Work projects. Deadlines. Family emergencies. Wedding planning. Moving. Performance goals. Individual development plans. Metrics. Doctor’s appointments. Finances.
All the things hanging over your head. Some days you’ve got a snorkel to keep from drowning in them; some days there’s a cork plugging it shut.
It’s an age-old conundrum: Do I choose my work or my family? Which comes first? And then, which makes you feel like less of an asshole? Do I continue to do my job? Do I continue to strive for the best that I can be in the office every day, as my family continues to go through the toughest stretch it’s faced in years? Or, do I leave the work behind for a bit? Do I say “enough is enough” and realize that my family comes first and take a spur-of-the-moment trip up to New York and leave the projects that have cost me sleep and peace of mind for weeks to sit for a few days?
For some, it’s an easy question. For others, it’s not so much so.
I have struggled with this question lately. I always thought I would know the answer when the time came to ask it. But right now it’s time and I don’t have a clue.
I want to do my job. I want to do the best that I can at work. I want to write and distract myself with work projects; it’s usually one of my best and favorite coping mechanisms. But not lately…
My family has faced many obstacles within the last six weeks or so. From my father-in-law’s unexpected passing in late March (and the subsequent two weeks of leave from work I took to be in Florida for services and other various things), my brother’s car accident, and now my father’s illness, it has truly not been easy to be away. I have tried to have the right answer. I have tried to have the answer that will keep everyone happy: the one that keeps me in the National Capital Region, and behind the keyboard at my desk.
But, my family needs me. They’re my family. Even if I really can’t do much other than offer an encouraging word, feed the dog, or just be good company in the car as my mother drives. I will be there. I will be able to see my family in person instead of behind a computer or phone screen. I will be able to give hugs and hold hands and pet the dog. Night after night since my brother’s accident I had stayed awake wondering what I could do for him, for my parents as they struggled. I wanted to be there so very badly, but my commitment to my job remained. I needed the money, I needed to finish projects, I needed to be in the office for one meeting or another… (That “being in the office” guilt is why I’m pretty bad at picking a set telework day!)
There were excuses everywhere. Literally everywhere. But, after a long conversation that knocked quite a bit of sense into my fool head, several poorly-timed tears, and a quickly purchased train ticket, I am on my way home. It always takes a few hours to get there but it’s always worth it.
The guilt over work will fade and my heart will be full of love from my family. Those feelings are all part of being human–and that’s okay.