Welcome to a weekly feature on my blog – Ben’s Zone. Written by husband… Ben. A foodie, coffee obsessed, ex-smoking, ex-drinking and Ridgeback loving Dad. Who is also seriously into his fitness. You can find him on the blog (most) Sundays. Enjoy 🙂
On Being A Travelling (with work) Dad
I’ve got a new job and I’m really stoked about it. it’s an exciting and vibrant young company and I think it’s just what I need personally and in terms of career, but it requires travels to the US for 2 weeks every quarter. I love the US, it’s an amazing place, the San Francisco bay area is exciting and cosmopolitan while keeping a distinctly American feel. I’m looking forward to exploring more fully, eating lots of really great food (mmmm Mexican and Vietnamese) and spending time with some really nice friendly people. That being said I am also really apprehensive as I have never spent that long away from my children before. With my current job I often have to be away for a week at a time but this is generally in Europe so I can make regular calls back home. As the west coast is an 8 hour time difference the best I can hope for is a brief afternoon Skype call.
So, what to do? The first thing I need to bear in mind is that while I’m part of the family, I’m not all of it. I might be missed but life will tick along quite nicely without me. There may well be a small pile of broken toys that require glue and/or new batteries when I get back, but things will continue. I tell myself that the kids will miss me terribly but really what I am saying is that I will miss them. Their lives will carry on at the same breakneck pace as usual. When I think of things in these terms it’s clear that the onus is on me to stay occupied. So I need a plan. I’m lucky in that I have friends in a lot of places, the West coast is no exception. I need to make sure that I stay in touch with those friends and stay connected to social as well as work related activities. It’ll keep me sane while I’m out there and it’ll mean that I’m not desperate for the attention of my family when I come back home.
I need to avoid over-compensation. The first time I ever travelled to the US, I came back with an extra bag which made a multitude of strange noises every time I walked. Inside was the very cream of WalMart’s toy department (incidentally I have no idea why this was next to sporting goods, but I am glad I realised before I bought Logan a real crossbow) which I lavished upon my son. This worked once but it didn’t solve the problem. A new toy in two weeks does not make up for not being there tonight. Furthermore, it creates an expectation and so quickly becomes worthless. It doesn’t make them any happier when I return as it doesn’t stop them missing me while I’m gone, all it does it makes a rod for my own back as each trip has to yield bigger and better toys, and my son has enough toys.
No, there’s really only one solution that I can think of, that’s being there. Not when I travel, unless Einstein and Heisenberg stop being so unreasonable I’ll be on the other side of the world. no, I mean being there when I’m not travelling. It’s easy to get caught up in what I want to do, be that cooking, seeing friends, obstacle races or any of the other minutiae that make up my life and in doing so forget the kids. This must not happen. I need to be there with them, to pay attention to them when I can. There’s no point pinning everything on some idealistic notion of ‘quality time’, that rarely happens. There’s always someone teething, feeling under the weather and so the mythical ‘quality’ time never happens. But I can give them time. It means doing my training runs in the dark before they get up; it means perhaps doing one fewer obstacle race this month and most of all it means putting their stuff first when I am around, but it will work. My kids are generally pretty happy and secure so they’ll cope just fine with me being away, as long as when I’m back I’m ready to be their dad not distracted by my own stuff and upset because my dream home coming turned out to just be coming home.