I didn’t work in 2017. I know it, my family knows it, my clients learned it, and shortly my accountant and the IRS will know that in 2017 I did nothing that really looks like paid work.
Sure, I partnered with a friend and worked on our Instagram channel. We even started a website. But I didn’t work. I didn’t make the commitments that keep me out of the house, stuck in the house (in my office), or emotionally unavailable. I also didn’t make any money.
I don’t regret a thing.
My daughter left for college in the fall, a week later my son got his driver’s license. I went from having two children living and laughing at home to one. I transitioned from six months of spending a minimum of 90 minutes a day in the car alone with my son, to tossing him the keys to his car and having three extra hours a day.
The fall was lonely and rudderless and I cannot tell you if I missed the time with my son or my presence of my daughter more. Both left an ache. They left an ache because the footprint was there and it was strong. 2017 hadn’t been a year that was rushed. I might describe much of it as languid.
“Mom will you drive with me to the Palisades?”
“Mom, will you make me some zucchini bread?”
There was even a weird family weekend away that I remember taking, though I don’t recall where it was. 2017 was just a lot of me saying yes. Yes to driving, to traveling, to cooking, to shopping. It was me being completely available to both of my children for the bulk of the year and confining my adult activities (tennis, shopping, and the gym mostly) to the time they were in school.
It was a little like that first year of parenting each of them where you kind of hit the pause button on your life and they become the center of your universe. Although, this time it wasn’t exhausting. This time it was exhilarating. We listened to Kanye and Frank Ocean, dissected songs from Tyler the Creator and watched Brockhampton emerge into something new and different and wonderful. I heard about the books they read and tried to follow along with the assignments they were completing.
The school opened their grade books to students and parents alike in 2017. I learned my lesson from the Blackbaud days of K-8. I don’t want to know about late homework assignments. I don’t want to help my kids get from a B+ to an A- or even an A. I want to help them when they want to be helped. If there’s a success it’s their success. I didn’t check their grades, but I asked them how they were doing in school. I didn’t offer tutors, but I told them if they asked me for one I’d provide it (no one asked). I parented like it wasn’t 2017, and I waited for my children to come home from school to tell me how their days were. I let their school belong to them.
I don’t regret not helping them get better grades. It’s not my job and I spent the first decade of their academic careers resenting the people who made me feel like my children’s grades were my job. Some years I bought into their line of reasoning, most years I did not.
My daughter is attending her first choice college. It was fine. Good even. My son will find a school or two that he loves and he will attend the one that’s the best fit for him. If I have to monitor a 16, 17 or 18-year old’s homework they probably shouldn’t go away to college at all. What are the odds of success at that point?
I didn’t parent like I usually do. I spent 2017 devoted to enjoying my kids and watching them make decisions. Most of their decisions were terrific, some were less teriffic, none were bad.
I’m returning to real life in 2018. I like working. I enjoy my clients, I enjoy the people I hire, and I enjoy the intellectual challenges that come with owning and operating a business. I’m going all in in 2018. I’m going all in on me. Which obviously means there’s going to still be a lot of family time.