Being Late, and Your Willingness to Do the Hard Work of Making Personal Change.
Between the burdens of the nighttime routine and the grunt work I’m pouring into starting up my business, I have been going to bed between 1:00 and 2:00 a.m. for the last few nights. As a result, I have been waking up as late as 7:30 or 8:00, and scrambling out the door in a futile attempt to get the kids to daycare by 9:00. Since I’m working for myself these days, it really doesn’t matter for my own purposes that I tend to get the girls to their school (read: child care center) around 9:30 instead. However, the “school day” officially starts at 9:00, and while it’s not really a huge deal in the grand scheme of things that my two-year-old walks into her classroom in the middle of snack time instead of just before circle time, I know it’s disruptive to her teachers and reflects poorly on me.
Starting your own business from home means that you can wear jeans everyday, at least until you need to start meeting with clients. And every day for the past month, I have been walking into the daycare in jeans, which I know has gotten the teachers and office administrators talking. So I finally started spreading the word about my new solo practice, even though I’m still in start-up mode. I feel weird as it is dropping my kids off five days a week while I go back home, alone. Soon it will be three days, not five, and during that short time each week I will need to hustle to not only do billable work for clients (hopefully!) but to do the non-billable administrative work needed to manage my business. I really need to work out a regular schedule and system for organizing my workday and workweek around all of the priorities competing for attention in my life.
Add to all this the fact that my older daughter has just transitioned to a new classroom, which tends to happen whenever the kids reach a new set of developmental milestones (or, sometimes I suspect, when your kid gets bumped up due to a younger one needing to take her place in her current classroom). She’s been doing ok so far, but there is still some coaxing I need to do each morning to get her comfortable enough to join in with the others. Ideally, I would be doing this around 8:30, before structured classroom activities begin, not after.
Every morning, you are supposed to walk your child into the classroom, help her put away her coat and backpack, and place her lunch in the plastic bucket that goes to the kitchen down the hall. Most days, I get there and find that the lunch bucket has already been taken to the kitchen. Today was no different, except that I was asked by one of the teachers to bring my kid’s food down the hall myself.
“Do you mind doing it? It’s just that, for one of us to go, the kids need to come with us.” This is a reference to the strict teacher-child ratios the daycare needs to keep, which means that if Teacher #1 needs to leave a full classroom, half the kids need to go with her while the other half stays with Teacher #2.
“Oh, of course, no problem. Sure. Sorry . . .” I trail off because I’m not sure if I should be sorry or not. I mean, it’s not like I’m inconveniencing them right? As long as I’m willing to walk the food down myself, it’s no problem. Except that it is a problem, because it is an inconvenience to the teachers and the other kids that my child is arriving late to morning snack, disrupting the class and distracting the kids.
I am extremely sensitive to being late when it comes to situations where being late is going to mean major trouble. I seem to operate on two frequencies when it comes to showing up for appointments: arrive extremely early, in an overzealous attempt to ensure that I am not late under any circumstance, or arrive just a few (ok, sometimes more than a few) minutes late, just because I know that it’s “ok” to be late. It’s not that it is literally ok, as in everyone being ok with it, but it’s “ok” because the consequences of my tardiness – for me, personally – are minimal or nonexistent.
And therein lies the problem. When you show up late, even for reasons that seem out of your control (There was traffic! I was working late last night and slept in! I’m sick again!), it translates this way to the people who are waiting for you: You just don’t care enough about them to be on time. Because even though you can’t control the traffic, or being sick, or maybe even the fact that you had deadlines to meet the night before, what you can control is your own effort to plan for these distractions. That’s just life, after all, and if we all had the excuse that LIFE HAPPENED TODAY, no one would operate on time and things just wouldn’t get done as well or as efficiently as necessary.
I know the request to put my kid’s food in the fridge was probably nothing more than a request, and not a judgment or complaint. But the feeling of disappointment in myself, and in the example I am setting for my little mini-me, weighed so heavily on me today that I couldn’t help but feel sad and sorry for myself — not sad for the way I am, but for the better person I could be, and the fact that, right now, I don’t know how to become that person. I have a solution for everything: Workplace sucks? Start your own business! Money’s tight? Bootstrap it, refinance the house, and scrutinize the grocery receipts! Housework overwhelming? Negotiate with the husband! Problem solved.
But when it comes to uprooting and killing off old, deeply ingrained, bad personal habits, there is no easy solution. Or rather, the solution is simple – just STOP being late – but not easy.
Ok, so that’s hard. But I am willing to do the hard work of parenting, and the hard work of running a business. So I guess the question now is whether I am just as willing to do the very, very hard work necessary to make the personal change needed to respect others’ time and become a better person overall.
It’s either that, or do the morning walk of shame to the daycare fridge for a long, long time.
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