Each week there might be a million questions asked by our sons, ages five and eight, but one is a constant: Who is putting us to bed tonight? My husband and I are both busy entrepreneurs, and we’ve been fortunate enough to cobble together an amazing village of family, friends and caregivers who are scheduled—typically weeks, sometimes months, in advance—to cover for us when deadlines loom, client or networking events fill the evenings, or, god forbid, we schedule a much needed date night.
For me, the implications of the “who is putting us to bed tonight?” question are wide ranging. When asked with anticipation, knowing the answer includes pizza dinner with our sitter, an overnight with Aunt Charlotte or a visit with grandparents, the boys and I both feel great about the answer. When it’s the third night in a row neither me nor my husband are home, and the boys are craving attention and family time, the question is asked with a little more anxiety and a lot more whine on the side.
As an entrepreneur and a parent, I always try to stay focused on the long-game. Instead of falling prey to the trap of mom guilt, I try and remember there are some very positive implications of this bedtime question on the long-term emotional health of my kids. For example:
1. Having healthy and loving relationships with adults besides me and my husband.
Because my kids have always had outside caregivers, it has been amazing to watch them form bonds with nannies, sitters, family and teachers that provide them with listening ears and a point of view that doesn’t involve mom and dad. Not only does this help them develop a larger world view, but it builds confidence and—especially as they get older—gives them an outlet to seek advice from other safe and responsible adults.
2. Seeing what it means to be passionate about work.
I love what I do and my boys see it. They know that even when I’m coming home from the city after a 14-plus hour day, I may be tired, but I’m happy. What’s more, they get to experience business from a young age—whether it’s listening in on an impromptu call while driving to school or getting to visit my client’s retail and gallery spaces. When they see me engaged and energized after a client win or tough negotiation, I know it’s showing and not just telling them what it means to love your work.
3. Knowing Mom and Dad value their relationship.
Recently there was a communication snafu and the boys were both left stranded at their respective after-care programs. The fallout was minimal, there were no tears and this was the first (and hopefully, only!) time it has happened in eight years of parenting. One thing that was not lost in communication? That mom and dad were out on a date night! The kids know this time is important to us and something that is at least semi-regularly on the schedule—though typically it does not preclude them getting picked up on time … Jokes aside, as they grow up, I believe it will also model for them that we make the maintenance of our relationship a priority because it is the foundation of our family. And sometimes that means we’re not at home to tuck them in.
4. How to look forward to things.
I like to flip, “who is putting us to bed tonight?” into “what are we looking forward to?” Sometimes it’s a special dinner or open swim at the Y, other times it’s a trip that may be weeks away or just some planned downtime over the weekend. Whatever it is, I believe that focusing on something enjoyable on the horizon teaches two big lessons: First, healthy anticipation allows you to focus energy on the fun ahead rather than smaller, but more looming day-to-day work and school duties. Second, I believe this anticipation has an element of gratitude baked in. By looking forward to our planned time together, we also become more grateful for it.
On a bad day, this can all can feel like a justification for spending too much time on my career and not enough time with my kids. But in reality, this is the life I have actively chosen, and I love it. What’s more, I am proud and happy to be showing our boys that business, family and life can all be important. I am concerned the great date night of 2019 may come up later on in therapy, but that’s a conversation for another day …
Lauren Banyar Reich is the founder and CEO of LBR PR, a boutique strategic communications agency based in New York City. After working in the PR industry for over a decade, Lauren founded her firm with the intention of creating a more sustainable approach to client service that also supports and protects a healthy lifestyle for her team. A working mother of two, she currently lives in New Jersey with her husband and sons, August, 8, and Otto, 5.