Through the magic of paternity leave and a corporate holiday shutdown I was able to take 15-1/2 straight days off of work last month. It wasn’t super relaxing with all the holiday running around, visits (everyone wants to see the new baby!), and general ruckus. But it was definitely two things: 1) time away from work; and 2) nearly 100% spent with my wife and new son. And despite the fractured sleep, general holiday stress, and ever-present learning parenting learning curve, I had a lot of fun. So now as I’m 1 week into the new work year, things feel a bit different. The work I’m doing doesn’t feel as critical and important as it once did. I’m a lot less tolerant and quicker to weed out the things that I do that are pointless and wasting my time (there wasn’t much there anyway, but still). I’m kinda irritable and a little bit annoyed at things.
That’s when hit hit me: I miss being home with my wife and son. And not just because I don’t have to do work. I can honestly say I like my current job and career path and enjoy coming to work most days. Let’s be clear: parenting is work, and when I leave my day job I go home to my second job. Only my second job is way more fun and rewarding. And for that reason I feel like when I’m at my day job that I’m missing out. It feels weird to come home and change a diaper when I haven’t changed the one before it. I’m agitated that I can only spend a few hours with him before having to prepare for the next day – prep for breakfast and lunch, then do pet chores, wash, rinse, and repeat. Worse, some part of me feels like I’m not being a parent, not taking care of my son, because I’m at work. Isn’t that ridiculous? I know logically that working provides financial support and stability and that’s one of the core tenets of being a parent. But it’s indirect. It’s not tangible. It requires me to be away from him. And right now I don’t like it one bit.
I know that this is just an adjustment thing and eventually I’ll be comfortable with it, but I’m not sure I really want to be truly at ease. We all know that time accelerates and kids grow up way too fast. He’s already growing up before my eyes; it’s amazing, wonderful, scary, and sad all at the same time. I don’t want to open the door to prioritizing work over my son. A good friend of my wife’s gave me some good food for thought when we were discussing how she balanced work and family. To paraphrase, she said “When I’m at work, I’m working. When I’m at home, I’m a mom.” This resonated with me then and even more so now. When I’m at work, I’m an engineer. When I’m at home, I’m a dad.
Now if only those “make millions from the comfort of your own home” scams really worked……