Answering Questions: Dads Who Work Hard. Really hard.


I'm trying to answer some questions from the last few weeks. In this post, Greg from USA Today said:

I have read nearly all of your backposts and I just have a couple of questions:

1) How did you do it with your husband seemingly never at home to help?

2) Do you regret the decision to have him work 2 jobs at the same time?

Dear Greg,

1. We struggled through together, each granting the other grace. (Note, sometimes we failed miserably in this area, but we tried. We still try. And we're getting better at it as we get older.)  I really do believe that the biggest help is attitude. I never allow myself for a moment to think that I'm a single parent. That's self-defeating for me: If I think that way, I fail to see how blessed I am to have emotional support of a loving husband, to have financial support, to have reunions and homecomings and late night phone calls. Single moms have none of those things. I don't live with the pain of divorce or death. I live knowing that I am loved by an amazingly wonderful man.  I don't mean to candy-coat it. It was--and is--hard. Really hard. Especially with teenagers and toddlers together. But I'm not a single mom. Not by a longshot.

And it's downright insulting to him to consider myself as a single mom. He's working for US. That's the point. His job doesn't serve him; it serves our family. I wrote about that here: An Active Love.

Also, when we were younger, Mike's father was younger. Actually, he was older as fathers go. I remind myself that he was the same age when I was born as I was when Sarah was born. 42. That means that he was retirement age when our firstborn was born. And retire he did. For the first 20 years of our marriage, he was readily available to help me any way he could and he filled in a lot of those dad places--repairs, carpools, even vacuuming when I was pregnant. Repairs. Did I mention repairs? He's been unable to do those things in the past five years or so and I have felt his absence keenly. In many ways, he was the wind beneath my wings and I will always be grateful for his generous help.

Some women find that support in a military community of wives. Others find it in their mothers, mothers-in-law, or sisters. And some have truly super great local friends. I think it's pretty much impossible to do it without some adult support. I remember years ago, when Stephen was a baby. His doctor and I spent a long week together when my newborn was admitted at 2-weeks-old. The doctor had just joined the practice and his family was really young. He asked me what he could do to make his hours easier on his wife. I didn't hesitate to tell him to get her a cleaning lady. He was so surprised! But it was the first thing that came to my mind. Those early years are so physically intense. Another adult to bear those burdens, even a little bit, is a huge help. I used to wish that someone would offer to just come hold and walk with the baby for a half hour so I could fold laundry. That's such a simple--and desperate--wish. (Granddad could not bear fussy babies;-).

More often than not, there was no one. We muddled through--a crew of small children and me. Friends from the beginning drifted away as our family grew and we chose to homeschool; we just didn't have as much in common any more. Then we moved to a very new neighborhood with very few people and even fewer homeschoolers. And no Catholic homeschoolers at first. There was support in neighboring towns, but that involved driving and relinquishing naptime and sometimes, the tradeoff was more than I could bear. It was hard. And if there's a lesson in it for me--for us--it's to be on the lookout for people in my life right now who bear similar burdens. We can be a support to one another. We just have to be active about looking for ways to help and about reaching out and asking. All my asking was in my mind. I never spoke the words aloud to anyone but God. I should have.

Here are ten more essential tips for coping when dad's away.

2. Regret? I don't know. I don't really go there and neither does Mike. It was something we did together. Something that allowed us to live in this area, where all our extended family was when we made that decision. Something that allowed me to stay home. To homeschool. To write. He takes providing opportunities for his children very seriously and he saw building his career through both a "steady" job and freelance as the way to do it. He was right.  I trusted him then and I trust him now. I trust.

And so, no, I guess I don't regret. I don't think trust and regret can co-exist.

Now, I have a question for you, Greg. Did you strike up a conversation with Michael in the elevator at USA Today a few weeks ago? If so, thank you:-) He told me about it and I sort of thought he was just making it up because I was having one of those "I want to throw the computer out the window" kinds of days. You made me reconsider and saved my Macbook from certain doom;-).