Being a working mom is an eternal evaluation of balance and presence of mind. Recently, as I was discussing the rapidly approaching tax season ahead of us with a colleague, she asked me a really challenging question. “At the end of your life, do you ever worry that you will regret spending so much time at work and not with your children?” What she didn’t know when she asked that question was that a very dear friend of our family WAS at the end of her life. In her death, I found my answer.
Living in different cities, I did not know her as a professional – The Laura I knew was a wife, a mother, and a friend. Having battled breast cancer triumphantly for several years, I also knew her as a champion. She approached her disease with tenacity and vigor and a relentless sense of humor.
It’s hard to explain the grief I felt leading up to the days of her death. When we heard the news that it was only a matter of time, I found myself going back to that question. “At the end of your life, do you ever worry that you will regret spending so much time at work and not with your children?”
As the world of social media tends to do, I felt connected to her world in a way I had not before. Each day after her husband shared how sick she was, I would read countless comments describing Laura. What was so touching was how many of them came from her colleagues and her clients. She made an impact on them the same way she made an impact on everyone else who knew her in the way that I did. They were grieving for their peer, their leader, their creative force. The thought of her absence left a hole in their lives just like it would for all of us.
As a working mom, it was inspiring to see that in her time here on Earth, Laura had managed to leave both a deep personal and rich professional legacy. Her children are left without her, but she lives on as a presence in her work and in every person who strives to work like she did – with passion and with compassion.
When my husband returned to New Orleans from her funeral, we spent hours talking about Laura and her family and how we want to do better, NEED to do better, to live like she lived. At her funeral, Laura’s friend said that when Laura was with her children, she was forever in the moment. If they did something new like swim unassisted or ride a bike without training wheels, she would close her eyes, put her hand on heart and burn the memory into her mind. It is that kind of presence and gratitude for each moment that amazes and inspires me.
My colleague’s question does not haunt me the way it might have four years ago when I first returned to work from maternity leave. Each day when I get to the office, I strive to make an impact. On my peers. On the staff I mentor. And most importantly on my clients. If I can help them grow a bigger and stronger business in the community in which I am raising my children so that together we can create a city that is a dynamic economic force, than I am, in fact, serving my children while at work.
I can answer confidently, that if I leave a professional legacy anywhere near the one Laura did, I will never regret a day of work. My only regret will be not being present in the moments I have with my children. May I spend more moments with my eyes closed and my hand on my heart. May I spend more moments like Laura did.