I have had this conversation with so many girlfriends lately and it only feels natural to have it with you, too.
I started my consulting business eight and a half years ago. My daughter was one and a half at the time. We lived in a three-bedroom apartment and one room was already dedicated to my husband's home office but I was steadfast in my determination to work from home...regardless of how it was going to squeeze us, financially, physically, emotionally.
I couldn't possibly imagine missing my daughter's baby years. Her every milestone. Her first words. Her first bite of homemade baby food (which, incidentally...I never actually made).
So I busted my butt to create a business and a life where I could be there every step of the way. And it was glorious.
Three years later when my son arrived, I already felt ten steps ahead of the game. I now had a thriving consultancy business and I was able to be there (though admittedly most of the time on a conference call) to see those first words all over again. To appreciate the milestones. To still skip the whole homemade food thing...
It was very apparent to me at the time that the risks I was taking for my career were critical to my family's well-being. I simply HAD to be there for those pivotal baby years. I could always go back to a full-time job or pursue that passion project or make that move up the "traditional" corporate ladder later...when they were in school, when they wouldn't need me as much, later.
Well, now it's later. My daughter is almost 10 and my son is almost 6. And the big news, friends, is that I want, need, HAVE to be there now...more than ever.
Just this week alone, I chatted with one girlfriend whose daughter is about to enter (very) early puberty and (rightfully) wants her mom there by her side with every passing hormone. Another one's son accidentally ended up in this Google search rabbit hole thanks to a tip from a friend in his class that had him in tears. A friend of a friend just announced her and her husband's divorce to her daughter. All of those kids grew up with mine. Almost 10. It's later. And we need to be there.
It gets harder, not easier, as they grow up.
It's also more fulfilling, more beautiful, more amazing...all those things. But the truth is, it's harder. Harder to balance. Harder to sign off when you really want to. Harder to find those moments for yourself (remember when kids napped?? Sigh. Me neither.). Harder...but more important than ever.
Now I know that starting my business all those years ago and building this flexible structure that I appreciate so very much wasn't nearly as pivotal then as it is now. It's now that I want to pick them up and listen to the tales from their day. It's now that I want to meet the friends they are having play dates with and their moms and their dads. It's now that I want to be there when Google turns up something alarmingly inappropriate and someone needs to explain.
It's now that it's harder. And more beautiful. And more fulfilling.
I know not everyone can work from home or be there every afternoon or supervise every play date. I know it's not realistic for most. And that's ok. In fact, that can be great. We all do what we can. As long as you are thinking about how you want to spend the time you do have with them as they grow into this next phase of life. How you can make your life as flexible as possible to allow room for parenting. Before work, after work, during work.
Think about that.
Start conversations. Hang out with them. Put down your phone. Or use it to call them to check in rather than sending a quick text. Listen to their voices for signs of fear, sadness, insecurity, excitement. Meet their friends. Meet the parents. Ask questions. Answer questions. Choose free time as a family over an overwhelming schedule of activities. Volunteer at school when you can. Volunteer in life when you can't do it at school. Scroll through screens. Check in. Check out...together.
It's more important than the homemade baby food, I promise. Even more important than those early milestones. These next few years are filled with the steps that will actually take them somewhere. And you're going to want to be alongside them all the way.