I wanted my wife to be able to attend school functions, meet the bus after school, provide the stay-at-home lifestyle that was so common in our neighborhood. And for the first 5 years it was almost so. I went off to work with the expectations that she could provide a nurturing landing pad for them in and around school activities.
We lived in an upper-middle class neighborhood with plenty of affluent families who could afford the one-income lifestyle. And again, we were close. But for some portions of that time she was a part-time working mom. Booking any where from 10 – 20 hours a week.
We could’ve lived across town. We could’ve decided that our time with our kids was more important than the great schools we were affording them. But we didn’t. I soldiered on with my big job with big benefits while she went to mid-morning events at the school, and chummed up with the other less-than-full-time moms. And perhaps that was a sore spot for her too. We were surrounded by couples that had made it. Our’s was a different path.
And she was much better at school events. She handled proctoring the table of first-graders much better than I did. She was never short of ideas for kid-friendly activities. She never passed up a kid’s request, “Can we paint?” It was one of her gifts. She was fearless with the kids.
So it was a slightly dogged dad that I had become trying to support this selective imbalance. And for the most part I was fully on-board and supportive and happy that she had the extra time to be with the kids. But there was a sadness too.
I was sad somewhere deep inside, about not being able to provide as well as my dad did, making the nice home, nice neighborhood, nice stay-at-home wife. And sometimes when I would visit the school in place of my wife, I would feel guilty, like SHE was supposed to be there not me. And somehow it was my fault that she was having to work and I was filling in.
But the reality is this: I deserve time with my kids as much as she does. I gave up my ability to proctor classroom activities for a shot at allowing her to be there. There are plenty of families in our school district who have two working parents. And we had certainly achieved an agreeable fit. At least that’s what I felt about it.
Today I visited my daughter at school for lunch. She didn’t know I was coming. I didn’t really plan it out, I just looked at the schedule and noticed that her lunch was at 12:4o and off I went. She was delighted to see me. She proudly quizzed me about her friends names and laughed with them as I couldn’t remember any of them. And we sat and chatted with the group while she ate.
Looking around the cafeteria there was one other man in the room. I was in the realm of women and children. But the sad tone did not creep into my thoughts. I was happy to have the time to visit, I was happy my daughter was doing well with the divorce, and I was happy to be able to know that the value I provided was over and above any income bracket or nice house. What I provide for my daughter is a solid male example.
I left before the lunch was completely over. The table was getting excited at the anticipation of going out for recess. I high-fived my daughter and said, “I’ll see you after the bus today, at your mom’s house.” I was picking up my son and my daughter was choosing to stay at home with the very cool babysitter. And we were happy with the arrangement.
The Off Parent
- The Divorce Library (reading list)
- Songs of Divorce (free listening library – youtube sourced songs)
- Laugh It Off (building a resource library of funny videos and other diversions)
- Facebook (follow us on Facebook and keep up with all the conversations)
- The 5 Love Languages (a book on love styles by Gary Chapman)