Finding Balance

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Balance by Cherice used under Creative Commons

This is a highly personal blog post that is beyond what I would normally put on this blog.  I am sharing this because I think there might be some of the readers who have faced some of the things I am going to talk about, or might face it at some time in the future.  Also many of the people who read this blog are my friends and close co-workers and honestly this is the easiest way to tell some of them what I have to say.  I will return to my usual blog post style very soon.

Last week I got to attend Microsoft’s Techready conference, which our twice a year our internal version of TechEd.  You go to Seattle for a week and get access to many of the product teams and the Technical Evangelists for training.  There are also a lot of side parties and events like Game Night and an attendee party.  You also get to hang out with your co-workers both local to you and those across the globe, many that you may have never met face to face before.  It is a great event, expect for the 5-7 days that you spend away from your family.  This last week was especially hard because Thursday was Valentines Day and it was also Jodie and I’s 8th wedding anniversary.  It was a tough week and on Friday I was glad to be headed home.

I had a lay over in Minneapolis / St Paul on Friday for a couple hours and I called to say goodnight to the family.  During the conversation Jodie told me that my 7 year old son, Hunter, had been talking with his grandparents (my mom and dad) and told them:

Dad picked work over me, that is why he is in Seattle

So you can imagine how I felt: kicked in the gut to say the least.  I know that I did not pick work over him and that travel is a necessary part of of my job (and many people’s jobs).  But that is very hard to explain to a seven year old and I guess to a child of any age until they are closer to being an adult.  Jodie had talked to him about it and tried to explain it to him.  I spent most of the day on Saturday with him, and it was nice.  But I honestly think that I need to make some changes in my priorities.  I am going to have to “dial back” how much time I spend on the road and more than that, I have to switch from “tuning out the family” to work (picture me on the couch with the laptop while the family is watching a move) to just flat out turning off work during family time.

I am still very committed to visiting customers and community groups in the district that I cover (Wisconsin, Illinois and Indiana).  I just need to be smarter about when I take on a trip that will have me away from the family for long stretches of time and when I am home I need to unplug from work (I am very bad about that).  I am taking the first step by not going to MIX in March.  It is going to be a cool conference, but I can get a lot of the information on the web (I am putting a blog post together telling you how to get the most out of MIX without actually going to Vegas).

5 thoughts on “Finding Balance”

  1. Smart man. It’s hard (for me at least), but a good idea. Now that my kid is getting older, it’s hard to remember to put the computer away for a while. She can’t tell the difference between daddy being on the computer to work and daddy being on the computer to unwind. I need to just put it away completely until after she’s asleep at night. I might get less done, but, oh well… My kid and wife are more important.

  2. Outstanding post, Larry. I’ve been in the exact same boat you’re sailing in my friend. When my youngest, Gwynneth, was three, she thought my laptop was a pare of my belt because, whenever I was sitting with the rest of the family, it was in my lap. It’s hard being part of such a competative organization where you feel like if you’re not there all the time you’ll get left behind, but I’ve always thought it’s better for my job to leave me behind than my family.

    And just for my $.02, I think this is complimentary to your blog, not a diversion. This is something all of us in the world of "work anywhere" need to deal with. In fact, you just helped me finish my post I’ve been working on for two weeks and just haven’t been able to finish. Thank you.

  3. Larry,

    Touching post. I really admire you for both prioritizing your family and for posting this. Don’t be concerned that it’s ‘too personal,’ everyone needs this pause. I see several examples in my life of people who are successful professionals and prioritize their family and turn work off during that time. I’m glad to see you joining those ranks. It’s easy to say yes to opportunities, events, parties, etc, it’s hard to know when to say no but your reward will be closer relationships with the people who matter most to you. My hat’s off to you.

    -Tim

  4. Larry, can agree more with your decision. Work / Life Balance is something we all should strive for and something that we just left beside for the sake of an industry (a cool one, but an industry no less) sometimes reality hit us in ways we don’t expect and awakes us from the some beautiful dreams just to remind us that we are all human, as such we need the care and love of our closest, specially your own.

    Posting things like this just makes you more you, more human, more real. Life is reality even when we expend so much in its virtual parallel.

    Kudos to you my friend for taking the rights steps in life.

  5. I appreciate your post Larry. It is very unique this field we are in, where, for lots of us, our hobby is our job. I saw you speak this weekend at the FVNUG Day of .NET, where there where lots of people spending a Saturday learning, to either help their careers or just learn. I think that is the real balance. I think I read more books for "work", just to learn the new stuff, than I do for "fun". However, a lot of the work reading is really fun reading. It’s an interesting dance 🙂

    John

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