Balance. Well, more to the point, balance within the bounds of fatherhood. I suck at it.
Over the past year, there’s been plenty of change in my life, both professionally and personally, that has contributed to me ending up in a place that I’m not overly comfortable with, proud of or even aware of (at times). I’ve shifted positions within my career, which has caused an entirely unforeseen tsunami of chaos. Suddenly I’m forgetful, distracted, scatterbrained. And while plenty of folks see these are extensions of their normal personality, to me they are regretful expressions of my time and attention being stretched thin, and my inability to control professional stress that is causing fractures in an otherwise composed personality. My entire life I’ve been “together,” and lately I feel as if things are quickly disintegrating. I keep searching for balance, for the middle ground that’s safe, but every time I feel like I’m making progress the variables change again.
I’m at a complete loss as to how fathers–or parents in general, but I can only speak from a father’s perspective–are able to maintain a balance of Mr. Professional (dedicated, trustworthy and loyal employee) with Dad (engaged parent able to spend time and nurture his children’s growth) and Husband (attentive, supportive teammate). I know the stakes. I am aware of what’s required. I know that I’m more than competent at succeeding at each role’s requirements. What I’m continually stumped at is how to fit it all in, how to keep all the proverbial juggling balls in the air concurrently.
Everything comes with a tradeoff, an opportunity cost. I get that. I’m willing to sacrifice bettering my own health and forgo an hour workout in favor of taking 60 minutes to fix healthy, nutritious dinners for my wife and children. But there aren’t enough hours in the day to keep the kitchen at a socially acceptable level of cleanliness, walk or groom the dog, mown the lawn, pay some bills and file receipts, prepare things for the next day and fix Liam’s toy that broke. A normal day in our household sees 90 minutes where we are all together, 90 minutes of frenetic movement, cleaning, crying jags, obnoxious musical baby toys blaring, appliances failing. And after that hour and a half when everything must occur, the clock resets and we start all over.
I desperately wish I could sit down and teach Liam familiarity with the piano more often than once every two months. I wish I could sit and draw with him several times a week, as he’s showing true talent. I’m fearful of good weather returning to Kentucky as it will undoubtedly bring about pleas for a backyard playmate each night…not because I don’t want to, but because essential, operational things what will be neglected in lieu of it. Maybe at the end of the day I’m simply bitter that I have to choose between my family and everything else. I know I’m not alone, and I know I’m lucky that I only have one job to work to support my family instead of two or three like many Americans.
This won’t be solved magically, or in an unexpected epiphany in the wee hours of the morning. I can only hope that my current rate of failure at balancing work and family will eventually course-correct itself after umpteenth times of sucking. Perhaps in five years I’ll have a better handle on how to contain the stress and chaos of work, the accountability to my employees and to my coworkers, as well as my familial obligations, desires and responsibilities.
I want nothing more than to be a good father. I just need more time to get there.