Friday, July 07, 2006

Better Dadding: Finding Balance

My first post on the Denver Dad blog was about my struggle to find balance between the demands of work and the demands of family. In many ways, I think that this balance of time and attention is even more difficult because I work from home and the trade between "work" and "home" time is so fuzzy and immediate.

I still don't have answers for that particular puzzle. It's something I struggle with every day. Clearly, I'm not working when I step away from the computer to change a diaper. But, what about when I take a minute to talk to my son, to give him a hug when he toddles over for one. What about when I change a diaper while trying to work through a particular phrasing issue I'm having with a grant proposal? When is something work and something personal? But, my post today isn't about that particular balance. Today, we're going to talk about a balance that I think might be even more elusive... the balance between being a good dad and being an individual.

When was the last time you went to the bookstore? Just you? No diaper bag over your shoulder, no stroller to push between the aisles, no little hands pulling on your ears or pointing at books nearby, announcing "lello!"

Or, if the bookstore isn't your thing, when was the last time you went to the movies? When was the last time you watched a baseball game, from start to finish, wearing your favorite team jersey? When was the last time you put the smack-down on your rivals in an online computer game? Or, more to the point, when was the last time you indulged in your hobbies, really indulged?

I'm not saying the two are unconnected. I think there is a lot of overlap between being a good dad and a well-rounded, happy individual, but I also think that because the demands of being a dad outweigh the demands of... say... being able to shoot par on hole 4, golf typically loses out when you're strapped for time. The issue is, as focused as good dads are on their children, we do have to take time for ourselves.

I take a lot of joy from my time with Chunk. He's a great kid and we genuinely enjoy hanging out together, but as he's gotten a little older, I've gotten a little more time, here and there, that I could fill with my own interests. And, you know what I found? Those first few times when Denver Mom took him shopping without me, I had no idea what to do with myself. I was clueless about what I should do to fill my time. And, while that probably gave me extra points in the "dedicated dad" tournament, it didn't do me much good in the "happy person" department.

So, please, take some time for yourself. Don't forget that before you became a dad, you used to read, take guitar lessons, play pick-up games with the guys, whatever. Whatever it was that you did, make sure you still take some time to do it. Don't go overboard. I'm not giving you permission to give up being a dad to pursue your dream of racing in the Tour de France, but you should take some time for you. You need to find a balance.

It'll make you a happier person. And, happier people are inevitably better parents.


Anonymous said...

Robb, Oh Robb,

Now you're getting a taste of what it's like to be a mom. When you hear comments to women (from many sources) about taking time for yourself you may understand that,typically, women just don't. Why? Too many responsibilities, too many worries.

Who will do the laundry, who will clean the kitchen, who will do the grocery shopping, who will feed the kids, who will get up in the middle of the night when a child cries or coughs? These are questions that run through a mom's mind twenty-four hours a day without her even stopping to think about answers because it usually means mom will.

A psychologist once pointed out that when a dad takes his kid(s) to the grocery store his goal is to get from point A to point B. When a mom goes to the grocery store with her kid(s) she understands what it takes to get from point A to point B. In other words, dads don't usually anticipate that little hands will reach for anything from the store shelf that interests them. Moms (and yes, guys through trial and error) can mentally calculate the minimum distance required from the cart to the shelf to avoid "surprise" purchases while allowing other shoppers to pass you in the aisles.

Now, this doesn't mean that dads are inherently stupid it just means that women have more experience in certain areas. In my opinion, dads are used to the authority and respect granted with a job well done outside the home. News flash: Kids aren't nor do they care. They are interested in only one thing--ME. After all, that's who they know best and everything else around them is brand new and VERY INTERESTING!

To those dads who are doing what Robb is doing, WOW! Congratulations for taking on the added responsibility of your child. You'll only get closer. So in twenty years from now when we see your son or daughter facing the camera playing in THE game (whatever game that may happen to be)they'll turn to the camera and say "Hi dad!" Wouldn't that be a thrill?


Pickle's Papa said...

OK. So youkinda stole my next post - but I'm not bitter. See today I took the entire day away from the house - for the first time since The Pickle came home. The Wife and I decided that because the little girl is starting to form relationships it would be smart for the two of them, on one of her days off a weekend, to spend completely alone - no family, me or plans to help with their individual bonding and trust.

So this morning I packed up my waders, fly rods, and car without the car-seat to venture out into the great outdoors by myself as I did on many occasion before becoming a SAHD and I have to tell you - it was surreal.

I think I am gonna do a full post about it, but you are so right - and Kathy, I think you should read some more daddy blogs.

Specifically rebeldad ( and bean's dad ( for pennance.

Peter said...

I went “out” last night for the second time since Amelia was born 7 months ago. A few former coworkers managed to coax me out of my nest to a Rockies game, assuring me that I would not be too far from home.

In retrospect, I recall myself doing two rather annoying things, drinking too much, and incessantly chattering about Amelia and how amazing she is. My friends are thrilled to hear my new dad stories, but these people knew me long before Amelia came around and I suspect would rather talk about other things.

Oh well, I had a nice evening. The best part was being turned loose in lower downtown to wander my way back to the bus stop and cruise home on the Colfax 15. About 30 minutes of alone time to let my mind wander under the influence of a few pints.

Denver Dad said...

Kathy... thanks for dropping in with some comments from a mom's perspective. I agree that men and women have different mindsets when it comes to various tasks and responsibilities, but I don't think it has much to with gender. I think it's more about experience. If a traditional, 50s era dad takes his kid to the grocery store, it's a once in a while kind of activity, so he's not going to be prepared for the little "adventures" that can spring up. Since I take Chunk to the store every week, I know exactly what his reach is and can instantly spot his early warning signs for being too tired for aisle five... etc. I don't know these things because I've suddenly developed overies. I know them because I've dealt with this stuff since he was a newborn.

Oh... and it's Denver Dad... please don't "out" me on the internet. :)

Pickle's Papa... congrats on the day away! For all my talk, I'm not very good at taking my own advice, but I guess that's for another post at another time. Still, the more that any parent can get away and spend some time as a person, not just a dad or mom, I think is a great thing.

Denver Mom loves to fly fish, but I haven't developed a taste for it. I should probably give it a fair shot, though. It looks like a lot of fun.

Peter... thanks for coming back! I know what you mean about "incessantly chattering" about your child. I've come to the conclusion that I have become one of "those dads," despite my best intentions. It's hard not to yammer on and on about such a huge, exciting part of your life.

A Rockies game and some beers sounds like fun, though. I'm not sure about taking the 15 home in the middle of the night, while tipsy, but you might be braver than I. :)

Sky Bluesky said...

For several months, I was at home with our son and doing contract work. I usually would go into the office on Saturday for a few hours, and loved the liberation. I could play loud music! I could go to the bathroom when I wanted!

After my contract work dried up, I found myself at home with mom and Oliver every weekend, and after a couple of weeks, I found myself getting antsy and irritable. I realized that I missed having time to myself (even if it was ostensibly doing work.) So I started just taking off for a few hours - going to the library, hanging out in a coffee shop, just getting out on my own. It's one of the most critical things if you're a full-time parent, and one that too often gets ignored.

P.S. I discovered your blog through MetroDad's suggestion, and it's great. good to see another dad crusading for social justice and non-chaotic nap time. Cheers.

Denver Dad said...

Sky Bluesky... thanks for dropping in! I know I say this to everyone, but considering how vast the internet is, it's a wonder anyone has found this blog. The fact that people actually read it is a real honor.

Isn't it crazy how work can feel like a break?!? I never thought I'd see a day when that would happen, but here it is!