as a healthy and beneficial habit, until we realized it wasn’t. That took years.
Too much guilt about every little thing is crushing and pointless. But a little guilt and anxiety can be a good motivator for assessing a situation and how it fits into the big picture. It’s enough to make me walk away from the keyboard every now and then and just play with the kids, and I doubt that’s a bad thing. It’s all about balance. We’re all jugglers, nowadays. I want to look back at my life one day, knowing I didn’t juggle ALL the balls, but at least the ones I did take on, I juggled well.