I always placed a big emphasis on work (the one that pays you, not the one you go to when you get home to the kids). Deals, paperwork, negotiations, meetings, and appointments were always something I felt like I couldn’t miss. If I were working, then all else (outside an emergency) should be put to the side. My attitude about work comes from my dad, a career corporate man. He never came home early for anything my sister or I had to go to in his life. And why? He was working, for his family. A chance at hitting a monthly quota, in his mind, was as important as taking me for a flu shot.
I’m not quite the ‘Tin Man’ my dad was. I left work early or even during the middle of it, to take care of something for the kids. However, most times, when asked by my wife to take our kids somewhere (anywhere), I looked at as some sort of disrespect for my job (…don’t ask, I’m a moron). I understood my wife was working too and shouldn’t be expected to drop everything either. I also understood the importance of just being at their soccer games is vastly more important than any win or loss but I still couldn’t shake being a little annoyed because my wife asked me to drop everything I was doing to be the shuttle bus.
The unfortunate part, when I was working and had to come home early or miss a meeting, I missed the kids’ reactions to me being with them. I wasn’t angry, unpleasant, or uncaring about their well-being but what I was concerned with was driving them to wherever they needed to be and back again so I’d have a chance at getting back to work so I wouldn’t miss out on anything. But I did miss out, just not from anything at work. I missed their smiles because I felt like I should be at work. I forgot to squeeze a little harder than they did when they hugged me because I was thinking about the voicemail a customer had left me.
Things changed this May. I was let go from the job I had previously proclaimed to be so important and found myself sitting at home wondering if the dog really listens to me or if she’s patronizing me for a dog treat. According to my wife (who is getting a regular paycheck right now), if I’m the one who’s home, I might as well be the one to take the kids where they need to go…and she’s right (dammit). I’m home. It’s not as though I’m working, having to cut days short or rearrange my appointments for the kids’ appointments. I have been transformed from Corporate America drone worried about setting appointments and closing deals to Stay At Home Dad worried about what I’m going to make for dinner and how I’m going to get that juice stain out of the carpet. I’m cleaning, cooking, grocery shopping, I’m at the bus stop every day at 4pm waiting for the kids to get home from school (and swapping secrets with the moms waiting there), and I’m driving my kids to wherever they need to go. I’ve driven to soccer evaluations, eye doctor appointments, play dates, birthday parties, and I’ve driven them to school and from school. I just leave my car in idle now, like a tractor trailer, so its always ready to go.
Now that I am home and not consumed with power ties, the next business opportunity or making one more appointment, I see things differently. I see my kids’ faces light up when they come off the school bus and see me standing on the corner waiting for them. I hear the endearment in their voices when they say “Hi Daddy” when I come to their school to pick them up. I squeeze them a little harder than they squeeze me as we hug. I’m not consumed by how quickly we can get to and back from wherever it is we are going either. I am more interested in taking a longer way home or driving 5mph under the speed limit to spend a little more time with them in the car.
Whenever I get back to work (hopefully soon if the 7,000 resumes I sent have anything to say about it) I’ll treat it as important as I always have. That is until I’m asked to leave work early for the kids, then, you had better believe, I’ll be driving.