Things get a little manic this time of year—whether you’re in the office, at home, or trying to get from one place to another in a full-blown snowstorm. Although Gen X has been labeled as the generation to preach balance, I find dutiful Gen Xer parents like myself are stretching ourselves extremely thin during the busy holiday season.
I have two children, age 7 and 10. As the year comes to an end, this means holiday-themed programs where singing and other artistic talents are showcased. This year, I decide that if everything is timed correctly, and Minneapolis doesn’t decide to thwart my plans with a big dumping of snow, I can hit up both kids shows in one day – swing by one school in the morning and hit the other one up in the afternoon. And to cap off the work portion of work-life balance, I can dash by the office late afternoon and make sure everything’s under control.
Despite being a family-focused Xer, I was still struck by feelings of guilt walking out the door early last Friday morning. Face time (face-to-face, not iPhone) is important to me, and while I want to be there for my kids I also want to be there for my co-workers. Luckily, BridgeWorks practices what it preaches, and “family first” and “go on, get out of here” are generally office mantras.
When I arrive at the 7-year-old’s program, what I’d hoped would be a 15-minute holiday song and dance deal turns into a Mom Marathon and Dad Decathlon that I think even LeBron James would struggle with. We’re put through a series of relay races where we’re (no lie) eating whole bananas at high speed, popping balloons with our butts, and trying to pull a quarter out of a bowl of flour without using our hands. Then I have to carry children back and forth in a speed race. I haven’t lifted that much since…well, I’ve never lifted that much. We don’t win anything, and I’m an Xer so you better believe I want to win, but I can begrudgingly admit that the children’s laughter and hug from my son make it all worthwhile. For the most part.
After tidying myself up, I head over to “activity day” at my daughter’s Spanish immersion elementary school. There I end up building gingerbread houses out of graham crackers and sewing homemade stocking hats. Did I mention all this was in Spanish? It ends with a nice hug from the teacher, warm words of wisdom from fellow parents, and a sweet “muchas gracias, Daddy” from my tween.
As we head home, now late in the afternoon, I feel a pang of guilt as I call the office to let them know I won’t be coming in after all. And you know what? They’re fine—nothing that can’t wait until Monday—so have a nice weekend! As usual, I am extremely happy (and simultaneously extremely tired), knowing that my employer supports my ongoing attempts to balance a meaningful work life with the tugs of family responsibilities. Like insane relay races with your kids. And deciphering complex gingerbread blueprints. And just being a dad.