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.