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Mar 14 2012

Why Are We Never Called “Working Dads”?

By at 2:52 pm

retro business menGentlewomen of the jury: I used to spend time with my kids. Honestly. Lots of time. Backyard-soccer-and-creating-family-newspapers-and-weird-board-games kind of time.

Don’t do that so much anymore.

Nowadays, when we do fun stuff, like this Gordon Family Pie Fight, it has to be scheduled after office hours or on the weekend.

Y’see, for the last decade or so, I had been a freelance writer and editor, working most of the time at home. Then, in January 2011, I got a full-time office job.

Back in the vocational day, I pretty much always had time to drop off and pick the pishers up at school. I would also hang out and have a cup of Keurig Coffee with our day school‘s cool admissions officer (Boker Tov!) in the mornings. My kids and I would play endless games of run-from-the-monster on the playground afterschool. If someone forgot a book or a lunch, I could easily tear back home and deliver it to the appropriate school locker.

I was the man. I was there. I schlepped.

My sudden and regular absence on the family scene has kind of sucked. As does the fact that since I’m always in the office, my wife has about 25.64 times more stuff to do around the house. (Sorry, Lisa!)

Question is, my Yiddische Mamas: Do I, as a working dad, have the right to kvetch?

(A word about the term working dad. Nowadays most dads–all good dads–should be considered Working Dads. Are men not also frantically scrambling around in the life/work juggle? We sure are! Well, I sure am.)

I used to feel bad for all the dads I knew who put in extremely long hours and are accustomed to seeing their kids usually right before bed and on the weekend. Now, I guess, I kind of feel bad for myself. Or I understand where they’re coming from.  (I live, BTW, in Newton, Massachusetts, where fathers are either gastroenterologists or pediatricians. Maybe the occasional IP lawyer.)

“What’s the new job like?” one of these guys might ask.

How do I report that though I dig my new gig, the transition from freelancer to employee has been, to put it euphemistically, a challenge?

In truth, I don’t. Don’t tell ‘em anything. I just say, “All’s good!” and change the subject, all the while thinking that the reason my son developed a late-blooming case of separation anxiety is because I went to a day school conference in Atlanta in January.

And then one day, Matthue Roth–MJL editor extraordinaire and a Working Dad himself!–informed me that Kveller was running a Dude Week, and that they’d like me to contribute.

I thought: Kveller! Blossom! Jewish Moms! They’d get this.

Do you get it?

Do you understand my mixed emotions? My divided loyalties? That as much as I dig working my job, and I dig it quite a bit, it annoys the hell out of me to miss my 7-year-old’s glockenspiel concert–or my 9-year-old’s adorable holiday play–because of a staff meeting? Can you comprehend the ambivalence of my position, in which responsibility and money and freedom are all candidates in the race for my attention?

I think you can. If so, please write so in the comments section below. Or if not, if you think I’m full of it, and should buckle down and shut up, please say so. Fact is, I’m psyched at the possibility of talking about it with someone other than, well, myself. The Kvetch is over, friends, let’s start yakkin’!


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