You Get Eighteen Summers

Today is Fathers’ Day in the United States, and I wanted to take a moment to write about fatherhood, work, and priorities.

I became a father ten years ago this September. I was young, brash, and hopeful. At the time, and for years afterward, I defined myself by my job title and career path. But becoming a father changed all of that.

I’ve loved my children from the moment I met them. They’re incredible. But, now that they’re in elementary school, I’ve started to enjoy their company, as well. I don’t just love my children: I like my children. That’s a game changer.

I recently saw an advertisement that read, “You only get eighteen summers with your children. Are you making the most of them?” I think they were trying to sell me a vacation. But, unusually, something in the ad struck a chord: “No,” I thought. “I am not making the most of them. And soon they’ll be gone.”

Now, I’m desperately trying to beat back the constant, urgent demand to Get Things Done so that I can spend time with my kids. That’s why I’m a consultant/freelancer: so that my schedule stays flexible enough that I can be there when they need me. I’m determined to do well by my clients and my children — both.

So many fathers have to work long-distance jobs to care for their children (e.g., migrant workers, oil rig workers, sailors, soldiers). How many birthdays, sports games, and other little moments do they miss while they support their families from afar? And what would they trade to have those moments back?

As I’m stealing a few moments of quiet work early this morning, I’m grateful for my children — certainly. But I’m also thankful for my wife, my family, my clients, and a range of technology companies whose investment in me (big and small) has made it possible for me to spend so much time with my children. 

Happy Fathers’ Day.