In the car this morning I heard the song “Cat’s in the Cradle.” This is a 1974 folk rock song by Harry Chapin from the album Verities & Balderdash. The single topped the Billboard Hot 100 in December 1974. As Chapin’s only #1 hit song, it became the best known of his work and a staple for folk rock music.
The song is told in first-person by a father who is too busy to spend time with his son. Though the son repeatedly asks him to join in childhood activities, the father always responds with little more than vague promises of spending time together in the future, which is peppered with images from nursery rhymes. While the son longs to spend time with his father, he continues to admire his father. This ultimately shapes the son’s future behavior. The final verse is a reverse of the roles; where the father asks his now grown-up son to visit, but the son responds with his father’s line. The father then reflects that they are both alike.
I am a big fan of this song for multiple reasons and it is a well-played favorite on my iPod. This song is one of the rare few that continues to resonate with me every time I hear it. It makes me think, “Ok, are my priorities in shape?” There was a time, not long ago when they were not. I remember hearing that song play and I was flooded with emotion. Trying to fight back the tears, I knew why they were there. I was working a lot and my son was only 6 months old. I saw him briefly in the morning and by the time I came home, we spent roughly an hour and a half together. Total time = 2.5 hours. I compensated, or so I thought, by cramming as much time on the weekend as I could. That coupled with catching up on errands and laundry, did not lead to quality.
After my corporate lay off, I had a chance to reflect. I now realize that I DO need to work, both for financial and personal reasons. However, I am beginning to realize that this can be on MY terms. I do not need, nor do I want a long commute, long hours, and lots of travel.
As a woman born after the feminist revolution of the 60’s, I know that those courageous women paved the way for my generation to have it all. Don’t get me wrong, I do want it all…career AND family. But, I want them to be balanced. I want to remember this time with my kids as much as I remember my purpose and my work. Chapin’s song is always close to heart. I know that my children are watching me. I have experienced them wanting my attention. I have been guilty of pushing my 13 year old daughter away and telling her “I’m busy.” I have done the same with my 6 year old, as well as having put my 17 month old son in front of the TV. But I have also learned to push away other things and telling them that “I’m busy.” Work will be there. It always will be calling your name. Kids will not. I do not want to look back and wonder, “where did the years go?” Not to mention my daughter (who will be in college in 5 years) telling me, “I’d love to see you mom, if I can find the time.”