My wife is a SAHM- and a damn good one too. Me? I’m pretty nearly a SAWD- or a ‘Stay At Work Dad.’ – This is not to say that I spend long hours at the office, or going on giant business trips or anything like that. I don’t hold the title of “Executive” anything.
Instead, I work two local jobs, potentially on the verge of picking up a third in an attempt to further myself along professionally, as well as make sure we have food.
I’m not complaining. Millions of dads have done this before me. My own father worked two jobs AND attended night school in order to get ahead and provide for us, so bitching about having to work would make me a mewling ingrate and not at all worthy of the family I have.
My confession then, has to do with what toll this takes on my parenting abilities. One of my jobs requires me to be gone all day, three days a week, which is pretty normal a work day. The second job, I work from home answering support phone calls. Between not being there three days a week, and being present, but worthless to my family as a parent the other two days- I feel as though my contributions to the family dynamic are minimal at best. Quite often, I’ll find myself getting short with the oldest and hurting his feelings or exacerbating a problem before my wife steps in to inform me that “He’s not feeling well” or “I told him he could do that” – or one of a dozen scenarios similar.
There are days when I honestly feel completely worthless as a parent. Indeed, there are times when I feel like I’m watching the boys grow up from the outside.
One of the things I do on the side, is drive for a local ambulance service. This can require me to hop off at any given time that I’m on call, dumping the kids firmly in the lap of my wife as I seek out the few meager dollars that an on-call run will net me. Worse than that, is the volunteer fire department. Again requiring me to run off and do something- but this time there’s nothing to show for it except a funky smell on my clothes and a bone-weary exhaustion that requires MORE of my wife as I try to catch up on sleep.
So where’s the line? Do I drop these ‘extra curricular’ activities in an attempt to better myself as a father? Especially since the gains from them are negligible at best?
The answer is an obvious yes to anyone who isn’t in a similar situation. A zillion people (cause that’s how many will read this) who have never driven a sick old man to the hospital in the middle of a frozen night, or pried loose a trapped woman from a mangled car will look down the bridges of their nose at me and tell me that I need to give these silly things up, help my wife, raise my kids, and never look back.
The trouble is…..I can’t. I’d give up the two paying tech jobs before I stopped doing those other things.
Herein lies the confession.
Between my work, and my ‘outside crap’ – I sacrifice vital parenting time to pursue things outside the home which don’t help my wife or kids any. In essence, I’m putting the needs of others before those of my family. I know it. Every time I rush out the door, or climb into a rig, I know exactly what I’m doing, but I can’t, effing stop.
The real killer is that I’m not in any way, shape, or form, a hero. I’m a small town volunteer whose most serious calls usually involve car accidents because people from out of town don’t know how to drive on winter roads, or someone’s 3rd vacation home burns down because they were remotely trying to fix the heat from their condo a thousand miles away.
…..the ONLY reason I can get away with it? Is my wife’s understanding of the problem I have. She’s woken me up in the night because a pager is going off calling me away….again.
I know for a fact that my work and my extras are hurting my ability to parent. This isn’t to say that I don’t try to make up where I can. I’m constantly ribbing the Mrs. for not waking me up if the baby cries in the night so I can get him back to sleep, I try like hell to take the oldest with me when I run errands or go out somewhere, I cook dinner here and there for everyone- there are surely things that I’m doing to plug the gaps, but I still can’t help but feel that no matter what, I’m doing it all entirely wrong.
So completely, and inexplicably wrong.