Dad’s Working Late so What Now?

I get a lot of discussion from folks about how my life must be a lot different now that my oldest daughter has left home for college.

Yes, some of that is about the fact that my daughter has left and I don’t feel remotely old enough to have a daughter at the age I was when I met her mother.  I certainly don’t feel old enough to think she is old enough to have the experiences I did, some of which I don’t ever plan on telling her about.

Hannah, Noah and Sam
Hannah, Noah and Sam

But a big contingent of people talk like my life had to shift to working really, really hard, as if my burden has increased exponentially.  It’s similar to the feelings that were expressed just after my wife passed away: “oh, you poor, poor, man.  You poor masculine individual who, with no maternal instinct or experience must be destined to fail.”  (Okay, nobody said this, but it certainly felt that way initially.)  But the reality was that, while I relied on Abbi for some things I didn’t rely on her for everything.  I think Abbi did the dishes in the house a handful of times.  She had a job so she actually picked the kids up from the school’s extended care program at roughly 6pm.  I was home by 6:30 or 7, leaving roughly an hour for her to watch them.

By the way, I cooked dinner.  Nearly every single night.  Abbi did a couple, but they were usually experiments that she wanted to try.  For the most part, I cooked, did the laundry, vacuumed the floor, all of that.

So when Abbi left, the reality of the situation is that things didn’t increase that awful much.  The biggest changes came for her sister and brothers.  My middle daughter started high-school, going to the public school for the first time.  My sons had to move to a different elementary school so we could utilize the bus.  Where Abbi watched her sibs about an hour a day her middle sister actually watches them far more.  She does her homework while the boys do theirs and they have to clean up the kitchen and their stuff from the living room each day.  They generally fail at getting their chores done before I get home, but I ask anyway.  Every…single…day.

At work, Covering California: Insuring Your Health
At work, Covering California: Insuring Your Health

So this last week, after my job had me working on an 11-part news series on the changes in healthcare along with a town hall meeting about the same changes I had to work late a lot of days.  I planned out what they could eat while I was there.  Mac and Cheese, because they like it, one night.  Pizza another.  Yeah, it’s not homemade and it’s not complicated, but it’s there.  I made stew in a crock pot and cooked it all day on another occasion.  Pasta sauce came one night while all my daughter had to cook was the pasta and heat up the sauce in the microwave.

The big change is how they all reacted to my being gone every night for almost a week.  I come home, if early enough, and tuck them in.  If I don’t, I go upstairs, kiss the boys goodnight, and tell them I love them, even as they dream of dinosaurs and time travel.  Hannah, my middle daughter, won’t go to bed while I am gone.  She waits for me, much like I waited, even after she graduated high school, for her sister when she went out each night.  Work is work, but there is comfort in knowing when your parents are home.  If one is all you have . . . you want that one to be safe.  I get that.

So each morning I’m up early and fixing breakfast and prepping the dinner for the night, just to be safe.

I am proud of how the kids have adjusted to these changes.  I’m also proud that in years past they would have over-reacted.  Little kids act out because they have no other outlet.  It’s a testament to growth and maturity that my sons have gotten better at telling me what they need and not getting angry or acting out at school.

We’ve been through a lot of changes this year, sure, but now they’re living like champs.  Working late used to worry me, and it still does, but now I love coming home and hearing what they’ve been storing up for me.

I may be working late, but it’s a testament to how far I’ve come that I can work late.

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