Trish worked her first 12-hour hospital shift yesterday, starting at 6 a.m., since 2000.
At 7 p.m. I had dinner ready, thinking her shift would end at 6, not taking into account her lunch break. She clocked out at 6:40 and got home about 7:30. Meanwhile, Ella and I had a good time together, cooking and tickling and sitting outside.
When Trish finally arrived and saw Ella she cried. “I missed you today.”
The child, however, was stoic, maybe guarded.
This woman, whose breast the child rarely left during her first year of existence, whose name the child wails like a dying seal at the oddest moments, whose skin sometimes collects under the child’s fingernails — and toenails — if attempts are made to physically separate the two, didn’t get so much as a “how ya doin?”
Ella warmed up slowly, and after a few minutes inside with Trish she came outside to help me water the plants.
When Trish finally crawled into bed at 10 I asked her how she was feeling. She knew I wasn’t asking about her physical well being.
“I’m not like other people,” she said, referring to new moms who can’t wait to get back to work. “I want to be home with that little girl. I don’t want to miss anything.”
“I know,” I said. “I’ve felt that way for two and a half years.”
“Sell the house,” she said, as if selling our modest home and buying and living in a van down by the river would allow us to spend every waking moment with our daughter, who would benefit by growing up to be someone who wants to live in a van down by the river.
I was being a little edgy. Until Ella was 2 she really didn’t have much to do with me. My feelings would hurt when I’d come home from a long day at work and be met with indifference by my child, my offspring, my excuse to crawl on the floor and play with little plastic cars, who looks just like me.
Now Ella likes me. And I like her. We have fun together. We’re bonding. I relish the time we have alone together. We make connections that are impossible to make when Trish is around. Just as Ella and Trish have connected, and thankfully so, when I haven’t been home.
Ideally, neither one of us would work.
But one of us has to. Or, both of us have to work some. We need all those damn things that come with responsibility — health insurance, clothes, food.
We could cut back, buy processed packaged food instead of organic (food is our highest monthly expense besides the mortgage; is that normal!? We’re not large people!). I could ride my bike to work, leaving at 6 a.m. for the 20 mile trip, getting home in time for bed. We could rent the dogs out for various odd jobs.
Two weeks ago I suggested that Trish could work full-time, which, for a nurse, could mean 30 hours. I could do freelance work from home and we would save on childcare. I bet we could more than match our current income.
If the goal is to spend more quality time with our daughter and save money, isn’t it reasonable to ask that that both work and family time be shared equitably between mom and dad?
I don’t want to be all modern-man and all (just look at my last post — conventional testosterone at work). But if Trish is complaining about working 12 hours, I can complain about working 50+, especially at a job that brings minimal satisfaction.
I’m not like other people, either.
I’m not our father’s father … or something like that.
It’s a new day for dads!!!!
Viva la revolucion de los padres!