What I Learned From My Workaholic Dad

Parents, we get it. You sometimes feel guilty. You want to be there to drop us off at every little league practice and watch us perform at every dance recital, but sometimes there’s just no way for that to happen. As agonizing as it can be to miss what you see as a major moment in your child’s life, take it from me on this one: it’s OK if you’re not always there.

How do I know this? I’m the product of a workaholic father, and I wouldn’t have it any other way. My dad works in academia and all of my life has put in long hours at the office, sometimes working on weekends on never-ending projects. From time to time he missed a swim meet because he was travelling or maybe he couldn’t make it to an orchestra concert because of some work thing or another. Sure, I missed him when he couldn’t be there, but that’s not what first comes to mind when I think about my dad. In fact, until I sat down to write this post I hadn’t thought of any of his absences in years.

That’s because my dad was there for me then, and is still there for me now. We currently live 1,000 miles apart, and I still get a goodnight text before bed every night, emails reminding me about the current countdown to Christmas (it’s “our thing”), and phone calls telling me that I’m loved. He’s one of my best friends, and his work schedule, no matter how hectic it may be, didn’t affect our relationship, but it did teach me a few lessons along the way.

Find your own work-life balance
No book, TV show, news segment, or Parents.com blogger (Hi!) can tell you what works for you. It may take some trial and error, but eventually you’ll figure out a mix between work and family that allows you to get the best of both worlds. In the meantime, don’t stress it.

Memories can be made anywhere, anytime
One of my favorite stories to tell about my dad is how dedicated he was when I struggled with math in school. Even if he worked a long day, he would spend hours with me at our dinning room table working practice problems until the concept finally clicked with me, even if it meant he’d be putting up with my teenage attitude and calculus book-throwing episodes (I’m still really sorry about that, dad). This beloved memory didn’t come from a planned family trip or a scheduled performance, but just from us being together for some one-on-one time.

Don’t sweat the small stuff
We’re all human, and one of the unfortunate side-effects is that we all have bad days. Getting caught up in the negativity of making a mistake or missing out on your child’s big game won’t do anything to change what’s already happened. Instead of worrying, focus on what you can do to be the best parent that your child needs right now. Is he hopelessly bored? Be his playmate. Stressing about a science project? Work through it together with him. There will be lots of moments for you to be there for your child, so don’t worry about one missed opportunity. Or, as my dad would say, “Take it easy, greasy. You’ve got a long way to slide.”

What’s your parenting style? Click here to find out!

Image: Father and baby in dining room with laptop via Shutterstock.

Work-Life Balance in America
Work-Life Balance in America
Work-Life Balance in America

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