I really really enjoy my job. It's challenging. I work with great people. The company has a great culture. My situation is something I really appreciate. But it certainly isn't perfect. It's far enough away that I spend 20 hours a week getting there and back. The team I manage is responsible for 24x7 support of a multi-million dollar business. There is constant stress (good stress for the most part). And since it's a small team, I take my fair share of shifts.
On the best of work days, I spend maybe 1 - 1 and a half hours of quality time with the kids. A few days ago, I was covering a late shift. It was a BodyPump night, so I was on my own. 95% of the time there are no issues.
I came in, DearWife and walked by and gave kisses. The kids were in a great mood. We finished up dinner. BigBrother ate about a pound of ham, and a little mustard. LittleBrother ate a little ham and about a pound of mustard. We were set to go practice piano or play trains or chase or play ghost, or any of a million other things. Then the pager went off.
It was a problem that couldn't wait. I suggested that the kids go play in the back while I worked. But that wasn't popular. Both kids were on me the whole time I got set up my laptop. I stopped what I was doing to talk to BigBrother. He wanted to play, he wanted to read. He wanted to spend time with his Daddy. He started crying.
Saying my heart sank is an understatement. I remembered back to thinking what kind of Dad I wanted to be, and how I wanted to be there for my kids like my Dad was there for me. But I HAD to address this issue.
So I said "Do you want to watch the Grinch?"
BigBrother got a big smile and said "YES." LittleBrother ran back from the front room and sat on the couch. Their happiness did little to assuage my guilt. It took me a while to resolve the problem, so they ended up watching it twice.
As soon as I was done, it was time to put them to bed. Obviously this isn't going to leave a permanent mark. I was more upset than they were. Maybe I was even projecting enough so BigBrother picked up on it.
I think one of the most difficult things about being a father is trying to achieve balance. I'm trying to convince myself that the fact that I struggle with the decision is evidence that I'm doing the best I can, and hopefully that will flow through to my kids.