When Gal was a working dad, he spent his time far away from lots of the things that happened at home. He was a working dad for over 16 years. Luckily for us, he was not the working late type of dad, more like a 9 to 5 version, but you know that unless your workplace is a 2-minute walk from home, commute becomes a big time waster too. If you add up rush-hour traffic, for the kids (and myself), Gal was away every day of the week from 7 to 5:30 (and I have to say that at work, he was the only one that said “no” to working late or going out for drinks, because he wanted to have dinner with the kids every night and put them to sleep).
Gal had to make a lot of efforts to come home in time for dinner. I think it was a constant struggle. Working in IT companies, where working until midnight and not having a life was the norm, keeping his family values was not easy.
You are probably asking yourself by now why I am writing this.
I am writing for all the dads reading this blog and also for all the moms in hope I can make a difference.
You see, when dads are not around for so much of their kids’ life, they miss something essential. Gal was a great dad – he changed the kids’ diapers, fed them when they were babies, bathed them, made dinner from time to time (and he is great at it), stayed with them and took care of all their needs when I was away, but he only had 2.5 hours every evening to be with the kids and weekends. That was it.
Although it was a lot more than many our friends had, it was still not enough. Not for him, not for our kids and not for me. It limited the variety of things he could do with us, because many things had to be done before he came home.
Gal knew what he was missing, because he stayed home with Eden for the first 7 months of her life (we were students and I worked and studied a lot more than him). He knew what he was missing, because when Eden was about 3 years old, he worked from home for a while. He knew also because he had a chance to be with Noff for about 6 months when she was 1 year old.
Not all the kids in the world are fortunate enough to have their dad at home. Having a mom at home is great, but when Dad is away so much, I still think something is missing. We did our best to update Gal with what was happening at school with the kids, but with dinner, clearing the table, shower and bedtime story, his 2.5 hours with them were gone in a flash.
One day, Gal was forced to be at home by a restructuring of the company he worked for. After 6 month of going through the motions of looking for a job, we realized he actually did not want to find one. Staying at home, he saw the kids growing so fast without him and made the choice to be a work-at-home dad.
If you are a work-at-home mom (WAHM) or dad (WHAD), you know it is not as easy as it looks. It was easier for me to make the choice to work from home, because I most of my working years I worked around the kids’ school hours, but for Gal it was tough.
It was like getting to know us all over again. The mornings were strange, because he had been out of the house by 7am and never had breakfast with us. Even dropping the kids off and picking them up from school was weird at first. Also, when you work for other people, you know what you are going to do when get to work every day, but when you work for yourself, you need to come up with your own timetable.
For a while, Gal struggled (we all did, because we had to get to know him too), but then he realized what a good thing that was. Here is a list of the many opportunities that came out of the choice to work at home:
- He had the opportunity to have breakfast with us. Meals were always very important in our family. We always eat together and do our best not to schedule anything around dinner time. Saturday and Sunday mornings had been special, but now every day became like a Saturday or Sunday morning.
- He had the opportunity to have a calm morning. Before he became a work-at-home dad, our kids would crawl into our bed and have some time together for giggling and laughing only on Saturday and Sunday mornings. After the change, we had them in our bed nearly every morning.
- He had the opportunity to help the kids get ready to school. Yes, it is true that kids should learn to prepare themselves for school (our daughter Noff made herself sandwiches from the age of 4), but when Gal was home, his help gave everyone more time for breakfast together and the mornings were more relaxed.
- He had the opportunity to take the kids to school. Driving the kids to school is a great bonding time. We usually talk to them about what they are going to do during the day and help set themselves up to have a great day. When Gal started driving the kids, I also became more flexible with my clients and could coach them early in the morning.
- He had the opportunity to go with the kids to school and to meet their friends and their teachers. Working dads are usually unaware of everything that goes on in their kids’ class. Some working dads come to parent-teacher nights, but most of participants are still moms. Usually to know the kids’ friends, we had to wait for a school event on the weekend to allow Gal to get to know the kids’ friends, but that was no longer a problem.
- He had the opportunity to learn how much it cost to buy bread, milk or meat and where to buy them.
- He had the opportunity to be more aware of our financials. Gal had always been very involved, but he had worked so much I had been paying the bills and managing our accounts. After he became a work-at-home dad, he became the person taking care of finances and payments. I have to say that sharing this was much easier than doing it on my own.
- He had the opportunity to be involved in the shopping and influence what we buy and what we eat. Gal has been following Dr. Hay’s “Food Combining Diet” for over 20 years and, while I agreed with him on things I buy, when he started going to the supermarket, our house filled with more of the foods he liked, which I think was fair.
- He had the opportunity to help the kids with their school work. For most of the years, I had done a very good job helping the kids with their homework and teaching them everything I thought they needed to know. It was easy for me, being a teacher, but when it came to biology, physics, chemistry and logic, Gal was so much more helpful (he has a degree in Biology and Computer Science).
- He had the opportunity to know what they know.
- He had the opportunity to hear about all the little things that happened to the kids at school they would have forgotten by the weekend and even by dinner time. Suddenly, he could attend school assemblies when our kids got awards and when they performed (and our kids do a lot of both).
- He had the opportunity to cook dinner and be a role model. He has always been a better cook than me (and I mean “more creative”). When he came home at 5:30, dinner was usually almost ready and we would eat shortly after he arrived. Staying at home allowed him to cook more and I think that is very important for kids, especially boys, as a role model.
- He had the opportunity to clean, not than just on the weekends or after the kids are in bed and cannot see, and to be a role model. Cleaning had always been mostly my job, but when Gal started working at home, he noticed that keeping a house clean took lots of time and effort that he could share with us (before it was unfair to ask him, because he worked so hard outside).
- He had the opportunity to share hobbies with the kids. A short time after the change, our son started playing basketball and Gal volunteered to coach his basketball team. He did that for two years and it was one of the best bonding time with our son.
For years, I had not even considered this option. You know, most families follow this formula – dad works long hours and mom works part time (or not) to accommodate the kids’ schedule – and we were just the same. But as we discovered later, it did not have to be like that. Dads do not have to be “2.5-hours-a-day dads”. Their relationships with their kids can develop by spending more time with them, sharing life with them and being involved in their life.
I am not suggesting that every dad start working at home. That also has its ups and downs, pluses and minuses. For Gal, it was not just working from home but working with me, which probably made things a bit more complicated (while it still has its advantages…).
I am suggesting that dads and moms consider the role dads have in their kids’ development. As a Success for Boys consultant, I can tell you for sure that dads who work away from home see their kids 2.5 hours a day (best case) and their absence is directly responsible for raising kids with troubles that require intervention later on. In our friends’ family (wonderful, highly educated, good jobs, great money and good social status), the dad used to spend only 1 hour with the kids every day and all their 3 kids have emotional difficulties. There is nothing special about them – they are the typical family now, which is sad in my opinion.
Your kids need your attention. They need you around. If they grow up without your presence, it is like shared custody (without the arguments) – Mom is the parent during weekdays (she will just make another plate for you for dinner) and you are a weekend dad.
Weekend dads lose so many of their parenting rights that during a divorce, it is almost guaranteed the mother will raise the kids (“Sorry, no dinner for you. You can see the kids every other weekend”). I am from the side that has the advantage, but as an educator, I find it horrific that courts prefer mothers, unless they have done something horrible, over dads.
If you raise your kids together, you should strive to balance each other and share your parenting, understanding how important both parents are to kids’ happy life. If you raise your kids apart, you should still strive to balance each other and share your parenting, understanding how important both parents are to kids’ happy life.
So be happy for your kids’ sake, be together as much as you can for your kids’ sake and dads, consider your role in your kids’ life and do your best to extend the your time at home, because family matters.