Back to the Grind — for Good
After two years as the primary caregiver both before and after school, I recently started a new job away from the house. Most days, I miss the kids and their antics. But I’m also finding the old adage is true: Absence makes the parent grow more patient.
After a long day at the office, I meet the kids for a late dinner at a burger joint where Jasmine greets me with a grumpy face.
“I want to eat outside but Mom said no,” she tells me. Then she huffs and crosses her arms.
“This is how you’re going to say hello?” I say. “I haven’t seen you all day.”
Until recently, I’ve been a sort-of stay-at-home Dad. Two years ago, I got laid off from an office job with a brutal daily commute. I was unemployed for a few months. Then I got a job working remotely and I could practically set my own hours. So for almost two years, I took care of the daily school drop-offs and pick-ups. I attended most parent-teacher meetings, as well as the doctor and dentist appointments.
I loved being involved with the kids. However, I must have burned out over time because, according to Laurie, I was often short-tempered and snappy toward the end. Even if the kids were in a good mood, their high energy made me irritable. I would send them outside to blow off some steam, but they would come back in two minutes later bickering or tattling or having destroyed something. “I’m trying to work,” I would say while clenching my teeth in a feeble attempt to appear calm.
So when I got a job offer with more money and a tolerable commute, Laurie encouraged me to take it. “I think it’s time,” she told me.
The first few weeks were an adjustment. Though I enjoyed the paycheck, I wondered daily if I’d made a huge mistake — especially around 3pm, when the kids got out of school. I would send Laurie texts, “Remember Jayden has tutoring so you have to pick up Jasmine.” I would tell her where to park, then suggest snacks and a location for each kid to do his or her homework.
“I got this, honey,” she would text me with a smiling emoji. “Remember, I did this for eight years.”
Some days, she sends me pics of the kids playing outside or of homework and tests with good grades, and I miss being at home. Other days, she tells me she went off on one or two or all of the kids for bickering, tattling, or destroying stuff. I respond, “Ugh that’s annoying,” then I go back to work and get quickly distracted.
So when I see Jasmine at dinner and she throws shade about sitting inside, I don’t get worked up. I haven’t been dealing with her and her siblings for four hours straight. I miss them too much to be so easily bothered.
I kiss her forehead and tell her to get over it. Then I ask, “How was school?”
Her face lights up. “Daddy! Guess what happened today at school!”
She has my full attention. She might tell me something adorable or exasperating. Either way, I’m glad I can connect with her and her siblings in a new way.