Work-Life Balance When Work Takes You Away
I am en route to New Orleans for the Dad 2.0 Summit , waiting in Cincinnati for my connecting flight. I'll be speaking on a panel about work-life balance. It occurred to me, as I kissed my family good-bye this morning, that the advanced logistical planning at home that preceded my agreeing to take this trip is testament to the challenges of "the juggle," as the conference organizers aptly termed the title of my panel.
Extra hours from our nanny while I am gone, grandparents helping out and bringing dinner, a neighborhood teenager coming by for a few hours to help out. It's enough to make a guy feel needed and useful.
And that was all before my 3-year-old made clear she thought my trip meant I was never coming back. I was already on the airplane waiting to take off when I heard this piece of heartbreaking information.
That last problem may have been painful, but was easily fixed by reassuring the tantruming child—by our nanny and my wife at home, reinforced over the phone by me. But as I assured her that "I will always come home to you," I already missed the chaos of home life I am leaving behind for a few days (even as I am most certainly looking forward to the conference and a few nights of decent sleep).
I don't travel for work terribly often, and this is the first time I will be gone for part of a weekend since before we had children. But it's also the first time I will be traveling since our third was born, in early November. Hence the aforementioned logistical planning and all the extra help at home, and also my guilty feelings. I'm usually the one to get up with the older kids and make them breakfast, so my wife can sleep as long as the baby allows her to. Bedtime is a team effort, touch and go the whole way with both of us fully engaged. But for the next few days, Stephanie will be doing both ends of the night and everything in between. It'll be tiring for her, even with the extra help, and I deeply appreciate her willingness to have me go and the sacrifice she's making.
I am looking forward to spending a few days meeting other involved dads and discussing the life of a modern father, even while recognizing the irony that I am, for a few days, putting work above home and inconveniencing my wife. But "work-life" balance can't possibly be measured on a day-to-day basis; same for the equal partnership my wife and I have tried to forge as parents. "The juggle" is indeed a challenge--sometimes we drop a ball accidentally, and sometimes we let one fall on purpose. But, sure as daddy will come home from his trip, we always have an opportunity to pick it up and continue juggling.