I often write on this blog about balance. How do we balance the many different priorities in our lives? How do we separate the different–and both important–areas of work and family? This can be an especially challenging question for parents, trying to work and have time for their children.
I think my Dad “separated” these areas really well. He traveled a fair amount and worked very hard. But when he was home, he was “super present.” He was with us. He played hide and seek, running around with us in the backyard, and eating dinner every night he could with us. In fact, at his company he told his team that work ended at 5 pm and family dinner was important. And, that he didn’t want people working weekends. “When we are here, 8-5, 9-5, we’re going to stay focused and work hard. If we can’t get our work done in 8 or 9 hours, then our priorities aren’t right.”
With my Dad, I never felt work interfered, because he kept it at work and kept it away from us. When he was at home, he was present with us.
This of course becomes harder when your office is at home. Or when you are a working mom. The complexities our society presents today provide so many choices, so many ways to have it all, that it is a unique and challenging choice for each one of us, when and when not to be available.
My mom was quite different. She was and is a professional concert flutist of the highest caliber. She performed at Carnegie and has a Masters in Music from Stanford. She performed a duo concert of she and Jean-Pierre Rampal, one of the greatest flutists of all time. She continues to perform with Avedis at the Legion of Honor, a concert series she created.
When I was growing up, her ‘work’ was at home. She practiced right next door to me in the adjacent room. Sometimes I would interrupt her to see if she would come see if my cookies were done. I’ve always grown up with Mom making cookies, so they are a big part of the Hawley Family Culture. We were known for making great cookies and bringing them to all types of events. It was one of Mom’s many ways of expressing love for others.
Knowing Mom would drop her flute playing so she could help me with my cookies always filled with my heart. Every child needs that endorsement of making great chocolate chip cookies — ones that don’t burn on the bottom (my biggest fear!). Ones that aren’t too crispy. Or too soft. And often, I just needed the “OK” of a mother love. I will always remember her stopping what she was doing, to help.
I will always remember I came first with my mom. I will always know my mom loved me and her family above everything else. I will always remember how available she was and is to me. She was made to love her family. It’s her highest joy and calling, and she does it 100%, 100% of the time. I have tears coming down my face right now because her life has been a devotion to me, my sister, my father, her mother, her grandchildren. She simply lives love of others.
So then, here’s the question. How did she do it?
Her selflessness was so strong. And yet her trust must be so strong as well. She knew she couldn’t be ‘punished’ by checking on the chocolate chip cookies of her dear child. And somehow – she got it all done. Her concerts are stellar. She is always prepared musically. She cooks great meals. She is a great listener. She has her three grandchildren over at least twice per week, opening up her home and heart, cooking them their favorite tapioca pudding, and filling our home and heart with love.
She never once told me to come to her later because she needed to practice.
If I had to choose, I choose chocolate chip cookies over another concert. She had her priorities right. I just happen to be the lucky daughter who received so much love.