Here’s a bombshell: playing princess Yahtzee is more important than spending extra time at work. See Child Harbat below, with the game pieces ready.
Why is this more important than work? Or more importantly, why is this more important to me than work? Let’s pull back and look at the bigger picture. Not the weekly or even monthly but the ten-year. Say I’ve put in extra time at work. Ten extra hours a week, forty a month, four hundred and forty per year minus holidays, forty-four hundred over a ten year span. If you’re an economist (micro or macro, take your pick), you’ll understand opportunity cost. While products may have market costs, actions can have opportunity costs. By doing activity A, you are using up time that could be spent on activity B. What do I get for those extra hours at work? The possibility of a raise? Maybe that money could be spent on childcare so someone else can watch my children grow up while I’m at work. What am I giving up? The chance for my children to know me as more than a Monday-Friday blur out the door, the chance to hear about their day, their thoughts and fears, their hopes.
Setting priorities in your life involves more than cold arithmetic, it involves thoughtfulness, introspection, and the long gaze. When you’re on your death bed, will you clutch the hands of your loved ones and whisper that you wish you’d put in more time at work? Or will you weep with regret that you didn’t spend more time with family? Think carefully because what seems like a temporary pattern now may turn into habit, then routine, then fact.
Let’s get back to princess Yahtzee. Does it matter that Child Harbat tried to cheat at the end, attempting to take extra turns and flip over the dice when I wasn’t looking? Does it matter that I won handily, matching up more Tiana and Ariel tokens than she? Does it matter that CH spent hours in anticipation of spending time with me and carefully laid out the game so it would be ready the moment I got home? What would be the opportunity cost of dismissing that?
Working parents have to wrestle with this question constantly, and it’s a question with no objective answer. The trick is to find what matters most to you. Economics and emotion are bitter enemies and you’ll be yanked between the two as you struggle to find a solution. I prefer to play princess Yahtzee. Next game I’ll let her win.