Thursday, August 25, 2011

Today's thought on work-life balance

As I write and post this, I am in Phoenix, Arizona. I am not on a family vacation, but on an overnight business trip. My second since SchmoopyBoy’s birth, and my second in just the past 4 months.

I have mixed thoughts on overnight work travel. On one hand, I used to do a lot of overnight business trips before SchmoopyBoy was born. I work in a field and for an organization where travel is pretty much necessary for certain projects and programs. The fact that I haven’t traveled in 3 years has meant that I don’t get assigned to a lot of the most interesting projects, and it has compromised the advancement of my career. Seeing as I am the primary income earner in my family, this could have real implications for my family’s future. Plus, (yes, let’s go there, shall we?) you don’t see many fathers compromising their future career growth once they have children in order to spend more time at home with their young children.

On the other hand, at this stage of his life, my child needs me. He needs me, Mommy. I started preparing him a few days before my departure. I told him about how he was going to have special daddy time and I wouldn’t be here for one night to put him to sleep. He was not happy. He is, now, not happy with me. Every time I have called since I departed he hasn’t wanted to talk to me. Not because he’s having so much fun that he can’t drag himself away (although when he was visiting and playing with cousins yesterday afternoon that was certainly a good portion of it). He hasn’t wanted to talk to me because he is upset with me for leaving him and he is giving me the cold shoulder. So, I will have quite a bit of reconnection to do when I get back into town.

What complicates things for me even more is my own ambivalence. This business trip, like my previous business trip in May, has been almost like a mini vacation. I’ve gone out to dinner with other adults and had adult conversations for 1-2 hours. I haven’t had to think about what my picky toddler will be willing to eat. I haven’t had to worry about entertaining a young child at the table with books or toys. I haven’t had to get up from the table, interrupting my conversation, to take him for a walk outside when he gets restless so he doesn’t disturb the other customers. I went back to the hotel last night and watched television – things I never watch anymore like CSI and a PBS documentary. I cannot tell a lie. I’ve been selfishly enjoying being away for a night.

But I’ve also missed my little SchmoopyBoy. Each time I call and he pouts that he doesn’t want to talk to me in his ‘upset voice’ it breaks my heart. It makes me want to run home as quickly as I can and pull him onto my lap and hold him tightly, smothering him with kisses so he knows that no one and nothing is more important to me than him.

Balance. It’s hard. It’s complicated.

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