Coming home without context

Will the children be hiding from me under the bed? Will they be quietly coloring at the kitchen table? Is my wife exhausted from spending her day with a threenager? Was there the rarest of naps and a chance for her to have some time to herself?

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Check one last thing on your phone. Take a deep breath. You’re home.

Will the children be hiding from me under the bed? Will they be quietly coloring at the kitchen table? Is my wife exhausted from spending her day with a threenager? Was there the rarest of naps and a chance for her to have some time to herself?

As I open the household door there are a plethora of scenarios I could be walking into, and none of them are a misogynistic Ward Cleaver sitting in an easy chair with a pre-dinner cocktail. Every day, I return to my family’s regularly scheduled programming, already in progress.

Often I come home from a hard day at work to a house also at the end of a hard day of work. Tired, hungry children expect to be fed dinner prepared by tired, hungry adults. When I’d come home from school as a kid, I’d transition with some sort of introverted activity. When I come home from work as a grown up, I need to be “on” immediately.

Most days I am attacked upon entering the door with hugs. Before I can put my bag down, take off my coat, or remove my shoes, I get an “uppy!” request from my girls. I try to let them climb all over me until they stop of their own accord. Then I put my things down and see how I can best serve the evening. Does my wife, Kat, need me to keep the kids out of the kitchen while dinner is prepared? Are the kids sufficiently distracted that I can help with that preparation? Is she exhausted on our bed, and I should take ownership of dinner?1

But sometimes, particularly if I’m feeling like I did not have the most productive day, all I want to do is grump out on my bed with a comic. That isn’t really an option, so I’ll will lie down, and one or both of the girls will bring me books to read to them. I get some gentle cuddle time, they get a story, and their mother gets some physical space. If I am really lucky, I’ll go into the Reading Aloud But Totally Thinking About Something Else Zone. It is an astonishing how a human mind can read Winnie-the-Pooh aloud while daydreaming about what Mac it would buy if money were no object. 2

I get to see my kids conscious roughly five hours a day: two hours in the morning, three in the evening. I need to be present with them for the times when we are all awake—I like them. But I realize I’m going to get most of their lives in a highlight reel. At dinner, I try to model “talking about your day” by going first, but even I find it hard to discuss my day in anything but vague terms. It takes real effort for me to condense my eight-hour workday into somewhat interesting nuggets, so I don’t begrudge my three-year-old if she isn’t able to do it. I try to be happy with what I get, but I would gladly take more.

It’s often nine o’clock before the kids are asleep, the chores are done, and I get a chance to have a real conversation with my wife. Some days we are completely beat and just watch Doctor Who. Some days we have grown up conversations about mortgages, grout, and permission slips. And on the rarest of occasions, we talk to each other just for fun.

I already miss so much of my kids’ lives, I feel guilty taking time for myself or time with my wife, even if it is what we need. Kat’s job is harder—managing tiny opinionated humans all day—and I want to make sure she gets a break. But it’s also hard coming home having missed most of everything and having no idea what I’m walking into when I get there.

But, no one else is going to do it. So I take a breath. Say “I’m home.” And do my best to love my family.

Post Script: After writing this article, I invited my wife to join me out for lunch on a workday. Did you know that you can talk to your spouse during the day? Mind blown.

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Footnotes

  1. The amount of work Kat does with meal planning, grocery shopping, and actually making meals is astonishing. 
  2. I recognize I don’t need 64 GB of SDRAM in my fictional $10,000 Mac Pro, but why not splurge? 

Photo by: rocketlass

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Sam Davies

Sam Davies is the father of two daughters (ages four and seven) who lives in Northside Richmond. He and his wife Kat are trying their best to not raise sociopaths.

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