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Thoughts on Time and Distance

I have just recently (last night) returned from a business trip that has been by far the longest stretch of time I’ve been away from my daughter since she emerged from the hole slashed with a surgical machete by our OBGYN over a year ago.  The trip itself was epic, spanning two tradeshows and highlighted by a 19 hour overnight trek in a van loaded primarily with rubber sports balls. It was an adventure to be sure, but by the end I will have been away from my family for ten days, which is an awful lot, and it has been an emotional struggle to get through.

I would be lying if a small part of me didn’t look forward to some of the perks of being away.  At the basic level, this was essentially the ability to sleep through the night without being interrupted by infant bouts of insomnia, and to be able to eat at restaurants without having to worry about when to go, what food she could eat, and how many stares i would get as she distributed the bulk of her food in a 5 foot radius around our table.  At a higher level, it really was just not having the inherent parental responsibilities – being able to deactivate the watchful eyes making sure my daughter doesn’t taste-test the kitty litter, shove forks into the electrical outlets or shiv the cats with a filed down toothbrush.  Turning off the rabbit ears always alert for her cries, or squeals of delight as she flushes my watch and wallet.

But those responsibilities don’t disappear in my absence, they instead fall solely on my wife.  I could hear the frustration in her voice as she endured the days it took for Justine to adapt to her new circumstances, and there was little I could but to offer my sympathy and generally useless suggestions.  She’s an amazing mother, and I had no doubt that she would be able to handle the rigors of parenthood without me, but it was still gut-wrenching to hear her at wit’s end and Justine bawling in the background as a bed-time battle was in full eruption.

OF course the hardest part of being away that long is being apart from the little girl who has only been in my life for such a short time.  She always smiles and laughs when I arrive home from work, giving me the impression that she a) is glad to see me and b) knows who I am.  But it’s been so long since I’ve seen her, and she’s so young that it worries me greatly that our relationship may change because of my absence.  Will she remember me?  When I hold her will her sensors report ‘fatherly love’ or will the klaxons sound and ‘stranger danger’ be the result?

Compounding all of this is that the trip fell over two momentous occasions, her first birthday and my first Father’s Day.  We celebrated her birthday with a bash the weekend before I left, but it was disappointing to not get to see her on her actual birthday, and reminisce with my wife at how crazy a day that really was.  And I’m just as bummed that I missed out on the golf, neckties, and steak dinner that would’ve marked my first Father’s Day, especially after the amazing day my wife had on her ‘special day.’

And I won’t even find out how my daughter will react when we reunite for a few days, for while I finally sit back on my couch and pen these words, Justine and my wife are in Virginia visiting her brother, and won’t be back in town until Sunday afternoon.  Until then I will sit here with the cats and ponder what may come, trying to avoid their angry eyes for having left them for so long and hoping that they will not claw my eyes out as I sleep.

So I thought it’d be helpful to get some of your opinions about this.  Do any of you travel extensively away from your kids for work?  How do you cope with some of these issues? Do you have any tips for a newbie like me?  I’d love to hear your thoughts…

- MWF -

Fatherhood Friday at Dad Blogs

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  • Jason

    While I don’t travel, I can understand your concerns. Your daughter hasn’t forgotten you so I wouldn’t worry about that. I’d be more worried about the fact that your wife may drop her in your arms and disappear for a few days ;)

  • BellaDaddy

    Once, I ‘d heard that infants are like fish….they turn their heads and forget where they are going…Now, the wife on the other hand? LOL

    Have a web cam or video messaging…send vids or chat on cam…If the wife has time to meet you…let the little one see u live…it never gets easier getting away, for work or…but, we get used to it ;-)

  • paul(mytwodaddies)

    thank god, I don’t have to travel for work. I could not handle being away

  • PJ Mullen

    I’m with Paul, I couldn’t travel anymore. I used to want a job that required travel, but now I watch friends of mine be away for days or weeks at a time and just cringe.