A father reflects on the impact his career is having on his relationship with his daughter. Here is what he came up with.
For weeks I have sat in my hotel room every night and considered throwing away everything I have worked for. Even now as I write, I don’t know how to control my internal struggle. Can I afford to quit? What are the implications in the future? Question after question and my feelings defeat reason.
It all started when I was a child. My father worked away. I didn’t know anything different but, by no means did I miss out on anything. He was a great father and spent time with me when he was home. At the time, however, I was too young to understand an important point: the relationship between a father and a son.
Dad stopped travelling for work and we built a relationship, something normal for many was amazing for me because you can’t easily build a relationship with a dad who works away; and it is harder if you have a father who doesn’t talk much.
”Boys become like their fathers”, people say. I never thought that I would, but not so long ago I realised that I picked up many of his traits and behaviours. Maybe that is why I choose a career that requires me to be away from home.
The Path I have Chosen!
Ask any kid what they want to be when they grow up and you get: astronaut, doctor, football player and so on. In my case I wanted to be free. Strange, isn’t it? I’m not sure what I meant by it at the time. But somehow I ended up in the engineering field and traveling the world for work.
I love my job and I really mean it. I don’t want to do anything else. To be honest, I don’t know what else I could do. Different projects take me all over the world, often away three to six weeks at a time with one or two weeks at home.
I was lucky that I met a great woman who was career-focused at the time and understood and accepted my job requirements. When I was at home we spent quality time together. It worked well for us because the time spent together was much better than when we worked in the same city.
Working away came with great rewards. I could afford a better house, nice car, watches, holidays and all the things that a man may find important. Life was great! But then it changed.
In August 2015 we were blessed with a beautiful daughter, our first child. I don’t have to tell anyone who has kids how amazing it was to see her for the first time. I was able to take four weeks holiday to spend time with my two girls, without a doubt the best time of my life. The highlight was when my daughter fell asleep on my chest for the first time.
I got to learn a lot about a newborn and about myself at the same time. Changing nappies was not as horrifying as I thought it would be. I learned that surviving for weeks on three hours sleep is doable. But the most important thing I learned about myself is that I became an instant softie. Seriously, I had no idea that my decent sized head contained so many tears! Too soon, the four weeks were gone and I was packing my bag to leave for another six weeks.
Worst Business Class Flight I Ever Had
I prepared myself mentally and told my wife she had to be strong and not cry until I had left. On the plane I was about to turn off my phone but paused to look at the photos taken while home. Remembering the amazing time I had with my two ladies the fancy business class suddenly started looking less desirable by the second.
All I really wanted to do was go back home and see my daughter. For the entire flight I had a sick, empty feeling somewhere between my stomach and my heart. Even the fancy meal looked dull and boring. For the first time in my life I had to tell myself: “Hold it together!” It wasn’t easy but I managed.
Learning To Cope With New Feelings
I was raised with the admonition that men don’t cry and that men must be strong. That worked for me for a long time but now there are new feelings I have not experienced before, unknown feelings brought about by the experience of a beautiful newborn child. These past few weeks I have slowly learned to adjust to the situation. Certainly Skype, email, WhatsApp helped close te distance between my worksite and home.
Yet, the thought of a different career has entered my head. At first it was easy to ignore but the idea is growing stronger every day.
I’m almost at the end of my second six week rotation. I’m still struggling. It is hard to admit that, for the first time in my life, I don’t know what to do. The memory of my child falling asleep on my chest is making me stronger, but ripping me apart at the same time. On the one hand I just want to go home and experience moments like that again. On the other hand, my job is providing for my family. To quit doesn’t seem rational. It has been a constant internal struggle.
Conclusion of My Confusion
I am no closer to a solution than I was weeks ago. I’m certainly exploring future options and careers which will keep me closer to home. I’m not sure if I’m ready to give up an industry that I worked hard to enter and make a name for myself. I am very proud of where I am. Then I think of my newfound relationship with my dad, because he chose to stop travelling for work. And I think of my little girl who is making me reconsider my career. You never know, I may be home tomorrow!