On my way home, I have to stop and pick up the dogs. I still have at least 40 minutes of driving ahead of me… so even though I (guiltily) left work at 4:30 p.m., I know I am going to miss dinner with the wife and Jax. After getting home just in time to finish the last few words of another Dr. Seuss book, Ill finally make my way into my bedroom to try to put on some sweatpants. I’ll probably fall asleep at the dinner table and soon, groggily rouse to check my work email, through together tomorrows lunches, if someone remembered to stop at the grocery store, empty and reload the dishes into the dishwasher and feed the dogs. What’s wrong with this picture? Maybe the fact that I’m lucky to get a half an hour with my wife and son on work days.
Funny is really my specialty, or at least in my own mind funny is my specialty. Yet, every now and again, I can really come back to reality and focus on the more serious issues that my wife and I are confronted with as new parents. Beyond the normal questions we ask ourselves every day, “Why is his poop orange?” “How long did he even nap for?” “Are the dogs eating another dirty diaper?!!!”… We are constantly faced with the question of how we balance family time with our jobs.
I love what I do, I love the district I work for, I love helping students realize their full potential and support them in their journey to becoming lifelong learners. I have no complaints about being an elementary school administrator… yet, there are times I feel like I am missing out on so much of my son’s life and that makes me wonder how do you balance your work with being a father?
The thing is… I don’t know… I’m not sure how I am supposed to do this. I’m pretty sure I know what not to do… I’m pretty sure that I have made my share of mistakes over the past six and half months. As part of this “blog thing” I try to read as much as I can by other dad’s out there. I’ve read a few that list all these unrealistic ideas and I’ve read some blogs that talk more about the abstract. The idea that quality is better than quantity when it comes to spending time with your family, is one that is generally common sense. So if it… why is it so hard?
Here are some of the things I struggle with the most:
Not just “being there”… When I am home, I often get calls from work or have to answer emails from staff and parents. There’s always something to do. There is always a problem to fix. Isn’t this the bane of every working parent’s life? For Stephanie and I to make sure that our attention is on the present, not what we have to work on tomorrow, we have been leaving our cell phones in another room. It is hard to just unplug, but sometimes it is exactly what he need.
The commute… I spend more of my day in my car then I do with my family. THIS IS A PROBLEM. DO I really need to spend 2+ hours driving to and from work? Is it necessary to live out of my car? No, and for the past six months I just could not figure what to do. I try to live by the philosophy of, “Worry about the things that are in your control to change.” I had to make a change, I could not miss out on days of my son’s life because I was sitting in traffic on 84. Sometimes the biggest changes in life happen for another reason than you originally planned… but often times those changes are for the best. I knew I needed to make a change at work, and circumstances presented themselves and I did. I made a move and in the process shaved almost 45 minutes off my commute. I cannot- CAN NOT- express how much of a difference 45 minutes each way makes when you have a six month old!
The guilty feeling that persists after having to sneak into Jackson’s room at 6:00AM kiss his head and tip toes out is real. It’s one of those “guilts” that sits on your chest like an elephant from those CPD commercials. The guilt can and will eat away at you, and no amount of “make up time” with the family can do anything about it. “Lost time is never found again.” You know, Benjamin Franklin had a point. In all reality though… I try to remember that something I cannot change, and that I have to make do with what I have. I have to work, I have to travel… but I can make the best of the time I do have with my little man.
But for now, this father can shrug off the insane work load that comes with being a working dad, because as I write this I am right where I most want to be at home with my family.
“Do the things you say you will do… do or do not, there is no try.”