The Truth About Showing Up Late
I was reading a blog post the other day where the author described a chaotic morning in her home and how in a moment of frustration she raised her voice at her toddler whose antics were delaying their departure for an appointment, possibly causing them to be late.
We’ve all had mornings like these, right ladies?
As I read the article I thought back to one morning I’d lived about 12 years ago. It was within my first few months back to work after my first maternity leave and that particular morning we were having our monthly scheduling/status update meeting at the office. This meeting was being chaired by the partner in our office who made it very clear that his opinion about punctuality was “if you are not early, you are late and so you shouldn’t bother coming at all!”
At the time, I was trying to prove to everyone else (or possibly just myself) that I could do this whole “career/parent thing”. So, that particular morning when I realized Zach was “stinky” just as I was about to head out the door to take him to daycare…. I’ll admit I debated putting him in his car seat and letting the daycare staff deal with it so I could get on the road. Ugg! The emotional turmoil a mamma faces… let your child feel uncomfortable on the short drive to the daycare or risk the wrath of the partner who was on the fence about the productivity and commitment a working mom could have for the organization. Ultimately, my mom instincts took over and I changed that diaper quickly before heading out that day (and still made it to my meeting with 7 minutes to spare I believe!)
The purpose of this post is about those moments of debate. The back and forth we have with ourselves about what is the top priority in any given moment.
How do you choose what’s right for you in a split second when you are feeling pulled in different directions?
I recall this next example of me in the throes of debate with myself vividly. It was the Monday following the weekend our family learned that our 6-year-old son’s best friend had been killed in a car accident.
My son had not showed much emotion other than confusion about all of the news shared with him regarding the death of his friend. How does a 6-year-old process grief or understand death? I had very few examples myself as an adult of how this processing might look or feel – so how in the world was I to understand how his little mind could be working through what it all meant?
The debate: On the drive to school that morning he finally started to cry and was very adamant that he did not want to go into the school when we got there. The issue was that I had a very important meeting starting in 20 minutes with a potential partner on a large project our organization was undertaking. There was just myself and one other individual from our organization attending to present on our behalf and it was a big deal for me to be there (or at least I felt it was).
And in that moment – the debate occurred. I debated talking to him in the car and insisting he go into the school and that it would be better as soon as he just got it all over with (being at school without his bud). Of course, I didn’t know this for sure… but as the adult I could have enforced he go into the school and just give it a go, dismissing his emotion as something that would pass – and then I could still make it to my meeting on time.
I debated walking him into the school and talking to his teacher or the principal and explaining the situation, certain that other kids would be experiencing the same grief that day as it was a small country school and this was undeniably a tragic incident touching many families in our community. If I kept that transition into the school brief, I could still make my meeting on time.
And I also debated calling my colleague and begging him to do the presentation on his own so I could take my son home to grieve privately.
In the end, I turned the car around and me and Zach drove to the park. After a quick text to my colleague briefly explaining why I’d be late, we got out of the car and sat at a picnic table and looked out over the pond for about 20 minutes. Once his tears stopped, we chatted a bit about what he was feeling and I asked if he thought he was feeling better and could possibly go to school that day. I gave him a hug and he agreed, it was okay to go to school then.
After walking him into the school and seeing he was going to be okay, I headed to my meeting. When I walked into that very important meeting an entire hour late, the potential partners, obviously not understanding what I had going on in my personal life, playfully joked with me about how our organizations policy on punctuality certainly wasn’t something their organization would stand for. I smiled at their obvious jibe and quietly sat down and let my colleague go on with his presentation.
We ended up signing that deal despite my lack of punctuality that day and Zach made it through the entire day at school without feeling like he needed to call me to come and pick him up.
Learning to Trust My Gut
I’ve come to realize that part of life is being faced with these “priority debates” and what we choose for ourselves today, may not be what we choose tomorrow as our priorities shift and change or as we become more confident in living by our own standards, versus someone else’s.
Whether the debate is settled with confidence, based on the priorities we’ve firmly established, or is the result of a decision made in a split second simply out of instinct, we need to trust that it’s always the right decision for us, making any consequences of the decision tolerable.
Are there still chaotic, frustrating mornings where I let the story I’m telling myself about how horrible it will be to be late again consume me – sure there are! In fact, I’m not sure I’ve met anyone Zen enough to have a peaceful morning departure every single day. But as the years pass, I understand that I need to forgive myself for the frustrated moments (and pay more attention to when they are happening so I can throw a little perspective on them) and I should have confidence in my final decision after the debate because I’m the only one who can really choose what’s right for me.
I wish you all as many peaceful mornings as possible – but in the moments of panic and frustration when two important priorities are conflicting with the amount of time you have – I wish you the confidence to realize you are the only one that will ever settle that debate exactly right for yourself!
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