It is a weird Saturday morning. I woke pissed, primarily because I spent a restless night doing work stuff in my head. I go to great pains to make my home time my time and work time work time. It is a long and embarrassing story, but I decided more than two decades ago my work would revolve around my life. Never again would work come first.
I made that vow while sitting in the hospital following the birth of my oldest son. I was a management trainee for an injection molding firm. I was going places. I worked like a dog. I spent seventy hours or more in the factory every week. I worked weekends, nights, days, back and forth as I was needed. One of my permanent assignments was to conduct the monthly inventory.
We did a full and complete count of every carton of finished goods, WIP, and raw material in the place. EVERY MONTH. Who does that? Even in the late 1980's the idea of a monthly inventory was crazy. We also did daily cycle counts. Our inventory was counted accurate down to nuts, screws and even shop rags and copy paper.
On the morning of October first my wife woke in labor pains. She was running a few days past her due date, so it was time. It was about five in the morning, just short of my usual 5:30 wake up alarm. She told me she was having contractions. I asked if it was time to go to the hospital and she said not yet. We already had one baby, so she knew what she was about. It was at that point I uttered the worst words I have ever said to any person. "I think I will get into work and get started on the inventory then. Call me when the pains get worse and I will come and get you". Even typing it I feel like a skunk. Worse, I did go to work. I called her a couple of times to see how things were going.
A bit after four in the afternoon I called and she said I probably should come home. I wrapped things up and headed toward the house. Her Mom was there to stay with our two year-old daughter while the wife and I jumped into the car and drove the few blocks to the hospital. We arrived just after 4:30. My son was born an hour later.
My wife was in labor alone all day, holding out as long as possible before having me come home and take her to the hospital. She labored while I worked.
Even telling the story almost a quarter of a century later leaves me ashamed. I held my precious little boy and looked at the worn smile on the tired face of my wife and determined no job, no title, no position, no wealth in the world was worth more than my family. I started looking for a new job the next week. In the intervening years I have tried hard to keep work in its place. I compartmentalize very well, a necessary attribute in my multitasking profession.
Some days it is hard, work calls its siren song; especially when my office is right in the house. I sipped coffee this morning, my Lucky Charms eaten and the paper read. I got out a customer folder and fired up the email program. I stopped cold. It is Saturday, the work can wait The customer will not get my missive until Monday anyway. Unless my customer is one of those guys working away the weekend, his kids at home or God forbid, his wife in labor....