Would you sell one of your kids for $100 million? Be honest.
Imagine your little Ben didn't burp or fart or throw up when your boss came over. Or think flushing the toilet was "mom's job." But sat quietly with other Benjamins in piles of crisp, neatly organized rows, ready to be enjoyed.
No talking back. No wanting to play at 6 am after drunken date night. No asking for homework help after your long day at work.
Food expenses, tuition and summer camp payments, babysitting fees. Gone. Gone. And gone.
It takes nine months and change to create a kid. It takes a lifetime, if you're lucky, to earn even a small fraction of $100 million. And most die trying, holding a bag full of regrets and a souped-up LinkedIn profile.
Surely few, if any, would say they'd accept this offer. An unscientific poll of several of my friends uncovered no takers.
One of my friends, James Altucher, commented:
"I would sell a leg or an arm or have a lobotomy. I would do anything to keep them free. I would be a slave on a ship. I would be thrown in prison. I would pray all day. I'd do anything, rather than have my kids taken away. I would be beaten to a pulp. I would take drugs. I would take cyanide. Nothing would take them from my side. My kids were given to me. It's been my honor since birth."
I first pondered this eery question after reading Rabbi Ephraim Shore poignantly recount what it was like to be diagnosed with multiple myeloma, a cancer of the blood so horrid that his doctors encouraged him not to Google it.
Since no one would make this trade, he wrote, we must all value our kids much more than $100 million. Yet very few of us act that way.
Though silly in many ways, the question opens a window into our priorities. Our personal priorities. And our professional ones as well, as not spending enough time with our kids is often cited as the #1 parenting regret.
We work all day while our kids are at school.
We work at night while our kids play at home - next to us or in the next room - but without us.
We travel to "must-attend" meetings while our kids perform in recitals without us.
We take the dinner meeting while our kids eat without us at home.
We look at our phones when our kids want us to look at them.
We watch a meaningless game on TV instead of just playing a game with our kids, which would mean the world to them.
We get frustrated with our kids when we should be enjoying them.
We yell at them when they should be the ones yelling at us for being so selfish.
All the while, we secretly look forward to a day when our kids are in college, out of the house and off our payroll.
Do most of us really act as if each of our kids are worth $100 million to us? A collective $300 million if you have 3 kids like me?
If $100 million were wired into your account today, you would sit down and spend a tremendous amount of time caring for it and thinking about what to do.
You would ask questions like, what do I need to do to protect it? What should I do to make sure it grows well into the future? How can it help me live a happier, more enjoyable life?
So why is it that we don't ask the same questions about, or spend the same amount of time thinking about, our kids, who we all seem to value more than riches?
Why don't we spend more time working on how we can be better parents and not just better employees and managers? And, just as importantly, how we can enjoy our kids more and be happier at both work and home?
For me, at least, the hardest part of being a working parent is not the long road trips or long hours or frustrated clients. It's the internal struggle I fight between two equal and opposing forces - the time I invest creating shareholder value and the time I invest building family values.
Both are important. But at what cost does pursuing one bankrupt the other?
I spend more time at work than I do with the kids. And they spend more time at school than they do with me. And that's not changing anytime soon. The only way to come out ahead is to stop fighting the quantity game and start focusing on quality.
And that's what the question forces you to think about.
Living like your kids are worth more than $100 million forces you to invest your time with them wisely. Just like you look for quality investments for your money, you need to find quality ways to spend time at home.
As it turns out, Rabbi Shore was misdiagnosed. And like many of us who have faced our own death, he spent his time in the cancer ward taking stock of his life.
"My death sentence was withdrawn and my life was renewed," he writes.
And his main takeaway? "I’ll be spending more time with my kids and truly enjoying them."
Ultimately, the best present you can give your kids is your presence. Your full and undivided presence. And, just like earning $100 million, that's not always easy.
What decisions would you make differently if you truly valued your children more than $100 million?
Michael Lazerow in an entrepreneur and Chief Strategy Officer. You can follow him on twitter.