Sunday, April 19, 2009

Dad-E Come Home

It's the phrase that tears at my heartstrings, the words that make my gut sink like dead weight.

"Dad-E come home."

I'll preface things by saying that I feel very fortunate in the current economic climate. I have a job that I like very much. My work hours are pretty regular and predictable. I have dinner with my family (and sometimes am the primary chef) greater than 90% of days in the month, and the few days that I don't are scheduled in advance. I have time to coach Big Brother's soccer team. I enjoy most every weekend at home with my family. When I have to travel to meetings, my family is often able to come with me.

Needless to say, I empathize with dads whose work pulls them away from their family for extended periods of time.

That all said, it's still hard for me to say "bye" to the boys (and Busy-Mom-E) in the morning.

I'd like to think that many dads, especially those with younger children, have similar sentiments. It's just that we often don't talk about them (but should.)

I'm torn because I love them and I want to spend as much time with them as possible, but unfortunately there's no such thing as a "complimentary paycheck."

I also know that by going to work (week)daily, I'm teaching the boys that work is important. I'm also fulfilling my mother's challenge to "leave the world a little better each day than I found it."

However, despite the noble intentions of these ideas, they often don't satisfy a 4 year-old who just wants to see his Dad-E, whether I left 24 minutes or 24 hours ago.

And so Saturday night, Big Brother called me, the first words out of his mouth being "Dad-E come home." "Hi buddy!" I replied. "Dad-E come home now!" he insisted.

There's no easy answer to this dilemma. It's a balancing act, and one that's much easier said then done. I think it's important to focus my time and energy on the boys (and Mom-E) when I'm home, which is still hard when you're trying to help cook dinner, clean up, finish the bedtime routine, etc, and you just remembered one more work-related email that needs sending.

Ultimately, one of the most important things I can do as a Dad-E is have fun with and engage my boys, regardless of what we're doing. So, we sing silly songs and play games like "aachoo", talking all the while about their day. And of course we read (a lot) at night.

I also try to do some extra things to make the boys feel special. We have "date night". Sometimes I surprise them with a "Blue's Clues" notebook or Monsters, Inc. socks from the $1 bins at Target.

Today, it worked out that after church and lunch, Big Brother got my undivided attention for a few hours (everyone else passed out and fell asleep). I took him to ride his bike (man is he getting good. I'll blink and the training wheels will be gone). We played some "catch" (T-ball starts in May = plenty of new blog fodder.) We skipped dirt rocks in a stream.

And then we came home and pretty much built/drew the Island of Sodor on our driveway. (Click on the picture to enlarge for more detail.)

It was a good day. I felt about as far away from work as I could possibly be (except maybe if Mom-E and I were on the beach at St. Lucia.)

Boys, I just want you to know that when I'm at work, I think about you and miss you very much. I know that someday (too soon) you'll come to understand more of this. For now, just know that you are my most important (and fun) job, and you always will be.

Have a good week,


  1. I remember those days all too well. It was so hard for me to leave Miss K in daycare while I went to work. Now that I am a stay at home mom I appreciate the time that I have with them, but have also realized that its important to have those moments away from the kids. You come back to them more refreshed and energetic to see them again. This is a lesson I still have a hard time performing because I feel guilty leaving them with a babysitter. Its always a juggling act with parenthood and work. Rosi

  2. I miss my son every day when I work. I am even more miserable when I travel. I don't know what I will do when he says "Daddy come home."

  3. Oh this makes me sad...I return to work from maternity leave next friday. :( Aunt-E

  4. It's good to know that Dads feel the same longings as Moms. I hate being away from kids during the work week... only having wake up, dinner, and bedtime with them and very little playtime. But I figure I can spend my energy wishing for things to be different or I can make sure the time we have is good (hence some of ramblings on my blog today).

  5. I hear ya, Busy-Dad-E. I changed jobs 3 years back to spend more time with my family. My new company is awesome. We have a play room for the kids so that they can hang out at work with us and we do a lot of family things as a company. I couldn't work for a more family friendly company, and, knock on wood, I still have a job. :)

  6. @Rosi: I agree that some amount of time away from the kids is good to "recharge" our parental batteries. Fortunately they recharge pretty quickly.

    @Otter: I hear you, both about work and travel. However, don't forget you're teaching your son a valuable lesson about work ethic and that work is important.

    @Aunt-E: I know it's a hard transition, but you guys will strike a balance. Just like I told Otter, it's important to set an example for our kids regarding work. Your work will no doubt go a long way to positively shape Little Cousin's attitudes towards women.

    @Liz: Yep, I think that many dads feel these longings, we just don't often express them. Quality time is important. Work sets a good example for our kids.

    @SMD: I'm envious of the nature of your company. That sounds like a great arrangement.

  7. Great thoughts. Fortunately am rarely on the road these days either. Always, always, always hard to leave, though sometimes good material to blog about: cheers.

  8. Nice post. I am lucky enough to have weekends off with the NYPD. Not many of us can say that. There are days when I can not come home due to unscheduled events and it nothing burns the brain more than : "Daddy, come home".