There they go. My children. Off to face the world. Off to make their way without me along to guide them.
OK, it’s just school. They’ll be fine. In fact, they’ll thrive. I know this from experience.
Our kids – most kids – are far more resilient than we think. They strike a brilliant balance between resilience and flexibility. They bend into and sway with the winds of fortune, testing the limits of their self-sufficiency.
The best we can do as parents is to furnish them with the emotional and intellectual tools they need to harness the future as well as they can and let them grow as they will.
Which brings me to our family’s exciting news: I got a new job!
Work-at-home dad no more
For the past two years, my “office” was the little space I needed to set up my laptop and place my coffee mug within easy reach. My summer days were spent administering Camp Dad. The school-year days were punctuated and enriched by a mid-afternoon stroll through the neighborhood to meet my sons as they bounded off the big yellow bus.
I’ll miss those school bus hugs most of all.
I was a work-at-home dad, and I loved every minute. It was the great privilege of my life to be an at-home caretaker for my sons for two golden years.
Work-family balance was no longer an issue for me. My wife and I did not need to worry about the expense of a reliable, convenient after-school program.
As a work-at-home dad, I coached baseball and hung out at tennis class. I helped them with their homework in the afternoon and cooked supper every night.
I chaperoned field trips and visited my sons occasionally at school to share lunch or to read out loud in class.
I was there.
(It’s important at this juncture to acknowledge that I know how lucky I was to have those two years at home. And I could not have done it if not for the most generous, strongest and patient partner anyone could have. For her grace and support, I am eternally grateful – and I tell her that as often as I can.)
So, I’m back at the office. It’s where my family needs me to be now.
Back among the 46 percent
We know this drill. This is how it was for the 4½ years I worked in an agency office before I began my work-at-home parenting idyll. My wife and I were among the 46 percent of American families with kids 18-and-under and two full-time worker parents.
By contrast, only 6 percent of American families with kids at home feature a dad working part-time or unemployed and a mother working full-time. Our time among that 6 percent was great while it lasted.
We are back in the 46 percent, in part, because of money. Medical bills and other expenses have grown over the past two years while our retirement accounts have remained static. My wife is brilliant at her job and paid accordingly, and I was able to scrape together a few freelance bucks the past couple of years.
Still, the reality for us is we need two full-time incomes to ensure financial stability now and in the future. It’s not just about money, though.
I would not have given up the benefits of being a work-at-home dad for just any old office job. I looked for several months for a full-time position that would allow me to use my skill as a writer and pay me enough to make it worthwhile. When I found the perfect fit, my wife and I both agreed it was time.
And so, it’s back to the morning commute. Back to an office routine. Back to sharing space with co-workers instead of our cat. Back to following the corporate career path.
There go my sons, back out on the wheel of school, after-school care, home. Rinse, repeat.
They’ll be fine. In fact, they’ll thrive. They did before, and now they are older, better-prepared to ride the wind.
I, on the other hand, feel their absence like a phantom limb. I hope the adjustment period moves swiftly. I think it will.
Meanwhile, I embrace the memories and center my emotions on the rational. They’ll be fine. I’ll be fine.
We’ll all be just fine.
There they go.