I got home at a decent hour last night, which is fairly regular lately. It’s funny, because in my previous job I wasn’t. My time was all over the map. That doesn’t mean that I can say with certainty “I’ll be home at X:XX every night, kids” it varies. Sometimes it’s 6pm, others it’s 7. Sometimes the train is late. Sometimes I shoot longer than normal and I can’t get home until later. But it doesn’t change the fact that the normal routine where I had long arduous hours has changed.
That doesn’t fix things in a kid’s mind, though. Last night I got home, saw the kids’ faces (well, all but my oldest’s) get all excited when they realized I was making tacos for dinner, and then got ready to finish all the dinner preps. It’s not particularly easy to do considering the fact that the house is a mess and – in my less than subtle statement – I tell the kids it looks like some kind of hoarder lives here. I pick up a little each night, but then the daily routine doesn’t get everything situated with all this is falling into disarray.
I also had to make arrangements for one of the days this week to get a babysitter for the kids. Abbi is in school but the other three have Spring Break. Between burning fuel to drive them North to their aunt’s house and finding a babysitter for Thursday when they have nobody to watch them I’m going mad and broke simultaneously. I am definitely starting to feel the drain and the stress of it all. I have the week taken care of, but the strange shift, the difference in days off, the kids not off at the same time, is a killer and I hear it from all parents, not just from my own mouth.
Then Noah, one of the twins, in the middle of getting ready for bed, asks me if I’m working all week.
“I have to, kiddo, I don’t have vacation scheduled.”
“Why, Noah, what do you need?”
His brother Sam chimed in.
“We just like it better when you’re home, Dad. When we are off we like to be with you.”
It’s both heart warming and heart breaking. I truly wish my kids had what I did: a parent home to take care of them. I know my poor Mom had no vacation from us, no day off, but every morning I had breakfast (as do my kids) and she was there every day after school, summer vacation, even Spring and Fall breaks.
But I can’t do that. No matter how much I want to, even if by some miracle I found a way to make a good living working at home, there is still work to be done. Short of winning the lottery, there’s not much I can do about it. We’re in the situation for good or ill. But how do you tell an 8-year-old that? How do you say you know their friends’ Moms are home this week and every week and you can’t have that? How do you tell them that you know it’s harder with Mom gone and you wish she was here too? It’s not fair to tell them how much you miss their Mom , too. You just show them you’re not really in control of it all, which they need more than anything.
That’s the main thing, too. They miss their Mom. They’ve not gotten over the hump of feeling like she left and worrying that I’m not going to be there, too. I can tell them I’ll do everything in my power to be there and take care of them, but there will always be that nagging doubt in their heads. Their Mom, after all, was there on Monday, in the hospital Tuesday and gone on Saturday. What’s to stop that from happening again?
What I have to tell them is they can’t walk around worried and in fear that it will. Bad things happen. I wish they didn’t. Sometimes in order to get to the top of the hill you have to trudge through the shit and mire that is at the bottom, working your way to the top. On the way you’ll get cut, fall, have scrapes and occasional infections. You won’t get there unscathed. You’ll be hurt and may even fall. The key is not stopping halfway. We’ve made it this far. The hardest, sure, are coming. I don’t know how I’m going to get them all at college or pay for their clothes or get to this Saturday when the boys have their birthdays, even!
But what they can take some solace in is the fact that, other than when they visit their grandparents over the summer, when the work day is over, I’m home.
And they are there with me. They are a reason to be home.