Absentee Dad

Now that I have become a full-time employee, it becomes imperative that I find a solution to this ‘commuting conundrum’ which plagues me.

While few would criticize my decision to accept employment in Seattle after 17 months without full-time work, it seems unlikely that I will be winning the coveted “Father of the Year” award when I see my children only on weekends, due to a 3-hour commute each way. In my experience, whatever people may say about “quality time”, children require both quantity and quality time from a father.

Yesterday Kathy was laid up with her back injury, and I spent the day at home. At one point I played a game of dodge-ball on the deck with the kids … not more than 30 minutes in all, with the requisite number of injuries. That silly game is probably one of the things that they will remember, if only because I so rarely play with them outside.

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So I need a solution that will allow me to:

  1. support the financial needs of my family
  2. assist my wife in parenting the children
  3. build lasting love relationships with my kids
  4. grow the intimacy of my marriage
  5. provide an environment that is pleasing and conducive to my family’s growth

So far, my employer is willing for me to work from home, one day each week. I haven’t yet managed to test that out … I’m still working through some technical issues with my laptop and remote access. I expect that being home one workday each week may help to take the sting out of my long absences on the other days. Nevertheless, I am not satisfied with this arrangement … last week I didn’t see Sarah between Tuesday and Friday nights, leaving before she is awake and coming home late each night.

I don’t want to move hastily, ahead of God. If He sees fit to provide me with another work-from-home opportunity (like my former job, in which I traveled to the city only once a week), it would be a shame to miss that chance. At the same time, I don’t want to fall into the trap of persisting in behavior that is destructive to my family out of timidity or indecision.

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I suspect that a lot of men have sacrificed their families to their jobs on a “temporary” basis only to discover that, after 15 or 20 years, their window of opportunity to impact the family has slowly closed. I suspect that no one laments on their deathbed, “If only I had spent more time at work!”

My children (and Kathy, for that matter) are reluctant to move to Seattle. And of course, there is the question about what to do with our house … the proximity to the Retreat Center property restricts our ability to sell the home in good conscience. I recently hit on a possible compromise: we could rent a small house in Seattle or Tacoma and live there half the week. We might occupy such a potential house from Sunday night to Wednesday night, and spend Thursday through Sunday in the Duckabush. This would likely cut my commute down to a manageable 1 hour each way on Monday through Wednesday, freeing up 4 hours each day to spend with my family. On Thursdays I could work from our home in the Duckabush, and on Fridays make the long commute in to Seattle.

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While the cost of maintaining two households would be non-trivial, it is already costing me more than $400/month to commute to work, not considering the lost time in the car and on the bus. (Ferry time, of course, is redeemed by the quality of these fine blog entries.) If we found a house that was sufficiently inexpensive, we might substantially improve our quality of life by such an arrangement. It occurs to me that the opportunity to visit zoos and museums and parks, as well as the chance to make some new friends, could outweigh the inconvenience of living between two houses for Kathy and the children. I have hopes that Kathy might attend BSF this year with the youngest two children if I can be home consistently on Thursdays.

If you read this blog entry, and have a reaction, please leave a comment expressing your viewpoint. I would value any suggestions that you may make, especially since this idea is still in an embryonic state.

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