Most people I know do not really understand what is so hard about my day. Indeed, I am thankful, in many ways, that my daily routine does not entail the strains and rigors that others must endure. I go to work and then come home to a home cooked meal and some playtime with my son before he goes to bed and I settle in to watch some television. Sounds like one of those appliance ads from the 50’s and 60’s where the smiling dad steps into the foyer, puts his briefcase down in the hallway and hangs his hat on the coat rack as the children run to him and hug his legs and his loving wife pops her head out of the aroma filled kitchen and winks at him while asking, “How was your day, Dear?”
The reality is that my second and most demanding job starts the minute I drop my bag to the floor as I enter the apartment (actually, it’s more 24/7, but people without children never believe me when I tell them that). I am indeed lucky to have a wife who cooks divinely and who happens to be the best mother in the universe, but she also runs her own business (which is a heck of a lot tougher than my day job) and, therefore, despite the fact that she is super wife and mom all in one, time is always working against us on just about everything that we want or need to do with our son (and close to non-existent for things we would like to do as a couple). If I did not pitch in at home I would quite frankly be a total bastard – the kind that mothers always warn their daughters about. This is not to say that I am motivated to do so because of this feeling of guilt or of being labeled as a slacker. I do it, as I always say, because it is a reflexive survival instinct first and foremost as a parent and a very close second as a partner in a couple. My contribution is well defined and must be timed to perfection. I will not bore you with the details (you can read more about that in one of my blog posts: Divide and conquer or fall asleep trying… ), but I do it and do not for a moment think that what I do is more important. This is the only way for me to carve out the precious pockets of time during the daily rituals of work and parenting duties to actually enjoy some time as a father and husband – beyond the chores.
My work (my day job, that is) entails traveling and staying late at the office which used to be no problem at all. Without kids it’s all about you, really. What do you feel like doing or not doing at that moment. So work can take precedence over everything else and if you are in a relationship or married and the significant other does not object, then your career is what it’s all about. Late nights with clients, business trips, all nighters as long as the results are there then everyone is a winner. In the good old days of being a father that I described facetiously in the first paragraph, the arrival of Junior was just part of the setup. You wanted the Stepford wife and the trophy kids so that your desk at work had a nice framed family photo so the clients could knowingly clap you on the back. It was simply what you were supposed to do as a man and husband. Well times have changed or maybe TV back then took too many liberties in portraying the Norman Rockwell family and fatherhood is about balancing or maybe it is more correct to say it is about revisiting priorities.
Dual income households are more common today as is the centricity of the family over all else (in many cultures the latter has always been the case – my Italian half certainly feels that aspect weighing on my decisions). Often it is difficult to find the right formula because work is certainly a very tangible priority in the society I live in and conflicts with putting family first abound because of the many contradictions that pull parents in many directions, today. I certainly do not have the perfect solution nor would many parents out there find it useful if I shared it because mine is one of many categories of family-work-life balances and not everyone relates to it.
My daily struggle is to carefully dose each element and try to see if the formula works and then tinker with it day in and day out to try to find what works best. Life always decides to put its own spin on things so I doubt I will ever stop tinkering.
I give it my best shot, as the cliché goes, and I hope that my son, my wife, my work and any of my other loves and concerns will feel that I am giving them the right attention, as unquantifiable as that may be.