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Wednesday, January 17, 2007

Putting Family First: An Inspiring True Story

I have a laundry list of future blog post subjects that is growing at the speed of my pile of laundry. In other words, it is growing so fast I can't keep up, especially when my days seem to be constantly devoted to laundry (may we have our own laundry machines bimhiera v'yameinu).

Despite the growing list of subjects and the growing pile of laundry, which is now hanging in our bathroom after the dryer failed me today, I had to post this inspirational story that I heard on talk radio today (make that yesterday) in the car on the way back from the bank where I picked up quarters for (no surprise here) laundry. This story should feed well into a theme I want to pick up on in the future.

But, in the meantime, I need to apologize as I cannot credit the radio talk show host properly because during the five minutes because between the grocery and bank to our home, I was unable to catch the name of the show I was listening to. If anyone also heard this, let me know the show so I can give proper credit.

The radio talk show host today was speaking about parenting role models, people he has sought out as an adult to model himself after so that he can be the best father he can be. The host talked about his own broken family and his quest as an adult to find role models. He attended a story where a top executive at American Express (?)related an experience. I'm not sure if the man who spoke at the conference was speaking in the first or third person. (Story below. Too bad I can't relate it word for word. This is the best I can do.)


The executive was in the office with his boss who was having a particularly bad day due to a certain crisis in the company. This boss was yelling and screaming about the crisis in the company and the situation was quite serious and was producing a high level of stress. During this long period of time, the executive's cell phone rang and he saw on the caller ID that his son was calling. He told his boss that his son was calling and immediately took the call. The boss was none too happy to be interrupted during an "emergency."

The family dog, who was older than all of the children, had died and the kids were torn up. The man said to his boss, "I have an important family matter to attend to" and walked away. His superior was in shock and was yelling at him the whole time, "how can you leave in the middle of this? What is so important?"

The executive got in his car and drove straight home to be with his children, during which time his boss was repeatedly calling his cell phone. He ignored the phone and turned it off as soon as he walked in the door. Once at home, he asked his children to gather in the back yard with an object that reminded them of their beloved dog and the family buried the dog and each told a story.

The executive "unplugged" for the rest of the day and evening and was out of touch with the office until the next day when he returned to work. There his boss yelled at him about what could possibly be so important in the middle of this crisis? How could he just ignore his phone calls? In turn, he asked the boss if the crisis had been
solved? The answer: no.

The executive told his boss, "you see. This crisis could wait and today is no different than yesterday. But my children needed me at that moment. Their crisis couldn't wait."


What a story! What an inspiration this executive is. Here is a man who is in the upper echelon of management in one of the largest companies in America who knew when he needed to unplug and devote his attention to his family-exclusively. I can only imagine that this father devotes undivided attention regularly, as one does not become a champion without exercising the proper muscles frequently.

I have been planning to blog about one particular intrusion into valuable family time that I find particularly bothersome. This story should serve as a good introduction to it. Hopefully I will get to that subject someday. I have two planned posts that are sitting higher up on the laundry list currently.

8 comments:

mother in israel said...

I just wonder whether a female employee would have been able to get away with this. Even a man would have to feel pretty good about his job security; losing a job isn't going to strengthen the family in the long run.

Ariella said...

But it sounds like it was a one time occurrence, mother in israel. For women with children, the probability is that a child will be sick or want her to come to a school function more than once. That is why women are generally "mommy-tracked" in the work-place even if they don't ask for it. There is a built in assumption that these things will happen and that their productivity will suffer as a result. That is not to say that it is inevitable that a woman will miss more time at work due to family than a man will, but the assumption would be there and so will all the ramifications for her career prospects.

David said...

My boss is a serious Christian from Kentucky, and he has a similar attitude. His priorities are completely correct (i.e. nobody's heart machine is plugged into anything we do, therefore family comes first)

He was immensely helpful about giving me the flexibility to handle family matters (taking care of wife after surgery, etc), and he does not compromise on the idea of "family first."

I find it quite refreshing, and it makes me want to work harder for him, and it certainly increases my corporate loyalty.

Neil Harris said...

Great story. I've found that the 'addition' to our family is also letting me rethink a lot of what I consider 'priorities', BH. Family first, blogging second! :)

SephardiLady said...

I though about the possibility of loosing a job, which is obviously not good for family life in the least. I am sure this high level executive who was "second in command" didn't have too much fear of loosing his job if any. He probably does the high level firing and could afford to do this once. Although I can't relate to a dog death emergency, never having grown that close to a pet, I think the message and the model remains for me.

I also remember a "scandal" in the NFL years ago when a top level player opted out of a big game (maybe a playoff) to be with his wife while she was giving birth. I remember different commentators offering their opinions, some negative and some positive. To me this absence spoke volumes about where the values of this particular player where.

I don't think female employees could get away with leaving for every emergency (the threshold for what is important for a mother to be present for is a lot lower IMO), but that has a lot more to do with the positions women are in because they want to "balance" family life with a career. I imagime a woman who is second in command at a company and has put in her 60-70 hours a week for the past 15-20 years could walk off too for a day.

David-Loyalty is one of those qualities you can't quantify. I too had a superior that was quite understanding of my needs vis a vis flexibility and I worked very hard for her.

Neil-A new addition is like a kick in the behind. Hope your baby is doing great. Ours daughter is super cuddly and loves to play.

Ezzie said...

Really interesting story - thanks.

Since others are piling on their own experiences... companies and bosses that are good about these issues are great to work for. I was a bit late one day, and my senior said something about it - not even in a bad way per se, just mentioning that once busy season hits I'd need to be there on time. That morning I believe either Serach or Elianna was sick, and something broke in the kitchen and left glass on the floor; he immediately said (almost like an order) "Oh: You do what you have to do first, then try to get here when you can after that. Always take care of what you need to first - this stuff isn't as important as that stuff is."

They're big on the "Work/Life" balance here in practice, not just theory, which makes it nice to work here and a reason I'm more likely to stay for longer. (like David)

HeathertheMaryKayGal said...

perfect post for today!!! Baby boy is VERY gassy on his first day home from the NICU and I'm stealing just 5 seconds to play on the computer while he's finally sleeping. If he wakes up again, off I go! Reena on the other hand? Sleeping like a baby all day long. Makes sense, since she is one!

Anonymous said...

I have had both good and bad experiences. I worked for one company where the senior vp would say that "women need to decide whether they wanted to be mothers or to suceed here" and people would be forced to take an entire day off (or call in sick) if they needed to come in late for a parents teachers conference, because it was so unacceptable to try to balance work and parenting.
My current job is much more open to working parents and while the job is hectic it is such a relief to know that if you need to leave in the middle of the day or leave early or come in late to take care of family, people will be accepting and sympathetic.

I now have 15 people reporting to me and I try hard to make sure that they know that I think it is important that the company support a balance and that I will do all I can to help them.