Editor’s Note: While CT Working Moms is mainly a place for moms, every now and then we’ll be sharing posts from dads too.
One of the things that I have focused on, struggled with, and often questioned is how to effectively achieve a work-life balance. This radically changed since becoming a father. I don’t know if I will ever achieve perfection, but what I know is that it requires effort and planning to maintain the delicate balance. But there are times when I wonder when I will topple over.
I think when you are a kid you fail to realize how difficult the work-life balance can be for a parent. I look back at how my parents were able to accomplish it. Both my parents worked full-time jobs and played an active role in their children’s lives. My father coached our sports teams, took us camping, and attempted dinner when our mother wasn’t home. My mother shuttled us to and from practices, rehearsals, or a friend’s house, while also maintaining an immaculate house and provided us with meals (often less than immaculate). They both wanted to be part of our lives. They worked together, shared the required tasks, and figured it out. It wasn’t perfect, but I have tried to learn from their practices, so that I can play an active role in my daughter’s life.
As parents, we all want to provide the very best for our children, allow them to experience new things, and give them all the possibilities available to them. It is sometimes a tight rope to walk to make those things happen.
I want to be with my daughter in the morning and spend time with her before bed. I want to play games and witness her experience through her eyes for the first time. Sometimes it is difficult to do with a full-time job, especially when that job requires me to occasionally be in early and work beyond midnight. Those are instances I can’t control, but there are things I can. I am able to do some work from home after she has gone to bed, do household chores or workout while she naps or attends a play group. In addition to my 9-5 job, I am often called away at a moment’s notice when dispatched to a fire call. I have abruptly missed far too many meals, bath times, and cuddling in the warm indoors during a snow storm, because I am working a standby shift at the fire house. This is difficult, but I manage. Hopefully as she gets older she will be able to witness the hard work that is needed to do something you believe is right. Life would be different if we had different jobs or one of us stayed home. But we work together to share the responsibilities to balance life’s requirements.
My wife and I rotate the days that we wake up in the morning with our daughter – which could be anywhere between 5:00 a.m. and 6:30 a.m. Along with each of us having work and maintain our personal lives, we alternate responsibilities such as feeding, getting her dressed in the morning or ready for bed in the evening, bringing her to various appointments and putting her down for a nap or bed.
My wife participants with our daughter in many MOMS Club playgroups and activities. She is the one that prepares her homemade food and ensures that she has diapers and other necessities. I am the one that gives her a bath, does a large amount of the household work, or often takes her on walks and runs in the stroller. I am sure as she gets older I will be the one coaching her sports teams, shuttling her from place to place, and helping with school work. It isn’t a competition, and there are arguments, but we try to maintain fairness so we each can maintain the balance.
Then there are the things that attempt to throw you off. While our daughter is not even two and we have many years of parenting to succeed and fail at, it does require a team effort. A child is a 20lb innocent soul, but in many instances acts like a 250lb linebacker coming at us with complete fury. Without a solid double team effort between mother and father we will be knocked over. Children are model strategists often targeting the individual parent weaknesses. Our counter strategy is direct. I am typically the “go-to” when she isn’t feeling well or in a bad mood, but mom is the enforcer.
On days where our daughter is off with family or daycare and we have the house to ourselves, I fail to remember what it was like before she was born. It wasn’t too long ago. But as easy as it may have been, I would not give up the life and family I have now for anything. Besides, sleep is overrated anyway.