Monday, January 22, 2007

The Battle Between Work And Family Life. What Would Elmo Do?

There’s just something about being at work 10 pm on a Sunday that really gets a parent/spouse like myself thinking about ‘the career’ and the future.
I’ve been working a lot the past few weeks and the part that really bothers me most is not seeing the wife and daughter nearly as much as I’d like. I see my daughter for about 30 minutes in the morning and that’s about it.

The other night just made my heart melt, I called the wife (like I do every night while on my 20-minute ‘dinner break’) and talked to my daughter. She was doing her normal chatter about Elmo and then she comes out and says “Daddda --- I-luv-yooooo” all in one breathe. After I said my goodbyes, I hung up the phone and about died. What’s happening to me? That must be the helpless feeling that a parent in jail feels after the kids leave the visiting area – the only difference being that I’m free to choose Coke or Pepsi at dinner. Thankfully, these crazy hours should be over in a week.

The ‘higher-ups’ at work are there all-the-time - even during non-demanding times. These people can be found there until 8-9 every night and also come in on weekends (I sometimes wonder if they sleep in their cars...) The thing that strikes me is that the vast majority of them have spouses and small kids at home. That bothers me - a lot. I’m wondering if that’s my destiny and if I really want a life like that too (I'm on that track...) I’m almost to the point of getting off this soul train. Maybe staying on the slower one that doesn’t require passing up my family along the way, much like those people have done.

My greatest fear is looking back 25 years from now, when my daughter is all grown-up and wishing I would have been there watching her grow (feedings with Elmo, chasing boys away, teaching her how to draw and play video games, crime-fighting, etc.) but somehow missed out because I was too busy working.
Although, on the flip side… What happens if she ends up working at Hot Topic, smokes crack, and runs away with some truck driver/wannabe rock star, actor from Oklahoma?! Then I would be wishing I did spend more time at work. Does anybody know where I can borrow a DeLorean with a flux capacitor?


J in Ric said...

Man, I hear you. When my older boy was 3 (he's six now) I was working about 65-70 hours per week. After one particularly hellish week, I promised both the wife and him that I would be at home on this particular Saturday. Lo and behold, the call came in from the office and I had to go in. As I was heading out the door, he looked up at me and said "Papa, you promised no work" and held onto my leg. I utterly broke down at that point and through tears told him that this was going to end.
It was hard point to come to, but I'm so glad I did at this point rather than when I'm 60 and trying to find ways to connect with my kids at that point. I want to be able to look back with no regrets, you know?

MamaLee said...

I think you already know this, but my husband is a consultant who takes a plane to work every week. He worked from home for years, and spent a few years going into the office. He took this job @2.5 years ago, when Sweetpea was just an infant.

We spent over a year deciding if this job was even the right move for us, considering the fact that he would be out of town most weeks. Our priority was/is the kids.

The kids and I see my husband MORE now with this job, can you believe it. Before he was working a lot of weekends, and late nights. Now, he works from home on Fridays, and the weekends are ALL about family time. Nothing comes before it. (I was a teacher before I had kids, and am now a sahm by our choice.)

We make sure that we all get a chance to talk to Daddy a few times a day, and we even have a webcam so we can chat with each other - the kids LOVE that. We also buy 2 copies of great kids books so that Daddy can bring a copy of each with his to work - he sometimes reads the kids their bedtime stories on the phone.

This works for us, for now. We've created our own schedule, and when my husband is home, he actually gets in OUR way! At some point, when the kids are older, it will be nice to have my husband around more for the kids and all of their activities. But for now, while the kids are small, it works for us.

It wouldn't work for every family, I know. But follow your gut. You don't want to miss anything, for sure. Just make sure that you are happy with your job, and the time you give your family is quality time. Just my 2 cents! Take care!

Lisa said...

Jump off the train now if you can. There are employers out there that actually do believe in work/life balance. Maybe it's time to find one of them?

For the shortrun, what about coming home for dinner, spending some time with the family, and then going back to work when your daughter goes to bed? I mean it sounds like you're coming home after she's already in bed anyway, so what's the difference if you left again once she went down?

Good luck with this one!

Diana said...

LOL- what would elmo do? you kill me.

Im still searching for a way to be home with my son, unfortunately there aren't too many job openings here that would give my husband the money we need to still have a home and food and a car...but I feel your pain. I want to be home with him more than anything...
Hope you can find a way.
(BTW- thanks for the voo-doo)

Be Inspired Always said...

I feel your pain. My husband works to many hours, but his job title expects that of him.

So what I did to make my husband feel less guilty was signed my boys up for cub scouts. It's 2 times a week. It starts at 6pm and sometimes goes til 8. This is quality time that they can spend together. He doesn't have to worry about figuring out what to do, because the leader of the pack does all that. He just shows up with the boys in tow and has a ball.

Now the only problem is finding time with my husband, because our marriage needs to come first sometimes.

"Deep sigh"

radioactive girl said...

I think everyone suffers from this problem. We had some friends from college who decided to get rid of almost all the work responsibilities and moved to the country, farm, and drive cars run by leftover oil from fast food places (I'm sure their day to day stuff entails much more than I just described). That isn't the answer for me, but it's working for them. If you figure out how a dad can be in two places at once, let me know so I can tell my husband!

InterstellarLass said...

We need a revolution in this country. We work more than anyone else in the world, and we are not happier, healthier, or wealthier for it. There are too many people looking for that 'work/life balance' and there are still expections for people to put in crazy hours that they aren't paid for. I prefer my kids to my coworkers. Sadly I have to have a job as the money-from-the-sky-train hasn't hit yet. I'll be happy to stay mid-level in my career until my kids are out of the house. Maybe then it'll be too late. But I won't look back and say "gee, I wish I would have worked more".

(un)relaxeddad said...

It's a tough call and ultimately, it's a lifestyle one. There are days when I regret leaving the kids thing till I hit forty. On the other hand, I'd been working in the kind of industry (New Media) where I was traveling, spending weeks out of the country, pulling the odd all-nighter and so on and whilst I'd begun to consciously pull back on the whole work late/company local/stagger home/get up and go back to work life style, when we seriously began to think about children, I made a conscious break and compromised on money in favour of time.

But it was easy for me - I'd done the stuff I wanted to do, worked with the big clients, whizzed back and forth over the Atlantic and I was bored. I didn't want to become a suit. So I did some freelance for a while then switched track completely into a general management role in HE - I get to work across marketing, sales, product development, team-building AND I see my kid at night. But if I hadn't already been through a certain kind of career cycle I might feel very different!

Good luck - I'm sure your daughter knows that you've her best interests at heart regardless.

chanchow said...

Until recently, I worked at a place where long hours were routine and all-nighters not unusual. I knew it would be rough when I started, but I thought I'd stick it out for a while (and pay off my student loans while I was at it). As someone told me once, the place is like a pie eating contest, where the prize is... more pie.

If the higher ups at your job work all the time, then that's what they'll expect of you. They probably won't be sympathetic to your family situation since they are choosing work over kids themselves. So where's the light at the end of the tunnel?

Mel said...

I won't even try to address your work situation; I think a lot of really smart things have already been said about that here in your comments.
But I will say this: if she ends up working at Hot Topic, smoking crack, and dating a... was it a tow truck driver? LMAO... it won't be because you spent more time with her.
You're a daddy. You love your girl. That's good and right and honorable. And whichever you choose (less work time/same work time/more work time), it's whether your baby knows she's safe and loved that helps to keep her filled with self-respect and the ability to make good choices.

Ben & Bennie said...

CTD, you know our situation pretty well but basically I'm a stay-at-home dad for the most part. In our family it has been mom that has been putting in 70 hours a week phoning in that she'll be home by 9:30.

I can guarantee you you are missing so much at home. At your daughter's age she is changing almost DAILY. If you can, make the time to spend with your family. Don't have those regrets 25 years from now.

One of my regular readers has a brilliant post about this which I linked to today. If you get a chance come on over to read it.

Occidental Girl said...

It's hard to find the balance between work and family, and honestly, you don't hear men talk about it that much.

Anyway, it's hard whoever you are. Hopefully work will slow down for you soon. For now, maybe you're working through a nasty tantrum phase. :)

Octopus Grigori said...

Hey, if she ends up working at Hot Topic you can get sweet deals on Incredible Hulk t-shirts!

Seriously, though, I hear you on the work/life thing. I thought I moved out to L.A. for more of the life stuff.

Pete Aldin said...

Man, I hear ya. I worked 80 hours a week during my second son's first year of life. I remember virtually nothing from it and I'm amazed he loves me and has bonded with me.

Never again.

Em said...

The sadness in your posting was very evident. It is hard to be away from your kids. If your long hours only happen now and then...not so bad. But when you feel like you are missing part of your life...that starts to hurt. And once she runs off with the truck driver, you'll be glad you spent time with her when she was at home! LOL

What's the old one on their death bed every said "I wish I had spent more time at work".

Sarah O. said...

ctd, I hear you. I used to be a suit at an ad agency and never left before 8 pm. I never even considered having kids with that schedule.

Now Hubby travels A LOT in his work and I stay home. Who do the kids love best? Hubby! I figure I function as the pain in the butt producer: When he's home he's the Special Guest Star.

Feel no guilt. Your little girl knows you adore her.

Denver Dad said...

Ugh. That's tough. I work from home half of the week and even then, I feel like I miss a lot. It's not a perfect situation, but it does has its advantages. I hope you can figure out a way or schedule that works for you.

Ruth Dynamite said...

Great post and insightful comments! Tony - just because all the big kids are doing it doesn't make it right. (But you already know this.) Regardless of whatever path you choose, your daughter will love you just same.

Mrs. Chicky said...

This is sort of what my husband and I went through (sometimes we still go through it) when he had to make the decision to go for the job with better pay and more prestige or stay where he was. He still doesn't get to see our daughter as much as he would like (maybe 30 - 45 minutes a day) but at least he sees her. Its hard to give up on the fast track, especially when there is decent money involved. Maybe with the extra scratch you can make your own flux capacitor.

CrankMama said...

You write about this struggle beautifully (AND refer to a CAR at the end, how brilliantly male!)... It's so nice to find that working mommies aren't the only ones getting our hearts ripped out by these choices.

You rule!

creative-type dad said...

Thanks for the feedback everybody.

If I ever find that steel car, I'm letting you all borrow it.

ronUpNorth said...

man, I could never do it. At 5 o'clock I run out the door at work. Although I am on call occasionally, I'm lucky to work in a laid back department that encourages us to go home to our families. Which is rare in my field, the IT field.

Anonymous said...

I am self employed for 25 years with 20 employees. Found that I worked 10-12 Hours but started early so home at 5PM. When at work I did work and when at home and weekends I did family. Never mixed the two. Train yourself to walk away from the work that will never all get done anyway. But the kids will grow with or without you!