This week, I’ve been reflecting on an article by Bronnie Ware’s article “The 5 Regrets of the Dying.” After many years of working with palliative care patients, she developed a list of regrets men and women tended to express in the last weeks of their lives.
One of these included:
“I wish I didn’t work so hard”
Of this particular sentiment, Ms. Ware writes:
“This came from every male patient that I nursed. They missed their children’s youth and their partner’s companionship. Women also spoke of this regret. But as most were from an older generation, many of the female patients had not been breadwinners. All of the men I nursed deeply regretted spending so much of their lives on the treadmill of a work existence.”
Mine is not necessarily a nine-to-five job, but as Mike would tell you, I spend most nights during the school year on the couch surrounded by a stack of papers or a mountain of books. I will sometimes spend an entire Sunday grading essays, and at the end of the semester, when the work piles faster and higher than it does during any other point of the year, Mike will find me in a crumpled mess at the kitchen table under a pile of chaos.
However, I am a ten month employee, so at least I get a respite over the summer months.
I have been fortunate enough to be on an extended maternity leave this year, affording me the chance to spend most all my moments with Jude. But when I return in the fall, I will be jumping back into the fray, and though I’ve stepped in front of the classroom thousands of times, I will be entering brand new territory.
And it’s scary.
I will have to find time to spend with Jude while maintaining my courses and keeping up with papers. Oh yea, and then I have to prepare dinner and keep the house clean and find time for Mike and find time for myself and…
I am not the first person who has to negotiate a husband, a child, a home, and a job, but that doesn’t make it any less daunting. I want so much to raise a happy, healthy, well-adjusted son, without sacrificing my other commitments. I know I will figure it out as I go, and for now, the best that I can do is put it out of my mind and live in a cushy world of denial.
Yes, that seems like the best plan of action.
At the end of my life, I know that one of my greatest contributions to the world will be my son, and I owe it to him to do the best I can so that he can become a productive citizen and a fulfilled and well-rounded person. And though I wish I could raise him full-time, this is not possible, and so, I have to get used to sharing him.
It has to happen some time, I suppose.
I enjoy my job, and I have made very close friendships with some of my co-workers. Plus, my salary will be a great help to our little family, not to mention Jude’s education fund. And let’s not forget how lucky I am to have a job in a time when so many are jobless. These are all respectable reasons for continuing my career outside the home. But I also find my work satisfying. Even though my students may never realize how deeply I care about their success or understand how hard I take their failures, I keep trying harder because it’s important to me, and I need something like that in my life. One day, Jude will be school-aged and won’t want a thing to do with me. Won’t a stack of papers at my feet be a good distraction?
I never want to feel that I missed out on being present in my family’s life because of work. But I also don’t want to lose myself in my family and forget that I am a separate person with a life of my own.
It’s all so perfectly complicated.
I hope I get it right.