Prior to passing away, my grandfather spoke about how he had wished he spent more time making memories with his family and not so much time striving to make more money: He was a great man, in a different time and to honor him, I will never forget this.
Unfortunately, it is far too easy to lose track of what really matters. For some, it may mean different things. But, for me, it has always been making my family happy and being present in their lives. Yet, even with that in mind, providing for them financially and giving them every opportunity to succeed are big aspects of what it means to be a good father.
Americans and ambitious people in general are under intense pressure to find balance and the definition of “success.” The easiest definition is the traditional “keeping up with the Jones’.” Money, power and possessions are easy to quantify and usually nice to have. Think about when you hear that someone is “successful.’” We often associate that with financial wellbeing.
I contest that the true definition is harder to quantify and one that many of us neglect to recognize or act on. My family’s happiness and wellbeing is success; it’s what keeps me up at night. What will make my family happy? Not just now, but for the rest of our lives? I’m an extremely analytical person (to a fault) and pondering this dilemma is a problem in and of itself. It often keeps me from being “present” with my family during my downtime! It’s something I’m working on…
I work for a high-tech company that I believe is a pioneer by allowing all new moms and dads up to eight weeks of paid bonding leave. To me, it’s a vote of confidence and acknowledgement of what really matters. And even with this amazing benefit placed before me, I was concerned about how taking this leave would be perceived by my work peers and management. You may laugh, but the struggle was real. I probably asked about 15 of my co-workers for their opinion and received mixed advice. Even my wife was uncertain. What is the right thing to do for my family?
With this incredible option available to me (even encouraged by my company) why was I still so uncertain?
I work hard and have a sincere belief in taking advantage of every opportunity placed in front of me. In my nine years at my company, I have done just that: I have gotten myself into a good financial position, but there is always a want for more.
With the arrival of my youngest son, this new opportunity for bonding leave arose. One of my mentors reminded me that my kids will only be this age once… I will never get this time back. She said I have built my professional brand and my value will not diminish because I took a few months off.
She was right.
I had yet to “walk the walk” on the “balance” of professional and family life and this was my opportunity to do just that. How could I say no?
As my company has pioneered the option of paid bonding leave, I hope that I can change the popular definition of success to ease our struggles in acting on similar life decisions. I want to encourage everyone to dig deeper for the true meaning of it. Think about it, talk about it, pray on it, ANALYZE IT! If you want to be a successful person, set your definition and never sway from it. It will guide your decisions so that as you look back on your life you will relish what a success it was.
Matt lives in Portland, Oregon with his wife and his three children ages 5, 3, & 1. He works in sales at a high tech company where he has worked since graduating from the University of Oregon. In his spare time he enjoys sports, spending time in the outdoors and getting his family out in front of new adventures.