Sunday, July 16, 2017

On Work Life Balance - The story of the scientist

Once, there was a scientist. He was brilliant at his work and it kept him very very busy. He was at his work all  the time - late nights, weekends, everything. This scientist spent no time with his family at all.

One day, his wife left him. He was very distraught and could not understand why. So he called her, and she told him that she had left him because he never had any time for her and the child, being forever busy with the work.
He was very sad to hear it.

After she left, he realised how hard it was to do the simple things in a house - to keep it clean, to have 3 meals on the table, to just sleep at night - alone. When he had returned from work, he had just assumed that his wife and child would be there, so when he went to sleep, he was not alone in the house. Even if he never spoke to them, he realised now how much their presence meant.

After a few days, he was very sad and lonely. It was impossible to both keep house and maintain his work. So he decided to make amends and called his wife again. He told her that he would change now, spend more time at home. That he had learnt his lesson. Could she and the child please come back?

The wife replied, "It is not what you do, my darling. Over the years, I have realised, this is who you are. It is not something you do deliberately. As a personality, you value your work above all else. If I come back, you will make efforts for a few days, but will eventually go back to being who you really are. No my dear, it is best that you live with that which matters to you - your work." And so saying, she refused to come home.

He was very sad after this talk and just could not concentrate on work. His colleague saw him sad and asked what had happened. He told him everything and then said, "The thing is, my wife is right. I am inherently like that. I do love my work above all else. But I also miss my family a lot. I don't know what to do."

The friend then said, " Let us say that you plant 2 trees at the same time. You have a limited amount of water and manure each day.  If you give all of your water and manure to one tree, it will grow big and strong and definitely taller and bigger than all other trees around it planted at the same time. But the other tree will wilt within a short time and die away. Then you cannot bring it back.

If you divide your water and manure among the 2 trees, they will both grow only moderately, you will never touch the heights that you could have touched with either, but they will both be in your garden.

This is a decision that we all have to make. If we pay no attention to the family, we can reach great heights in our careers, because our time and attention is the water and manure that we have every day. If we do work life balance, we must do so with the conscious idea that we will not win Nobel prizes in our profession so easily. But we will have a family to go home to.

Everyday, that water and manure - our time and attention, must be divided between the 2 trees. But most importantly, you must know,  that the trees are exactly the way you want them to be. It is, my friend, time for you to make a decision. If you want to rise to great heights in your career, you must abide by the decision of your wife - because she is right. And if you want your family, you must know, right now, that it will be wise to sacrifice some of your ambition. You will see some of your colleagues outshine you. And you must not regret or grudge them their success or ambition, for you have traded happily, the place on the podium for a place by the hearth. It must be a conscious decision - one that you take for yourself, and not one that is taken for you.  Your wife has taken a decision once for you. Don't let that happen again. Go home and think. "

With these words, the colleague left the scientist. The scientist came home and thought. All of that night and all of the next day he thought.
That night, he called his wife again. He spoke to her at length, and by next morning, she had come home with the child.

The scientist and his family were happy this time. They lived together for many years. Finally, the son grew up. He studied, and started earning his own living. It was then time for him to get married. He fell in love with a very smart young lady, and announced the decision to his parents. His parents welcomed the idea and the young lady into their home.

That night, the scientist took his son aside, and said, "There is something I must share with you. You do know that there are 2 pots in the garden that I always take care of myself. No matter how large the garden or how small, no gardener is allowed to touch my 2 plants. You have often asked me the secret of my fascination for those 2 plants. I will tell you today. It is not the plants. It is the pots that house those plants.

Many years ago, your mother left me because I had no time for you and her. When I pleaded with her to come back, she reminded me, that I was not busy at work so as to avoid her. This is who I was. And I would do it again. She was right, of course. Your mother always is. So one night, I brought these 2 tiny saplings home. I told her, that I was going to nurture both those plants. Every morning, I would water them the same way that I had divided my time between home and work the previous day. So if I had ignored my family for a day because of an important thing at work, I ignored the family plant entirely the next morning. On a good day, I would come home on time and spend time teaching you, asking her about her day and telling her about mine. On such a day, I would water and nurture both plants equally. On the weekends, I would not work. And then, I would not nurture or weed the work plant either.

In this way, the minute a plant starts to wilt, I will know that that aspect of my life needs attention. If one plant was not flourishing, I would know before any real harm came to my life. Over the years, those plants have been my daily reminders, companions and guides. When you get married, remember to plant such saplings, so that you and your wife always remember that a family needs attention too. That is the secret of my 2 plants, and why I wouldn't let any gardener interfere with those 2 pots."

The son was amazed to hear this. He had never imagined that 2 pots could mean so much to his father. Or to anyone. He had no idea that he really needed to work on being a family. He thought it just happened on its own. Then he reflected upon his own hours at work, and smiled. He was his father's son all right. He was going to need the 2 pots of his own.