Of all the things Ashton Kutcher has received flack for—Punk’d, Dude, Where’s My Car? His portrayal of Steve Jobs—I found it ludicrous he got pushback after the birth of his daughter.
I don’t know if he made an official proclamation or if it was an offhand comment that went viral, but when Ashton announced he was taking a year off in order to be a parent—to be a Dad—a few folks went a little nutty.
I read articles and opinion-pieces that took the slant: “Sure, he can just quit his job, he’s a super-rich celebrity. Must be nice. Real Americans can’t just drop everything like that.”
Generally, the tone was spiteful, and reeked of resentment and jealousy.
Well, I will be honest: I am jealous, but in a wistful, good-for-Ashton way.
I travel for work; last year, I put over 30,000 miles on my car.
I used to look for recognition for my efforts, but that was when I was young and egotistical. Now I search for security. Security for my family, for my kids to never know want. Yes, it’s a cliché, but becoming a father recalibrated all my goals and desires.
My daughter is four-and-a-half; my son two-and-a-half.
He doesn’t really recognize my travel schedule yet; he’s too young and malleable. Sometimes Daddy is home; sometimes Daddy is gone. He’s happy when I return, but never sad when I leave.
My daughter used to be like that, but more and more she’s catching on to the whole Daddy’s-going-away aspect to my job.
In April, I was gone for an entire week, seven days back-to-back. Then I was home for a day, and after that one sliver of a moment, gone again. It was the longest stretch I’ve been away since her birth.
At the end of the first week, I flew in mid-afternoon, and was thus able to pick her up from daycare. When she saw me in the doorway, she rushed to me, hugged me, and then wouldn’t let go. It started normally enough, with the hug. But then instead of feeling her grip loosen, it tightened. She started hugging me closer and closer. And then she teared up.
In seeing me, she realized just how much she had missed me. Because I had knelt down to hug her at her level, she crawled up onto my knee, attempting her best to sit on my lap, even though my lap wasn’t available.
The entire time, her head was buried in my neck, and I could feel the slight wetness of her tears on my skin.
“I missed you so much, Daddy,” she said in her sing-song manner.
“Missed”, which she makes a two-syllable word: mis-sed, only with a phonetic “T” in there, so it sounds like “misted.”
“I misted you, Daddy.”
I have read countless interviews and autobiographies by celebrities—Gene Hackman and Miles Davis, to name two—who admitted they just weren’t there for their kids. They were off making movies or touring, and in the interim the relationship with their children fell apart.
That scares me.
I also read of Warren Beatty and Rick Moranis; two people who walked away from it all to raise their kids. I read of Ashton, who puts his family above fame.
I like that.
I want to be there for my kids, but as a stand-up comedian I can’t really work from the comfort of my own home. I have to go where the gigs are; to the cities that have comedy clubs and paychecks for me to gather.
Everyone harbors a lottery fantasy; what would you do if you won?
Ashton Kutcher won the lottery of his profession and is able to take time off when needed in order to be a Dad. Good on him.
If I had my druthers, I’d be doing the same Goddamn thing.
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