An intrinsic aspect of intelligent living is to not just earn a living but to learn to spend quality time with your family. In such a connected world, where there are so many options for children to learn and display their talent, I do agree that Life for us parents, especially in an urban or metro context, can at times be harrowing. Ferrying the children to and from events, activities, hobby classes and school, in the midst of our ever-demanding work schedules and corporate careers, can often appear thankless. And then there is the time that you need with your companion, just to chill out, doing nothing! Phew! Where’s the time for yourself?
Sometimes family Life can get very demanding and complicated. With so many schedules to coordinate, with so many things to do, with so many aspirations to fulfill. Even so, there’s great value in learning to pause, and celebrating the miracle of your family.
Some years ago, when I was based in Singapore, I had a friend Steve, who was the general manager of the hotel I stayed in as a long-term guest. He was a big-hearted man from Vancouver, Canada. He must have been in his late 40s then and I was in my late 20s. He and his wife loved Singapore and he was doing a great job leading the hotel he was employed at. Then suddenly he told me over dinner, one night, that he was going back to live in Canada. His three daughters, it appeared, were in various years of finishing undergrad and grad schools. And he said, “We want to be with them, for them.” I remember wondering, as a career-obsessed youngster, what a crazy idea it was to give up such a great job and go back to take care of three ‘grown up young adult daughters’. Steve perhaps read my mind. He said rather prophetically, “When you grow up to be my age, all you will want is happiness for your children. Your success and happiness will lie in their own.”
I certainly did not take Steve’s words to heart. So, even as I continued my quest to build a career, flying around the world, at the cost of not being able to spend time with my family, I did not quite realize what I was missing. Those were very early days of the internet. Hotmail was not even around as a free-for-all service. Phone calls were mighty expensive. So, we had a fax machine installed at home for my wife and I to be in touch. One day, as I was lounging in my hotel room in Rome, after a long day’s work, the bell desk slipped a fax message under the door. It was from my son. He must have been hardly six then but he knew how to operate the old Compaq 486 (!!!) we had at home. He had managed to pull out a computer clipart picture of a globe, pasted it on a document, printed it and faxed it to me. Below the clipart, in his scrawly handwriting, he had written, ‘Where in the world are you? Come soon!” My eyes welled up, and I remembered Steve, as I read that message. I was not sure I did it consciously, but over the next several months I worked hard and eventually managed to relocate back to India.
Even after I came back and set up a business here in India, it took me a long, long time to discover the magic of my own family. I often ended up getting trapped in the rat race, letting clients, business and my team take over my time, all the time! I am glad, am grateful to Life and am humbled, that I finally did manage to yank myself out of that rut!!! When my daughter was born, 18 years ago, I was that ambitious, globe-trotting CEO. I often used to ask my wife, when I called from airports half-way across the world, half in jest, half in trepidation, if our daughter would even recognize me! Today my daughter (and of course, my son) and I are the best of friends. As they say, every cloud has a silver lining. The upside of a business slowdown, I have come to believe, is this amazing friendship I have struck with my children. Today Steve’s words ring so very true to me.
Unmistakably, living fully is a full-time job! Living fully surely involves experiencing the family we create and raise than just providing for them. There’s nothing more valuable in Life, you will realize, sooner than later, than the friendship of your children and the companionship of your spouse. A family is where you learn to live. You learn compassion, you learn to teach, you learn to lead, to serve, to give, you learn to understand the value in constructive confrontation, in forgiveness and in simply having a lot of fun, laughing, and goofing off! You may not realize it but your family not just complements you, but completes you! As someone has said so wisely, “Family is not just important. It is everything!”