Opportunity cost is an economics term.
Anytime we make a decision, what we give up in that choice is the opportunity cost. For example, you’re in a grocery store, staring at two kinds of milk—one is organic, one is not. The organic milk is $1.99 more. The opportunity cost to buy a better brand of milk is the $1.99 you lost by buying the more expensive brand. We pay more because it is worth it.
Free trials are a good example of opportunity cost at work. Music streamers like Pandora, Spotify, or Apple Music give you week-long trials so you know what you lose if you don’t pay for a subscription. Is it worth a few cents a day to listen to your favorite music without commercial interruption? Spotify thinks you’ll say ‘yes’ after a week. We determine what commercial-free music is worth to us when we make the decision to subscribe.
Flash floods rocked the mid-Atlantic this week. Our daycare closed unexpectedly Tuesday. My wife and I had to negotiate and compromise in a hurry that morning to decide who stays home with our daughter.
I’m a stubborn person. Changing work plans, sacrificing responsibilities is difficult for me to do. I agreed to come home for 3 hours in the afternoon to care for our daughter. I agreed begrudgingly. I let my wife know I was not happy about it. I could only think of the work I would miss.
My daughter is an alchemist. She can turn lemons into lemonade with a single smile. I am powerless over her love. I wrote posts when she first waved (“Connect”) when she turned one (“She’s One. I’m Done”) to explain her wizardry.
I came home Tuesday afternoon to start my daddy-day-care shift. She ran into me as fast as those 1-year-old legs could take her and I fell on the carpet rolling her around. She laughed and giggled. My heart melted.
Later she brought me her shoes with a “dah”. While she can’t talk yet, she is a great communicator. What’s more, she is a force of nature who never shies away from expressing what she wants.
I put on her shoes and we took our dog for a walk. She held my finger as we walked, taking quick wobbly steps to keep up with me. When the heat became too much she moaned and raised her hands. Her eyes were squinting. I picked her up. She rested her temple on my shoulder as we walked the last block home. Her head resting on me felt like the last piece of a complex puzzle snapping into place.
These moments are invaluable. I lose nothing when I choose to be with her.
Work is a chore. Spending time with my daughter is a reward.
My ego sees the two choices: stay at work or be home with my daughter. It tells me the opportunity cost—what I lose from taking time of work—is immesne. My self-importance craves to make work seem more important, more valuable. But it’s not. There is nothing in this world more valuable than spending time with her.
What I realized Tuesday is that I rarely put the proper value on decisions. In fact,
my life’s best opportunities seemed inopportune at the time.
When I got out of rehab, all I could think about was getting back to work, getting back to my life. But surrendering to my counselor’s suggestion for after-care (“Prayer”) became the single most important decision I made.
If I trust the values my ego places on decisions, I am destined for a cold and angry life.
I pray to better understand the value in the decisions I make—that taking time off work to be with my daughter will always be worth it.