Tuesday, December 18, 2012

Put on Your Oxygen Mask First & Don't Feel Guilty About It!

There’s a single father lamenting his plight a little. How do I know? That single father is me.

Once a week, or twice if I’m lucky, I’m home on a weeknight because neither any of the kids nor I have to be anywhere. If one does, maybe it’s either walking distance or a short ride. That was my situation on a particular night not long ago. We didn’t have a family Taekwondo class. The Favorite Son didn’t have soccer practice. I didn’t have any meetings that I necessarily had to attend. Only one of The Two Beautiful Daughters had to work; she’s a mother’s helper for a platonic female friend neighbor.
There is a before school program in which I want my son to participate. To make that happen and to get him to the program on time, I know I have to make the morning go smoothly. To do that, I have to, figuratively and literally, set the table.
So, that night, I made The Favorite Son’s lunch and put it in the refrigerator. He and I picked out his clothes for school and set them next to the shower. I put water and coffee grounds in the coffee maker, which I set to automatically make coffee at 6:00 a.m. I wiped down the kitchen counter, range, and table. I readied the ingredients for breakfast: oatmeal. I set the table including bowls, spoons, napkins, cups, and vitamins. I did this all before seven o’clock!
So, I’m ready?
Well, yes.  However, then it occurred to me; on the other four school nights when I don’t have this kind of time, when the kids or I do have Taekwondo, a meeting, soccer, or a job, how am I supposed to get all of this done so I can “make the morning go smoothly?

Obviously, I don’t have a partner to help me divide and conquer the work. I can’t drive one kid to one sport and another to a study group while my wife picks out my son’s clothes, prepares the coffee maker, sets the table, et cetera. It’s all on me. There’s no way around it. The answer is, of course, I have to do it later, maybe much later.
So, Single Father, if there’s something you need to do to insure your kids are allowed to experience as much academic, athletic, and social opportunities as are reasonably available to them, you have to do it. It may be inconvenient. It may mean less sleep. It may mean suffering some other opportunity cost.
All of this is the unabridged way to say, Single Father, you sacrifice a lot for your children. So, when the time comes that you have an opportunity to relax and do something that you want to do, do not feel guilty about doing it. Frankly, you’ve earned it. Frankly, you need it.
You know your responsibilities to your children, but don’t forget about your responsibilities to yourself. In sort of the same way you might have money taken out of your paycheck and deposited into your 401(k) before you even see the money, set aside time for yourself three or four times a week to do something you want to do. Depending on the ages of your kids, you may have to arrange childcare, but do it! A few examples of activities you might consider are:
• Go to the gym.
• Watch the Sunday morning news show.
• Watch a football game on television.
• Hunt.
• Fish.
• Play golf.
• Go out with your buddies . . . and designate a driver.
• Have a play date with your girlfriend.
The fact is, you do a lot for your children. In many ways, perhaps even all ways, you are everything to them. To be the best dad you can be, you need to take the time to recharge and relax. Don’t feel even a little bit guilty. To be the best “You,” you can be, Single Dad, put on your oxygen mask first. You can help your kids with theirs if you aren’t able to breathe.

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