I began my journey into fatherhood as a stay at home dad. I did so not because it was a dream of mine to be the parent that stayed at home to provide nourishment of the mind, body and soul of my daughter, but because simply stated, that was how our life was at the time. The economy was in the crapper (I was unemployed), my wife had a good job and instead of taking the first thing that was offered to me, we decided that it was better for our family to have one of us at home instead of using an outside child care situation. Looking back, while it was a difficult time for me (see my first blog: The Paradox of Fatherhood) I would not trade it for anything and I know it was the right decision for my daughter. That time at home gave me the opportunity to create the incredible bond that I now share with my 2 year old daughter and I would tell any new father to do the same if he could. But even if it is not you, it would be great if it could be your wife, but that’s just the opinion of a nobody dad, take it or leave it, but keep reading.
As our lives changed, new and sometimes better opportunities became available, some we passed on and others we took. Eventually, I chose to move into, I guess you would say, a more traditional role of a working dad. One of the reasons I agreed to go back to this working dad situation was the flexibility that the new job offered both me and my family. It also gave my wife “her turn” to spend time with our daughter and make up for the time she did not have early on to really bond, at least that is how I saw it. My wife still currently works a few days a week, by her own choice, to help off set the cost for daycare and health insurance, as well as to get outside in the world where it is not all toddler all the time. However, the majority of the time she is doing a kick ass job of raising our daughter and keeping our home from imploding, or exploding, I guess it depends on the day of the week. Knowing that my wife is at home taking care of our daughter gives me the justification and the motivation that I need to go to work every day. To look myself in the mirror and convince myself that I do this for them, and for us as a family. I would much rather know that my daughter is being influenced by the one person I trust more than anyone else, rather than leaving her upbringing to a system that is designed for conformity and compliance.
As I mentioned earlier, it was about a year and a half ago we decided it was time for my wife to stay home and allow her the needed time to bond with our daughter. I took a job that I knew I would ultimately get fired from or end up leaving as I looked for a different one. For pretty much one year to the day I endured what I consider the worst job I have ever had as an adult. Eventually, I was lucky enough to be offered a position with a company that fit me like a glove (not like the OJ glove). I took the job without hesitation because it was a performance based position that allowed me to make my own schedule and manage my time so long as I produced results. However, anyone who has ever had a job like this knows that you get out of it what you put into it, so it requires a lot of work to get things rolling. I knew it was the right thing to do for us. I have been in this job for the past six months and it has been great. I am doing so well and I feel like I am really finally contributing and making a difference to both for my career and for my family. Don’t get me wrong, things are not perfect and we still experience issues and arguments at home, like any normal couple but at least they are not fights about money or lack their of.
While the notion of a working dad is a noble one, as is that of any parent who gives of themselves for the betterment of their offspring and family, it is also a tough balancing act. While I sit here and write about balance, it makes me even more aware how things can easily and quickly fall out of balance, and most of the time are just that – out of balance or close to it. I feel like no matter or how well you try and plan out your time, when you introduce something as important and monumental as a child to your life, things have a way of quickly getting away from you. Just the day to day stresses, challenges, and responsibilities transform your life in a way that at times can be nothing short of debilitating. Yet there are so many great things that come out of having children it makes you want to continue to do your best to make it all work. I often find myself being torn between the things that I have to do in order to continue the lifestyle that we live and the things that I must do as a parent and a husband. I find it gets to a point sometimes where I feel as though I am in a no win situation.
Working dads find themselves in a situation where the pressures associated with the role, not to mention the attached preconceived notions, put us into a corner where we are forced to spread ourselves so thin that we find ourselves in dangerous situations to keep up and be everything to everyone. It is rare to find a working dad that is aware of the thin ice he is on whether it is emotionally, financially, spiritually or otherwise. We live in a society where for the longest time we have given praise to the working mother, we repeatedly chuckle amusingly at the stay at home dad, and we continue to criticize the stay at home mom. Where in the list of parental descriptions do we address the working father? In my experiences as a son, and now as a father the working dad is sometimes the most taken for granted role in a family unit. Now, that is not always the case, and in my home it is not, but also my wife and I have experienced all of the aforementioned roles in one form or another in the past 3 years. I could not be a working father if not for the constant support of my wife and her knowing what that fully entailed, just as I could not fully appreciate her role as a stay at home/working mother If i had not experienced what that role truly called for. What always helps is that she is always sending me pictures of both her and my daughter, sending me video message both reminding me, and most importantly, thanking me for going to work. It is her acknowledgement as well as her support that gets me through.
Regardless of how much my family makes me feel that my role is a valued one and that they love me and miss me through the day, it cannot fix the problem that is the balancing act of fatherhood and work. I find that my work bleeds into my life and when I am home with my family there is a very blurred line. Its not that I am on the phone or on the computer actually working, but it is more like my mind is pre-occupied with work when I should be focused on being at home. Everyone deals with work differently, some people have the type of job that when they leave for the day, the work stays behind, its not the kind of job that creates baggage to be carried home with you. If I were to do the math on the time that I spend with my family versus what I spend at work its quite startling. So lets do the math, shall we? Assume that I work a regular five to six day work week at approximately 9-10 hours a day, totaling 50 – 60 hours a week. I am home (with my daughter awake) from approximately 3 hours a day during the week and a full 10 hours on both weekend days so bringing the grand total to 35 hours a week with my daughter. So working = 60 hours and family = 35 hours. That is a delta of 25 hours a week where work wins out, take that number out over a lifetime of raising a child and its more than I would like to acknowledge. Not to mention that included in that “family” time you have to also consider the other “work” that one must do ranging from maintenance on the home, chores, family obligations – paying bills and countless other things that need to be handled as well. A lot of the more time consuming things my wife does during the week, grocery shopping, banking, essentials like that. No matter though, It feels like if you’re not a pro at micro managing your time down to the second you fall behind just so you can spend the quality time that you need and want so that you can bond with your child. I mean that is just ridiculous. I promised myself very early that I would not work once I got home to always give my daughter and my wife the attention they deserve. No matter how tired I am or how much I would rather just sit on the couch and close my eyes I know how important it is for them to know that she is more important than the things that will still be there once she is in bed fast asleep, dreaming of how daddy spent the time to spin her around like an airplane as she dreams about flying through the clouds.
The fact is, these examples show what things are like now, not what life will be like once she starts school and begins to take on activities that we will want to attend, no matter what they may be. How am I supposed to manage the time then? What is it that I can do mow to make sure that she knows that she is important to me if I am forced to miss something that is important to her? I know that it is my job to make sure that I am at these important events, but lets be realistic and honest I can’t be everywhere all the time, none of can be. The last thing that I want to do is to hurt my relationship with my daughter or my wife because I can’t successfully balance my work with my family life. Maybe I am being too hard on myself? Maybe I am worrying over nothing? Maybe I am in over my head? Whatever I may be, the feelings I have are real to me and it’s frightening. I will be the first one to tell you that I don’t need your help, or that I can handle it on my own. For the most part that is the truth, I guess for the rest of it I would say that “I don’t know what I need help with.” No one can go to work for me, and honestly, I don’t want you to. No one can take my place in my home, and I really don’t want you there either. So what is it that working fathers can do to help us combat the war on time that we wage on two fronts? It seems as though we can do only what we know how to do; suck it up and be there for our children and our wives first and foremost while keeping the responsibilities of work and adulthood close by and attended to. That and find a crutch to help us get it all done lol. Sure that could work but how effective is it and how long can it last? It seems as though it is more of a reactionary way of living instead of being in control of the outcome that you want for yourself and for your family. I guess you now can understand why I am called deliriousdadd. HA-HA.
The more I read about and think about the multitude of aspects that surround being a full time working father and the responsibilities that I have to my family, the more I realize that if I want to make it out of the next few years better off than the way I went in, I need to seriously prioritize my work/life balance and work harder at the outcome I want for myself and my family. It is hard to know what to do when this is the first time that you have such an incredible responsibility to take care of someone other than yourself. If it was only my wife and I things could be done a little differently, a little more haphazardly and without such serious repercussions from a single mistake or miscalculation. When you add in the element of a child to any situation you expose yourself to more risk and can potentially hurt the future of the relationship that you have with your child through poor decisions and choices. The struggle for time is constant and in a world where money equals freedom it is hard to ignore the reality that someone has to sacrifice for the good of the family unit in order to provide that freedom. In doing some reading in preparation for this article I found a website called www.worklifebalance.com in it I found some helpful tools that can assist in making things a bit easier when thinking about what the work/life balance really means to each one of us. Maybe it can help you in your search for balance. All I know is that for me it is a constant struggle that I wage war with on a regular basis. But I am not giving up, my happiness and my family are too important to me for that to happen. I hope that you feel the same way. I wish you luck in your journey and please feel free to share your thoughts, insights or to just get something off your chest. We do not judge here at deliriousdadd.com, we just try to make sense out of the delirium.
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