Cato the Elder was a great man. He was successful at agriculture. He was successful as a writer. He was a powerful politician. He towered over Roman life not just in his own time, but for generations hence.
Yet that wasn’t what he was proud of. That’s not what he worked hardest at, or admired in others. As Plutarch writes,
He considered that it was more praiseworthy to be a good husband than a great senator, and was also of the opinion that there was nothing much else to admire in Socrates of old, except for the fact that he was always gentle and considerate in dealings with his wife, who was a scold, and his children, who were half-witted. When his son was born, Cato thought that nothing but the most important business of the state should prevent him from being present when his wife gave the baby its bath and wrapped it in its swaddling clothes.
As we’ve said, the home should not be the border of your ambition. It’s good that you want to be successful at work. It’s good that you want to stay in shape. It’s good that you want to invest your money wisely and build up your wealth. But still, we cannot ever lapse into thinking that these pursuits are more important than our true purpose.
We have to excel most of all in this role we have chosen for ourselves as parents. It deserves our greatest effort. Our biggest commitment. Our highest standards. Not only because it is through our children that we can have true multi-generational impact, but because this is the most beautiful and pure avenue for our ambition. To create a loving family. To create a happy home. To raise wonderful, good children.
This is the most praiseworthy thing. It’s what we have to be the best at. Or at least, give our best to.