OK, so I don’t work Fridays, and that’s an increduble luxury. It gives me all sorts of wonderful opportunities that I wouldn’t have otherwise. I get to wake up when the kids wake up. I get to walk my daughter to school in the morning, volunteer in her classroom during the day, and pick her up again in the afternoon. I get to take my son along to run errands, go to the comic book shop, or just play on the swings in the backyard. We usually get to take the kids on some sort of outing in the afternoon, and we always order pizza and snuggle down together for Friday night movie-night. I’m incredibly lucky. Other dads would kill to have what I have. But do you notice the common thread there?
My daughter’s typical pattern on a Friday is once we get home from school she gets some food in her tummy and then she heads off into her room, puts the (metaphorical) “do not disturb” sign on the doorknob, shuts the door and walls herself off from the rest of the world for an hour or more. She needs that time, that quiet time, that time to herself where she can be alone, unmolested, with her own uninterrupted thoughts. She plays by herself and sheads off the accumulated stress from the week. When she finally emerges she’s a happier girl.
Have I mentioned how my daughter and I are cut out of the same cloth?
I understand why she does it. I need that time too. Here’s the catch. My daughter doesn’t have 2.5 kids, a dental practice and a Daddy-worshiping 3-year-old son to manage. I do.
This is not a complaint. It’s exactly what I’ve always wanted, my entire life. I’ve got it and I feel lucky beyond my station because of it. But the reality is I’m a small business owner, a husband and a father — and that means there are people in my life who’s needs are more important than my own. Like Michael Keaton said in “Multiplicity”, I feel like my work comes first, my family is a close second and I’m a distant third. My being home on Fridays is such a luxury, my family takes full advantage (as they should). As much as I love it, it’s FRACKING CONSTANT.
For Pete’s sake, even driving in the car from one errand to another, forget focusing on an interesting story on NPR; my 3-year-old is in the back seat, “Daddy, look at this. Daddy, is this a reptile? Daddy, where are we going? Daddy, I see a stopsign. Daddy…” There is absolutely ZERO time to accomplish anything non-kid related these days (have you noticed the drop-off in blog post frequency? That’s the daddy-worshiping 3-year-old guarding my free time very jealously.)
All I need is an hour to myself, in my soundproofed mancave where I can’t hear my kids pounding outside the locked door, demanding my attention (I also need a soundproofed mancave, but that’s a blog post for another time).
But that’s not going to happen.
I look at how hard my wife works at it all week. She’s got both of them all day, every day — and most nights too. She’s got to juggle their extra curricular schedules, their lack of naps, their meals, their squabbles and every other incidental. I can’t justify heading out on my mountain bike for an hour or two of zen on my Friday off of work when my wife hasn’t been able to go to the bathroom with the door closed the entire week. In all honesty I believe kids deserve everything you can put into them, and if that means every single solitary spare second of free time, that’s what it means. I am NOT going to spend an hour playing online video games (my gaming friends have all but given up on me) when my son wants me to go out and make mudpies in the backyard with him… which is always. My wife, bless her heart, sees when it’s getting to me. The signs are all there. My shoulders creap up towards my ears. I use fewer and fewer words in my sentences and when my son calls out “Daddy!” I respond with “Son!”. When she offers to take the boy with her to Target so I can have some time to myself I clench my jaw and lie through my teeth. “No, no. Go. We’ll be fine” I say, because I know that she’s had even less her-time than I have all week, and I can’t imagine a scenario where she doesn’t need to be alone with her thoughts more than I do.
Yeah, yeah. I know. Of course I’ve heard it. “You have to take time for yourself once in a while, for your sake AND your family’s”. Whatever. Maybe my “me-time” needs are unreasonably excessive. Whether or not that’s the case, I can tell you that they’re profoundly unrealistic. But that doesn’t change the fact that that I still have them.
It’s a minor problem that, like everything else in the parenting world, will likely change abruptly before I realize it. For now, through my clenched jaw and pulsing temple I will keep reminding myself that it’s a good problem to have. File this one in the “parenting is not for the weak” folder.
This is probably the right time to let you in on a little secret. My entire life I’ve always been a morning person. I can wake up at 5:00 without batting an eye, but it’s not because I need a long time to get ready. I can be up and out of the door in 20 minutes if I have to. I love getting up and standing outside to watch the sun rise and listen to the sound of stillness — that, and it’s the ONLY time of the day when nobody is demanding my attention, and I can be alone with my own thoughts.
Now please excuse me. My son is desperately trying to get me to make “soup” with him in the backyard (whatever that means) and I’ve been putting him off for far too long to write this post.