Today was a wonderful day. I woke up to find my 2 year-old son snuggling next to me (apparently my wife had retrieved him from his crib and put on his favorite cartoon so we could get 30 more minutes of rest before the day truly started…I love that woman!). We had breakfast and then went to the park where we played catch, went down the slides, and did other generally father-son-ish things. Then home for lunch and a nap. Well, at least my son got a nap. I headed out to my office for the afternoon. Then it was home for dinner where I learned that my son had, for the fourth time this week, experienced a successful potty-training event resulting in great exuberance and “yellow ice cream” (lemon popsicle). Then it was off to bed for my son, and my wife and I got to work putting together the table upon which my laptop currently rests. It’s now midnight, and this brings me to my question: “Am I doing this right?”
I find myself wanting what seem all-too-often to be goals that are at odds with one another. I want to be a good father, husband, psychologist, professor, son, and brother, while somehow also hoping to take care of my body. I have started jogging at night again (going out for a short jog tonight after finishing this post), I eat somewhat fewer snacks while working at night, and I try to get at least 6 hours of sleep each night. Is it possible to do all of these things and do each of them well?
Small victories. Balance is one of the hardest things to come by in my small piece of the world. I cannot say how many days I have been driving to work at an office, clinic, or school when I have found myself longingly looking at the men slaving away in the cool morning air (knowing it would soon be 85 degrees and they would continue working through the day) doing “manly jobs.” Jobs like landscaping, collecting garbage, construction, and others. I’m sure they’re out there, but I’ve yet to see a woman wearing a jumpsuit and mowing a lawn or wearing a hardhat and driving a giant roller to smooth out the pavement as I drive by. I only say this to emphasize that, as a man, these jobs are possible and acceptable options for me. And yet I have chosen to work with people in therapeutic, teaching, and mentoring roles.
My job requires me to read, write, prepare lectures, grade papers, and other administrative tasks. These all take time. LOTS of time. Time that often is taken away from my wife and son. For instance, I turned down an invite to go to Disneyland with them tomorrow. They’ll be going with my mother-in-law, so no real harm done, but I still wish I could go with them. I wish I had been home to see my son have his most recent potty-training success. I wish I could see every step of his tremendous growth and development. I wish I didn’t have my laptop on my lap when my wife and I watch TV together at night. I wish we went on more dates. I wish I were more available to both of them.
I have to consider here that things will likely ease up a bit (if I let them) in the next year or so. Some more cumbersome tasks will soon be completed at work and I am getting more comfortably settled in my academic position to the point that I now seldom teach a completely new class. There is light at the end of the busy-ness tunnel. But, that said, life always throws curveballs and I tend to fill my time when I can. I am terrible at saying “no” when people ask for help.
So back to my question, “Am I doing this right?”
Certainly not perfectly. But I am thrilled that I’ve been able to closely observe the past couple years of my son’s life by being interested, involved, and as present as possible. If late nights are the price to pay for now, it seems a bargain. And yet, I still hope to solidify a consistent approach to all of my cherished roles that demonstrates balance, commitment, wisdom and love. With that in mind, I think it’s time to stop writing, take a jog, and get back to work!