Priorities, Relationships, Success: This week’s story is an update of a favorite by Tom Hoobyar, “When Will You Be Home?
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When Will You Be Home?
by Tom Hoobyar
Word count 1266, reading time approx. 5 minutes
“I don’t know what I’m doing wrong,” I heard from the next table, “he just never seems to be really present when he’s home with us.”
The voice was coming from the younger of two women seated near me in the coffee shop.
“It’s like all he wants is a housekeeper and a babysitter for the kids. I get more attention from the guy who teaches the tennis lessons at the club!”
I think I’ve heard this kind of complaint before, or something very much like it.
In fact, what I used to hear was what this husband probably got from his unhappy wife when she finally boiled over at him.
“You’re never here! Why can’t you just do your work at work, and then leave it there?”
I used to get really self-righteous and defensive at this one.
“Great,” I would want to fire back, “I’d love to. Tell you what. Just stop eating and shopping and telling me what the kids’ need for their birthdays and what we should be contributing to and what you want done to the house! THEN I’ll have some bloody attention to spare for you and the kids.”
But I’d stuff it and usually just snarl a bit, then make my escape back to my study to “just check a few emails” until I got called to dinner, then “just a couple of minutes” more until she would come in to say goodnight.
I’m not in that marriage anymore.
Now I’m happily married – not to my first wife, but I’m determined that she’s my last one – and I manage these things differently.
Let me back up a bit and explain what I was doing in that coffee shop to begin with, and what this may have to do with you or someone you know.
It’s normally just about perfect weather where I live in northern California’s Silicon Valley. I work in my home office on the second floor, where I can look out and see the fog roll in over the coastal foothills and watch the birds and squirrels chase each other through the persimmon tree in the field behind our neighbor’s house. Very pleasant.
But — for the last week or so we’ve had a major hot spell. And the sun blazes through the window next to my desk and turns my office into an oven. And I hate dripping sweat onto the keyboard of my computer.
So, for a week or two each summer I take my laptop and pens and notebooks, and I go to an air-conditioned coffee shop near my house for the hottest part of the day. And I write.
And unwillingly, I eavesdrop on the conversations I can’t help but overhear.
Like the one taking place right next to me, between an attractive young mother type, and an older woman. Friend? Mother or aunt? Can’t tell.
“Well, Dear, you just need to appreciate the fact that you have a man that’s willing to work so hard to take care of you and the children,” the older woman said. “So many men these days just leave the mother with the kids and go lead the gay bachelor’s life.
“Huh? He’s not gay!”
“No, no. Sorry, I’m from the older generation I guess, when “gay” meant carefree and happy-go-lucky. The point is, you have a man that is working to support you.”
There was a short bitter laugh from the younger woman. “Yeah, that’s why I got my degree, all right, so I could have kids and be stuck at home and be ignored by the man I married.”
I didn’t need to hear any more. I’d heard it all before, in my own unhappy past life.
I got up to get a refill on my coffee and when I returned, the two women had left.
I don’t know how things ended up with that neglected young wife, but I can guess at the outcome if the husband is as clueless as I used to be. He’ll join the single dads with kids who spend their weekend visits at local amusement parks and fast food stops.
While I was thinking of this situation I was reminded of a story a colleague told me last weekend, in a hotel lobby during a conference.
He was talking about a session I had missed earlier in the day. The speaker had told of a highly placed software executive who had resolved this problem. This executive was responsible for managing all the sales and service activities in twenty-two countries. Busy job.
“Every day,” the executive had written, “I check my energy when I leave for work. And I make sure, at the end of the day, that I have as much energy to take home to my family as I took to work.”
Several of us who heard that story in the hotel lobby talked about what the executive had meant. We figured out that energy isn’t calories – it’s a feeling of enthusiasm, a willingness to pay attention to others, to get engaged and involved in interaction with others.
Most of us who work in the outside world know what this type of energy is – we say we’re “on,” or “focused.” Most of us love being at this peak at work.
Well, doesn’t it make sense that we make the same sort of emotional investment in the most important relationships in our lives? Like, at home?
Those of us who were in that hotel lobby went on to talk about how to do this – several of the guys got defensive and said that they were just wiped out by the time they finished their day – it wasn’t fair for them to have to be as focused on others when they got home – they were entitled to “let their hair down” and kick back when they got home.
“Yeah,” I said, “but the people at home have been waiting for you all day, and they need a piece of you too!”
See, I’ve gotten pretty smart about telling others how to live their lives after ruining one or two of my own…
So then the conversation drifted into what sucks up our energy on the job.
“You know, when the day is going well I actually get more charged up as the day goes on.” One guy who’s a doctor said. “It’s only when I’m around a negative person that I feel there’s less of me afterward. I have a couple of nurses and patient’s family members that can really use me up.”
“Yeah, I call those people ‘emotional vampires,’ sucking all your energy.” Said another. I’ve gotten to the place where, when I notice one, I stick a stake through his heart.”
“Really?” I said, with delight.
“Well, not actually, but I make damn sure that I don’t spend any more time with them than I have to, and I reduce it when I can. I certainly don’t make hanging out with those people a lifestyle.”
“So, how’s that working out for you?” I asked.
“Well, like you Tom, I’m not in my first marriage but one that I’d like to last. And now that I’ve learned to reduce the time I spend with these emotional vampires I have more time and energy when I get home.”
Hmmm. I guess – now that I think of it – I do the same thing.
Sure wish I’d started this about twenty years ago.
How about you? You keeping the emotional vampires in their boxes, and spending your time and energy with the people that really count in your life?
Read more from Tom Hoobyar here: www.tomhoobyar.com
For great examples of creating NLP metaphors: “The Well Formed Story” http://shop.nlpco.com/NLP-The-Well-Formed-Story-p/159b.htm