Yesterday, while driving home from the mall with my daughters, they began fantasizing about the day that my older daughter would get her license (still four years off) so that they could go shopping together, sans mom. My daughters then asked if I’d let them take the car to the mall or other destinations when they get their licenses. I responded that it would depend on various factors, but that at a minimum, they’d have to spend a decent amount of time practice driving under supervision of their dad or me, they’d have to stay off interstates and not drive during rush hour and avoid distractions, like a carload of chatty friends or talking on the cell phone. To which my daughters retorted in unison – but mommy, you talk on the cell phone in the car. You’re a hypocrite!
My daughters are right, at least insofar as the cell phone goes. Though I try to avoid talking when they’re in the back seat, sometimes, because of my crazy schedule and compressed days, it can’t be helped. Most frequently, fear of outbursts from the girls limits my cell phone calls to either status calls with close colleagues or my publisher who don’t judge me negatively for background noise, or to conference calls where I can participate with the mute button on most of the time.
My daughters’ questions got me to thinking whether working and living a seamless life inherently breeds hypocrisy. I recall of all of the times that I’ve left dishes on the table or in the sink so that I could race back to the computer to finish up a brief, or after a hellish day, tossed my suit jackets and dress shoes on the couch or the floor where they linger for days because I can’t find the energy to pick them up. Does work – especially when it’s work that gives me more time to spend with my daughters – justify cutting corners? And how do I explain away my deficiencies that to my daughters when I want them to pick up after themselves? After all, their school day is equally tiring.
For cell phones and driving at least, my answer comes more easily. I explain that I always use a headset, I limit cell phone use to familiar roads and that my quarter of century of driving experience (with only 2 tickets) gives me more latitude with regard to a cell phone than a newbie 16 year old deserves. For other questions, I’m not so sure except to try harder to set an example and hope for the best.
What’s your answer?