Last weekend, my boys were playing on the floor and I opened the newspaper. After a couple of minutes, they began asking me to play with them. My first instinct was to put the paper down and play. Most times, that is just what I would do. This time, however, I wanted to spend some time reading the paper. Suddenly, I felt an overwhelming sense of guilt, like I was being an awful father for not dropping everything that I wanted to do in order to cater to what my kids wanted to do.
As that wave of guilt hit, though, I realized something. I spend a lot of my time catering to other people. My day job involves writing and debugging web applications for co-workers. When I get home, I need to get changed in a hurry so I can make dinner for my family. Most nights, I’ll also take on the role of waiter, giving out the food, drinks of water, seconds on dinner and dessert. I also take care of bath time and bed time routines, herding the boys through all of the steps needed to get them asleep properly with a minimum of complaining. With all of this “everyone else time”, wasn’t I due for some “me time”?
I don’t get much time to myself that doesn’t involve sitting behind a computer. I don’t have any friends or family in the area. I can’t just grab a few buddies and go see the latest non-Rated G, action-adventure-sci-fi-based-on-a-comic-book movie. If I’m doing something by myself, it’s probably yard work (involving the lawn mower, the sound of which my boys hate) or grocery shopping on my way home from work.
My life, it seems, can be neatly organized into “Work TechyDad” and “Dad TechyDad.” At times, it seems as though the “Work” and “Dad” portions of my life overwhelm me. It seems as though I’m losing any sense of identity beyond those two spheres. I know that time to myself is important. After all, constantly feeling like your position in life is that of a combination butler and referee is not healthy. It leads to stress and stress leads to making bad choices (such as yelling when a calmer tone would have sufficed).
Time away from my family, building an identity that is neither “Work” nor “Dad” but just Me would be very healthy. It would reduce my stress and make me a better husband and father. Still, even thinking about spending time apart from my family leaves me feeling guilt-ridden.
Do you spend time away from your family? If so, do you feel guilty when you aren’t with them?