When Work Takes a Back Seat
Last week, I became a member of a club I never wanted to join. Like millions of baby boomers before me, I helped my parents downsize from their home to a small apartment. Something more manageable and affordable than the four-bedroom house that seemed a little bit more run down each time I visited. Some might say I’m among the lucky ones. I still have my parents. That’s true. I also have (free for the taking!) a lifetime worth of possessions collected by depression-era parents who were raised with the idea that “you never know when you’ll have a use for fill in the blank” (War Ration Books? Really?)
Actually, I am luckier than most. At least for now. My parents are still mentally sound (mostly) and able-bodied (maybe.) They don’t require actual nursing care. Yet. But I’m lucky in another sense, too, in that I work for a company that understands there are times when work needs to take a back seat.
Several years ago, when my son was just 2 months old, he was hospitalized with pneumonia. Having just returned to work after being gone for 8 weeks, I wasn’t confident my boss would be supportive of me taking even more time off to sit with him at the hospital. I was also keenly aware that none of my co-workers had children, and therefore I assumed (rightly or wrongly) that they would be resentful I wasn’t giving 110%. Thankfully, my mom stepped in to take the day shift at the hospital, until I could get there after work. After all, as an associate producer at a local TV station, I knew “the show must go on!”
Fast forward 16 years later. My son, now a teenager, is faced with a very serious surgery which will require several days of hospitalization. While I manage to take off the day of the surgery itself, it’s my dad who will spend the next 48 hours straight, sleeping in a chair in the ICU making sure his every need is attended to. With a “big” job (now I was running the show) and “bigger pay” I didn’t allow myself the luxury of taking multiple days off during the “busy season.” We had shoots planned, scripts to write, deadlines to meet. No job, no money. No money, no house. No house, no stability. And round and round the hamster wheel goes.
They say one gets wiser with age; certainly, more confident. Fortunately, I’ve also found a work environment that values the contributions I make over time, and is not quick to judge me on those occasions when giving 110% is not an option. Parents suffer life-altering illnesses, beloved pets die, a best friend loses a spouse. My hope is that when the occasional hardship strikes, and it will, you grant yourself and your co-workers the time and space that’s needed to care for the one thing that is more important than work – relationships.
This weekend, I’ll throw a few more things in the dumpster (contact me if you’re interested in 1960’s his and her Schwinn bikes complete with a baby seat on the back) and sweep out the garage one last time. And if I decide I need to stay one more day to help unpack boxes in the new place, I might just do that.
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