And that’s ok.
I got a lot of advice when my first child was born nearly seven years ago.
“Surviving is winning,” is most definitely hard-wired into my cranium.
But now that they can wipe their own butts and sleep through the night, the survivalist mindset has eased.
Yet one tiny story still stands out. It’s a story about the magical window of parenthood:
“There’s a magical window – 8 to 12 years – during which you and your wife are their absolute favorite people in the world. They wait by the door for you to come home like a puppy. There’s no one on earth they’d rather be with. And then it’s gone. Now it doesn’t mean that they don’t love you as much. They still need you just as much. But the magical window is gone.”
Now I really try to avoid approaching life with a scarcity mindset. But now that I’m fully ensconced in parenthood – this window is undeniable.
Yet this advice does comes with a quagmire. I was 34 years old when my first child was born, which seems to coincide with the peak earnings phase of my life.
I never questioned what that phrase really meant, but in my case I was a newly minted Managing Director with (what felt like) unbounded energy and with my full health.
(Side note: in another essay, I’ll explore why I think “peak earnings” is BS.)
So presumably, that was the time for me to double-down on career, build the nest egg and grow the college fund.
Then once I hit my fifties, I could ease off the accelerator.
But I wanted to go all-in on the magical window. RadReader Jeremy Walter echoed this sentiment in his moving post titled Enough.
“As a dad to small kids, I sometimes think that we all have it backwards: we spend our 30s and 40s working hard towards career goals, when in reality it’s this time that’s most valuable with our children! Perhaps we should all coast through our middle years then work hard when the kids start heading out on their own.”
The magic window drove me away from the corporate 9-to-5 and into internet entrepreneurship – which is by no means a silver bullet – but a career where I could own my own time.
(And I’m 100% open to re-entering the workforce once the magical window has passed. With 3 ladies in the house, they might force dad out anyways!)
For Jeremy, it meant forgoing income and growth by not accepting new clients. And everyone will have different constraints and pathways for navigating their magical window. It could involve renegotiating WFH options. Or gut-checking one’s untethered ambition.
But there’s a simple way to make the most of the magical window. Love.
Now I know we all love our kids unconditionally. But True Refuge the spiritual teacher Tara Brach offers up one of my favorite descriptions of love:
The fullness of presence.
Magical window, meet fullness of presence.
(This post started as a tweetstorm)