My wife is expecting our first child. Ten days before the expected delivery date, I am due to go on a business trip to Los Angeles with my boss. The trip is important to the company and it is an honour that I have been picked. If I say I can’t go, I expect my boss will be nice about it, but I fear it will mark my card as someone not serious about work and will also mean that a sly colleague (who is always trying to get one over on me) will go instead. I’ve no reason to think the baby will come early but, if it does, LA is an eight-hour flight away and if I miss the birth, my wife will never forgive me.
Manager, male, 29
Most readers seem to think this is the easiest problem ever posed in this slot. There can be no contest, they say, between a business trip and a baby’s birth, and even asking the question makes you a monster.
I don’t see it like that. This is simply the first in a series of tricky decisions you will have to make balancing work and family – all of which will involve weighing up conflicting issues.
For a start, the baby will probably be late and so, if you go, you are unlikely to miss the birth. Second, even if you stay at home you may miss it by fainting, or fail to be any help and succeed only in annoying your wife.
On the other hand, I doubt if your boss would mark you down for staying at home: you have a copper-bottomed excuse that even the most child-unfriendly boss will accept. Even so, you may hurt your career by staying by your wife’ side as you’ll be missing out on an opportunity to shine and you’ll be giving your cocky rival an undeserved leg up.
What you finally decide, though, is not something I can help you with. It depends on what you and your wife want.
My own husband nearly missed the birth of three out of our four children: the first child for complicated reasons involving a broken-down car and a heavy night out; the second because the baby came quickly; and the fourth owing to a bothersome work deadline. Only with the third was he present throughout, and saw the birth as an opportunity to interview the young doctor about the new purchaser-provider split in the National Health Service.
The moment of birth is not the most special event in a child’s life. There are an infinite number of other special ones that follow.