WORK AT HOME DAD: SUN UP TO MIDNIGHT
About 17 years ago, I was asked to make a decision worthy of Solomon. My employer gave me the choice of commuting to the office every day, which sometimes took between 30 minutes and two hours depending on traffic, or working at home with a high-speed connection. I pondered the proposal.
Office commuting meant Howard Stern in the morning, big sandwiches with fries for lunch and the snack machine down the hall… away from the healthy and diet-laden fare at home. It also meant exasperation with, and exhaustion from bad drivers and bad weather. Missed bed times and momentous happenings with my baby daughter.
Working at home could mean pajamas instead of suits. Cooing with my daughter and canoodling with my wife. An extra hour (or two) of sleep. It also could mean continually getting in my wife’s way… as well as my own. Drastic changes in my career arc. And no inter-office gossip around the water cooler. (Okay, the snack machine.)
The working dads I knew growing up departed in the wee hours of the morning and came home just in time for a home-cooked meal. No fuss, no daily mess caused by at-home situations. Evening news and evening papers awaited them at the door. Their familial enjoyment came on weekends and over vacations. What occurred between 8am and 6pm happened at the office. That was their home away from home.
I knew what I had to do. It was short decision. I mean, it was a shorts and t-shirt decision. I would go where no working dad I had known had ever gone before. I was going to the semi-finished basement where my swivel chair and desk awaited me. I was coming home.
That was nearly two decades ago… and I am still working at that same desk, different chair. And I have moved up… up to one of the bedrooms. Career arc… same orbit, different day.
Those extra sleep hours… not. Yes, I have enjoyed the cooing, coddling and chatter of home life. But now I enjoy the carpooling and daily chores that come with being a “Work-at-Home Dad.” Sun up to sun up, it’s 24 hours on the metaphorical treadmill. (Well, not really metaphorical as I take business calls while I’m on the treadmill.)
Unlike my forefathers (and father-in-law), I am involved and invaluable in the day in, day out workings of my ever-buzzing household. Here’s just an average day for an average working Joe (I mean, Brian) in the heart of my suburban WAHD jungle.
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Wake up at 6:30am to awaken my teenage princess who grumbles and gurgles and gnashes her teeth at me
Pee, poop, pop some pills, put on ripped sweats and stained shirt
Walk the dog who decides to peer, peek and pee on anything she sees
Make breakfast and lunch for the young lady engaged in a heated debate about hair straightening with my wife
Take a conference call with Europe, return texts, read tweets, take out the recyclables
Drive aforementioned princess to middle school in newer car so she’s not embarrassed
Take another conference call as I get gas for my wife’s car. Get stuck behind school buses (Boy, I am stuck!)
Come home with phone still in my ear. Wife is leaving for work (Yes, she no longer stays home – she is a nursery-school teacher)
Must decide on dinner preference (before breakfast) so wife can defrost
Get list of medical and personal calls that may come in… and how to respond
Get list of things I could pick up… if I have the time
Get a nice kiss goodbye as she stumbles off to other peoples’ kids
Bowl of cereal and almond milk in hand, I ‘m office-bound. Shoes have been jettisoned
Rounds of emails and conference calls while I peruse AOL, Facebook and Huffington Post (I am ga-ga over Google)
Listen to my mother complain about Florida weather while I listen to someone communicate the new corporate strategy
Put up a laundry. Fold laundry from day before. Give dog a treat (Is there a trick to this?)
Raid pantry for pretzels, and a handful of Ritz crackers. Diet be gone. Still on another conference call
Lunch time. At desk or kitchen counter. (Boy, do I want sushi and a beer!)
More work. Time to pick up daughter at school.
Back to home office. Wife home. Ten-minute morning recap; twenty minutes on rest of the day
Still on conference call, I pick up daughter and take her to soccer practice. Off to gym. Tension headache is gone. Breathing is gone
Pick up prescriptions and dry cleaning (Not sure why I have dry cleaning)
Dinner. If summer, I barbecue. If winter, I barbecue… just in snow boots. Wife handles clean up and sides
Take out trash. Take out dog. Take out my frustrations on some cookies
Tell daughter to turn off computer. Kisses goodnight (That’s nice)
More emails, possibly a conference call with China (Late-night Chinese sounds good right now)
Pay bills. Very depressed
Slide into bed around 11pm. Small talk with wife who is half asleep
Wired and wound up, it’s channel surfing until 12:30am unless I find Shawshank Redemption
Hundredth viewing of Shawshank. I am wide awake until Morgan Freeman gets to Mexico
Set alarm – house and clock
Three am peeing time (I’ve hit that age)
Morning has broken
* * * * * * * * * * * *
And so it goes. Yes, there are variations on the theme. There’s charity work, roundtrips to pick up my elder daughter from college, dinners out and double dates. Holiday get-togethers and short, happy hops into Manhattan. There’s even relaxing on the couch and the occasional vacation recuperation.
Yet, with your office always beckoning, children always asking, wife always hoping… you’ll to come to bed before 10pm, the daily grind of the Work-at-Home Dad never seems to grind to a halt. It’s my mad, mad, WAHD world.
But would I hit the proverbial road again… and not for another Trader Joe’s run? I have to say NO because “Working at Home” is no work at all when you get to see the ones you love from sun up to sun down.
Because there are only so many hours in the day, and spending everything you earn with the people you love is better than vending-machine Twizzlers any old time.
NOTE: This article first appeared in The Good Men Project blog at http://goodmenproject.com/featured-content/got-workin-day-night/