‘I wish my commute was longer…’
Yep, that is what I was actually thinking as I sat in traffic, idling down the highway.
I had been moving at a very leisurely pace, waiting patiently at each progressive lane closure, and signing along with each new classic rock song as I approached my exit. The windows of my minivan were rolled down, including the sunroof. (Why do minivans have sun roofs?) Most importantly every single car seat was empty. Other then the radio and the horns of the stress-filled rush hour commuters there was complete silence. It was pure, unmitigated bliss.
I’ll guess I have to back up a bit, because I always tell people I am a stay at home dad. Even though that answer isn't really correct. I usually leave it at that. As a stay at home parent the question is a bit intimidating. I’d like to tell you it is especially frustrating for men, compared to women, but it’s probably not true. The question?
“What do you do?”
What do I do? We should start with what I don’t do. When someone asks you that question, they are looking for an easy answer. Like, ‘ I’m in customer service, I work in retail, or I am an account exec.’ These are all very good box answers that people want when they ask this question.
When people ask I always say, ‘I stay home and take care of my boys.’ So I understand why you’re confused when I tell you I was driving to work. I’ll get to that but you've gotten me on a bit of a tangent I need to finish.
After you tell someone that you stay home, they inevitably tell you how it’s the most important or hardest job there is. Please stop repeating this dribble. I dislike the response, because it’s belittling. Number one, it’s NOT a job…I've discussed that in detail here, but let me give you the cliff notes. You get paid for jobs. No doubt staying at home with kids is hard, but so is putting up a fence or solving a rubric’s cube. (Something I have thus far failed at in life, despite numerous attempts) It is just work, and we all do it, every day, whether we have a job or not.
Secondly, even if it was a job, it is not the most important. I get it the children are the future…yada, yada, yada. Do you know what is important? The cure to cancer, world hunger, the brain surgeon working on your child, those are important jobs. I get it though, it’s important to me and my family, but outside of that small circle, it is literally insignificant.
What the question really means is, ‘what is your profession?’ This really gets at the root of why the question is difficult for both the person asked and eventually the ask-e. I don’t have one. I have put my professional life on hold for the betterment of my family. In American society, no matter how common the practice, the idea of voluntarily not earning money is…unsettling.
Now, you asked what I do. A lot. I regularly watch children at my home. Between that family, my nephew, and my own damn kids, it’s not uncommon to have 5 or 6 kids running under my feet. I am often able to count ages from 1 to 5. I work part time at a hotel. I only work when my wife is off, and probably average 10-25 hours a week. That’s not even addressing my own children. As runner of the house, I am responsible for all schedules, school, speech, and sports for the boys. I’m usually off Saturdays from 3pm on. Of course, by off, I mean I take the boys to my sisters and let them have a sleep over. I’m always on call. Next school year I will do all of that, PLUS a new born.
Today was a 5 kid kind of day. As we approached the 4 O’clock witching hour I had still not gotten ready for work, and could see the pre-emptive signs of melt downs on all of the kids. Thank goodness my wife was there to cook dinner. Hell, even my sister was there and the kids almost didn't make it out alive.
It was like 5-3 hockey. Somebody should always score. I got a quick shower, and for the next hour there were always 2 kids crying. It was not pretty.
So yeah, I sat in my minivan, windows down, music up, and as my hotel peaked into view, I wished my commute had been longer.