The See-Saw Effect: Balancing the Daddy and Hubby Roles

I have to be love, relationships, understanding, sacrifice, support, mutuality, trying, forgiveness, failure, and success and I have to be the example of those things as well. If I am setting the wrong example, I am probably being the wrong husband. If I am being the wrong husband, I am probably being the wrong example. So the see-saw tips back and forth, but with a little more ease. I’m never going to be the perfect of either, but I can keep the rocking to a minimum. Those relationships are too important to let slip, and too intertwined to let go.

There are many things I was never told about, when it comes to parenting, before I had to experience them for myself. Perhaps it was intended this way because, honestly, the subject I am trying to tackle today is not an easy one. It is probably one of those things I am better off experiencing before the advice rolls in because it is not really something that someone outside can help with.

There are two definitive arguments that surround the topic of balancing being a dad and balancing being a husband. There is the side that says “Children don’t change your relationships, they only make them stronger” and “Children change your entire life and nothing is ever the same again”. Me, I’m with the latter of the two arguments. When you have children, it’s like signing a new job contract. The terms, conditions, and privacy clauses all change, and life starts all over again. Children are not just little beings that grow up in our house. Taking care of them is a full time job of itself. One, that you will never get paid for.

My wife and I had been married almost a year when our first child was born. We were still kind of riding that high of the “we just got married, life has never been better, and things couldn’t be more perfect” when that little pregnancy test told us that it would all change. Of course, times were a little harder for us then, so there was just as much stress as there was joy, but no matter, we were starting to add to our family and start a new life by creating life. Two years and 6 days later, we would have our second child and life would once again start over for us. Now, we would no longer be a family of three. We would be a family of four, with new challenges, and new routines. We would have new responsibilities and new stresses.

At that point, the see-saw tipped, and the back and forth motion began to get stronger. The balance of trying to be the best dad and best husband at the same time was upset, and so was I. To a great extent, I still am, which is why I write this today. It’s a difficult question to answer, there are a strong two-sides to it, and I have even asked many dads in the past to answer it. And this is where I ponder today. Which is more important: being a husband or being a dad? Please feel free to share your thoughts and answer in the comments below.

To me, the answer becomes clearer a little bit at a time. It is of great importance that I strive, strain, and try my best to be the best damn dad I an be for my children. It doesn’t matter if I am the greatest dad in the world, just that my children think so. It is of great importance that I strive, strain, and try my best to be the best damn husband I can be for my wife. It doesn’t matter if I am the greatest husband in the world, just that my wife thinks so. But is it possible to be good at one and not at the other?

My children look to me as the male who will influence them the most on things like love, relationships, understanding, sacrifice, support, mutuality, trying, forgiveness, failure, and success. My wife will look to me to be the best of all of these for her as she will need me to be. I look to my wife for the same, as I will need her to be. Being the influence of such strong topics to such strong willed and minded children is a daunting task, and never easy. And when things get rough, they get rough for everyone. When we are hurting, my children are hurting with us.

So the answer, I have to be both. I have to be love, relationships, understanding, sacrifice, support, mutuality, trying, forgiveness, failure, and success and I have to be the example of those things as well. If I am setting the wrong example, I am probably being the wrong husband. If I am being the wrong husband, I am probably being the wrong example. So the see-saw tips back and forth, but with a little more ease. I’m never going to be the perfect of either, but I can keep the rocking to a minimum. Those relationships are too important to let slip, and too intertwined to let go.

Even the Stay at home dads need balance

The Work/Life balance takes on a different meaning when your a stay at home dad. For us Work is the family and life seems to be a complete unknown to me. I am not finding a good balance right now for a couple of reasons I will try to illustrate.

When we started this blog there were three stay at home dads in the Revolution but now that the dust has settled a bit I find I am the only one still going. I feel like I need to stand strong and represent the cause in a sea of great working dads, but at the same time the numbers seem a bit more balanced. While there are more and more men staying at home to raise the kids, whether by choice or necessity, the numbers are still pretty low. So as one out of the ten dads here at DadRevoltion being a stay at home dad fits more in line with the country as a whole. So far you have read some posts on balancing kids and work or balancing kids and your spouse but as an at home dad that balance looks more like balancing kids with a life outside the house. So far I have to say I am failing at finding that balance but there are a couple of reasons for that.

First off from some of my previous posts you probably worked out that I live in Portland Oregon, but that hasn’t always been the case. I was born in Portland but grew up in Southern California. I moved back to Portland two and half years ago after living the previous five years in Indianapolis, Indiana. While living in Indy I was also a stay at home dad and finding that balance of kids and personal time was much easier. I had friends that I hung out with, community projects I was involved in, and plenty of sporting events and concerts to attend. Here in Portland I haven’t found those friends, time for the community involvement, or extra money for various entertainment options. I know that all of those things will come eventually but right now my free time is spent at home reading or on the computer instead of out of the house. That always being home starts to manifest in a feeling of being trapped or stuck. Those feeling build on each other and bleed into my interactions with the kids and with my wife and I am far less patient than I should be.

Adding another kid to the mix has played a big part as well. When we just had one, and a baby at that, it was much easier to get out and about with friends. Now with the two boys it becomes more work to go out with them, and a good deal of planning to find a way to leave them at home. I am also a lot more worn out from caring for my two boys plus the third little monster in the mix that I look after during the week. After a long day of running around with them, cleaning the latest art project, or coming up with three meals a day I don’t have a whole lot of metal energy to come up with something for me to do on my own. I feel like a lot of my creativity is taken up in the day to day tasks of raising the boys leaving me void of ideas for things to do myself. Trying to think of what to do is much harder then just not doing anything so apathy wins out and I pick up the computer instead of meeting a friend for coffee and conversation that doesn’t involve me asking anyone to take their hands off their penis.

When Beautiful comes home from work I don’t want to just clock out, slapping her hand on her way into the house noting that it is her turn to get into the ring and wrestle. I know you working dads know what I mean here, that transition is tough and as much as you want to get right in there and get your parenting on you need to shift gears and ease into it. I feel guilty turn the kids loose on my wife so I stick around too long instead of finding time in there for me. I need to be better at successfully making the hand off and then getting away, even once a week, to recharge. When every minute is about the kids I come to resent them for not having any time for me and that isn’t fair to them. They need me to get away and find more outlets to recharge as much I do. That balance will always be weighted far more in the direction of home but I need to be better about finding those times away that really are for me. Now I just need to come up with ideas for what those are.

Portland Dad writes over at Stay At Home Dad PDX about raising two boys as a stay at home dad. You can also find him on twitter as Portlanddad.

Romancing the stone

Sure its the title of a movie directed by Robert Zemeckis starring Michael Douglas, Kathleen Turner,  and Danny DeVito. It is also a similar feeling to how romance goes once you have kids. I’m real in the fact that once we had a child it was a nose dive – we didnt sleep (heck, we still dont sleep) and sometimes we have different viewpoints on how we’re raising our son. None the less the the action/adventure that made the heat, is slowly turning into drool.

Of course it doesnt help that we’re now sharing our bed with our child.  I dont really talk to much about this topic mainly because I still havent found the balance or a working solution.  Sure I highly suggest Date Night because you need to dress up and wipe off the drool from your shoulder try to act like adults and get out for a moment.  I also highly recommend doing a short vacation without the kids – even if its a stay-cation and you take a local hotel room its great to connect, if you could swing the few days away in paradise it’ll really help you drift away (just make sure whoever is watching the kids know that you’re not to be disturbed unless there is an ER visit!).

I hear couple talk about just wanting to spend time alone – which I do understand too but many people dont… my reasoning is sound in the fact that you need to take care of yourself first then you can take care of others… if you need a moment you need a moment before you can share moments together and really appreciate them.

Romancing the stone is just a funny topic because after such long periods of time you both forget what true passion and romance is to each other… so its almost like we’re both stone.  Sure as a guy we’re almost turned on by any shiny object but to reconnect with your partner/wife is never as simple.  You’re almost required to go to great lengths to make them forget about the day to day with kids, to make them feel special (where usually its about making your children feel special), and most importantly feel connected.

I know how to do awesome dates (it also helps to be in NYC where romance is just a little bit more expensive then a regular meal out) its also easy to toss some romance in to a simple evening at home with the right wine, cheese, and some flowers but to keep that romance there everyday is much harder and goes way beyond telling my wife how beautiful she looks.

Recently the topic of how did our parents and grandparents make this all work – I still wonder that even on romance front (forgetting how did they make it in the car for hours on end without a PSP or a pocket DVD player or an iPod).  Maybe that’s the culture shift and why so many marriages are ending these days – because we’re forgetting to take care of each other and putting so much focus on our children.  Who knows… its a long standing discussion.

My only advice is this – tell your wife/partner how much you care about them, tell them how much they mean to you and inspire passion into you and your life.

Balance; A Concept That Is Not Easy For Most Dads

I ran across an older post over at 21st Century Dad that brought up some good points on what the challenges are for a dad these days. After reading his post I have to agree that though there are many challenges for a mom… yet as a Dad there are also many challenges that one may or may not think of…

I ran across an older post over at 21st Century Dad that brought up some good points on what the challenges are for a dad these days. After reading his post I have to agree that though there are many challenges for a mom… yet as a Dad there are also many challenges that one may or may not think of…

I especially can relate to the fact that as a working father in a job that has a demanding schedule…I have to continually make decisions on whether I will do things that will further my career or do things that maintain or build my relationships with my family at home.

These decisions are not always easy and are many times not in concert with one another…but they have to be made. I always try my best to balance the two…but find that I tend to put more time into work. Even to the extent of checking in on email when I am on vacation…I know, I know…work-a-holic…that is what J-Mom would say… I guess she is somewhat right…I do put a lot into work…but I feel that this is what brings good results to what I do as well, so I am in a bit of a quandary to this as I truly want to be a good husband and father but at the same time, I feel the need to be successful and thrive within my work.

This is at the crux of the challenge of working fatherhood…and I guess I would say working motherhood…how to balance both without sacrificing one (if this is possible).

For me, what I do is try my best to be present when I am at home. I also will do what I can to check in with the family at least once per day to say hello and take a pulse on the situation (Will I need to provide mommy CPR when I get home). I think though the largest issue for me has definitely been being present and trying to do special things with each of my girls when I am at home in the evenings and on the weekends. Sometimes these experiences are with J-Mom and sometimes I try and give her a break away from the kids. All-in-all I try my best, but I am sure that there are better ways to accomplish this balancing act.

What have you done to balance this? Have you been successful at your attempts? What other advice do you have for others struggling with this balance issue?

Honey, I’m home!

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.