What We Can Learn From Google’s CFO on Family And The Outdoors

Photo Patrick Pichette on Google+

Photo Patrick Pichette on Google+

A few days ago, Google CFO and SVP Patrick Pichette announced his resignation from his job to spend more time with his family. While we don’t know the full details of the story, his long goodbye letter on Google+ struck a chord with me. It’s a true inspiration to rethink a few priorities and live better.

One morning last September, he climbed Mount Kilimanjaro with his wife and from the summit, they admired the vast plains of the Serengeti down below. Breathtaking, obviously. Understandably, he and his wife Tamar discussed doing more adventures like that but hey, being Google’s CFO and all, it’s not that easy. Except… Tamar asked when is it going to be time? Our time? He thought about it and a few months later, decided to indeed spend more time with his family and travel the world. Wow.

None of us are Google’s CFO, but we can certainly relate to busy schedules and hectic family lives. I want to ask you Tamar’s question about your kids and the outdoors: When is it going to be time? When is it going to be your time as a family to enjoy the great outdoors? Next week? Next month? No idea?

I’m not saying that we should all resign from our day jobs to become polar explorers, but Patrick Pichette was right in many ways to publicize the reasons for his resignation. There are many reasons that can make us reconsider how we organize our family life too. Here are a few thoughts to echo Patrick Pichette’s emotional resignation letter on Google+.

Hopefully, these will help you find your time to create lasting family memories in the great outdoors.

Because Kids Grow Fast

Patrick Pichette’s kids are grown-up. Mine are 9 and 11 years old. Already, I realize that I miss the crazy cuddly preschool years when we could hold hands on the trail and sing nursery rhymes in the woods. While holding hands is still OK with my 9-year-old, instead of singing nursery rhymes, my girls prefer to walk together to talk about Minecraft or school friends. Of course, we also engage in different adventures with older children, stuff that was off-limits when they were younger but I am fully aware that these days are numbered.

How long do I have until they don’t even want to go on a hike or on a canoe trip with me? It’s hard enough these days convincing them that family hikes are what Sundays are for, not play dates with their friends. I’m guessing that in a couple years, they’ll find my ideas of spending a weekend a lot less exciting than boys and that’s fine (sort of). It’s part of growing up. As I watch them grow today, I also know that I better enjoy them now because time doesn’t freeze.

Your kids are perhaps 18 months old, if that, but believe me they’ll grow fast. Find exciting adventures that you can all enjoy as a family in the great outdoors now. It doesn’t have to be grand. It doesn’t have to be long. And it certainly doesn’t have to be far. But it has to be now.

Because You Deserve It

When I hear about “kids and the great outdoors”, it’s always about getting kids outside more, connecting kids with their natural environment, or patching the nature deficit disorder that so many kids suffer from. But what of the parents? Don’t they deserve to be in on the fun as well, to let down their hair and forget all their worries for a few hours? Seeing as parents spend so much time teaching kids what life is all about, putting food on the table and being personal valets, can’t they at least reap the benefits with a Sunday picnic in the woods?

You don’t need much to be happy outside. Nature has a knack for making things simple. Just think about it. Shoes, a water bottle and a frisbee? Shoes, packed sandwiches and a blanket? Flip flops, towels and a beach ball? A bicycle, some granola bars and a sun hat?

Come on, you deserve happy family memories that you will cherish for a long time and believe me when I tell you that no shopping mall or TV day can provide that.

Because If You Work Hard For Your Job, So Can You For Your Family

At a time when working parents regret missing out on their kids’  important milestones, it’s important to step back and take a breather. A lot of us work hard and some work even harder. Online communication has turned us all into digital workaholics and it’s tough getting away from job duties when they’re a mere smartphone screen away. I’m guilty as charged, unfortunately. My girls frequently complain that I spend too much time on my computer, too much time saying “Hold on, I just need to send that email/finish that project and I’ll be right with you.” Right with you stretches into minutes and sometimes more.

The truth is, obviously, that the world won’t stop spinning if I set firm rules about spending time with my girls. If I can invest so much time in my work, I should do the same for my girls or at least, do better. What will change, as a result, is that I’ll enjoy my girls at an age when they are fun young minds, curious to discover the world and free to enjoy me as much as I want.

Because You Can Find Hectic Schedule Hacks

Life as we know it is hectic. If your weekends are anything like ours, there’s always a birthday party, a play date, weekend errands or extracurricular activities to disrupt Saturdays and Sundays. I’m using the word “disrupt” intentionally. All those are barriers to unchartered or unscripted family time that you could usefully spend under the sun in the great outdoors with your kids.

To everybody I’m saying, you gotta find a solution that works for you.

My solution to hectic schedules? I prioritize the outdoors over some social obligations, it’s true. I refuse a few invitations. My children don’t have to attend every single birthday party they’re invited to. I also prioritize the outdoors over Saturday and Sunday team sports. My girls don’t have to commit to team sports every Saturday and Sunday. After-school sports works too. My idea of fun also does not include Saturday or Sunday shopping so as much as I can, I rely on solutions that are available to me where I live–online shopping, home deliveries or quick errands after school.

Your hectic schedule hacks might be different. You may have family nearby who can pitch in or super friendly neighbors who organize vegetable box drop-offs. Whatever. Any solution that can save time for you will free up some space in your family schedule. Can you find other ways or other times to run your errands? Plan team sports during the week and limit weekend meets? Think about it.

Now, Plan Some Outdoors Time And Stick To It

Once your calendar looks less full, save a day to go outdoors. Ideally, this weekend. Last-minute planning has the benefit of spontaneity. Less trouble, less faffing, more doing. Grab your calendar and physically write “Busy – OUTDOORS” in plain letters. Block out a few hours. Block out the whole day if you can and as Nike says, Just Do It!

Thank you Mr. Pichette for reminding us that whatever your responsibilities, however busy you are, some things are best enjoyed now and family fun outdoors is part of them.

Do you relate with hectic schedules and never enough free time? Do you find that finding time to spend a day outside with the kids is a struggle? If yes, please share your thoughts on what you think you can do differently to enjoy your kids and the great outdoors.

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Laure Latham

Laure is an author, environmental advocate, blogger, open water swimmer and now mother. She's passionate about inspiring families to enjoy the outdoors with their children, learning to unplug and living a healthy lifestyle, giving kids life skills and exploring the world around us sharing Family Friendly, Fun Ideas for the whole family on Frog Mom.

One Response to “What We Can Learn From Google’s CFO on Family And The Outdoors”

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