It’s Sunday morning and my oldest daughter sits on the bed, watching me pack. She’s chattering away happily about the things we’ll do together later that day — take the train downtown to do some shopping, then maybe walk home or maybe take one of those bike-pulled pedi-cabs. If we see one, can we take it, she asks. Sure, I say, feeling pretty confident that in this 18-degree weather we won’t, but if by chance we do, what the heck. It does sound like fun.

My thoughts turn to the trip I’m packing for. What time I’ll need to leave for the airport to make my flight. What time I’ll get in (and whether it will be too late to take the BART to my hotel). How I’ll manage to fall asleep as soon as I get there (easier said than done), so that I’ll be in good shape for my early-morning meeting.

It’s a few minutes before I notice that my daughter’s chatter has stopped.

“Why do you have to go?” she asks suddenly.

It’s a simple question, but at the same time so complicated. On an immediate level, I do “have” to go. I have a meeting the next morning. In fact, I have five meetings tomorrow and three the day after. Then a meeting-free day, when I hope to get caught up on all the things I didn’t do while I was in meetings. Then, the next two days, more meetings. It’s going to be a slog. Some of the most grueling days I’ve faced in my career (and for a lifelong workaholic, that’s saying something).

I can’t wait.

When you’re living the have-it-all lifestyle, life is inherently full of conflict and contradiction, competing priorities and the constant need to say no to things (and people) you really really wish you had more time for. And sometimes — a lot of the time — that includes your kids.

When you prioritize something (usually work) over spending time with your kids, it can be easy to characterize these choices in terms of necessity. Of course I WANT to spend all my time with you, but I NEED to work, so that we can have food to eat, so that you can have a high quality of life, etc. But for those of us lucky enough not to be living paycheck to paycheck, that’s not entirely true. Whether in pursuit of a higher quality of life or because we feel self actualized through our work or for other reasons or for a combination of reasons, many of us CHOOSE demanding work that takes us away from our kids more than just the ordinary Monday through Friday nine-to-five.

In my case, I do it because I love it. Building a company from the ground up is the most challenging and exhilarating thing I’ve ever done, and though I would be lying if I said I loved every minute of it, it’s the thing I wake up every morning thinking about and go to sleep every night stressing about. My work makes me who I am, just as much as being a parent does. And I think I would be disrespecting my work — and by extension myself — if I were to treat it like a secret mistress I sneak off to visit covertly.

In this day of modern parenting, it almost feels like child abuse to admit that your kids are not your only priority in life. But not only does that mindset set kids up for a lifetime of disappointment, when they realize that the insular bubble of childhood is in fact the ONLY world that revolves around them — it also deprives them of role models for what, truth be told, we all want our kids to be. We want our kids to be ambitious, courageous, passionate. We want them to take on impossible challenges and sometimes fail but also sometimes succeed. We want them to feel the ups and downs of those challenges, truly and deeply and fundamentally, so that the lessons of those experiences make them more prepared to take on the next challenge.

If we want our kids to be that kind of person, we have to do more than say, “Yay you. You can do it!” We have to show them, by example, HOW to do it. We have to show them how tiring it can be to work really hard, but how rewarding it all becomes when a deal is closed, or a project completed, or an app launched, or a breakthrough discovered. We have to let them see our fear and uncertainty around scary new challenges, and how we work through it, and how good it is to succeed but also how we can sometimes fail and still wake up the next day excited for the next challenge. We have to show, by example, how good it feels to love the journey and not just the destination.

“I’m going because I have to, but also because I want to,” I tell my daughter. “If I want Nanno to be successful, I need to work really hard, which means sometimes traveling to San Francisco to meet with investors and other people who are really good at helping companies like mine grow. In the end it still might not be successful, but it’s my job to do everything I can to make it work. Which I have to do, because I have investors who have given me their money to build this company and help it grow, and they believe in me, and I don’t want to let them down. But I also really love it, because I think this company can make a difference for working moms like me, and working dads like Daddy, by helping them find great babysitters to be with their kids when they can’t be.”

She nods, and is quiet for a few minutes. It’s one of those times when I don’t know whether she’s digesting what I’m saying or if I’ve given too much detail and lost her attention.

“I get it,” she says at last. I truly hope she does.

“Good,” I say, emerging from the closet with two dresses on hangers. “Which one do you think I should wear to my meeting tomorrow?” I ask.

She considers. “The purple one,” she says at last.

That’s my girl.