Working Dad Dilemma

We’ve all heard of the Mommy Wars and the dilemma mothers have with whether or not they should work or stay home full time. I realized the other day I can fully count myself as a working mother now. No, I don’t work full-time and I am mostly home during the day, but I teach color guard and private flute lessons. It takes me away from my family four afternoons a week and most Saturdays. I also get paid. It’s not much, but I am able to contribute somewhat to my family’s finances. I am not just a stay-at-home-mom anymore. However, this is not what I really want to talk about today. I want to talk about the working dads.

I was thinking that while we just expect fathers to be the primary bread winner in our family (because traditionally, that’s exactly the case. For centuries it’s been up to the husband and father to work and earn a living, to support his family), does that mean working fathers don’t also have regrets about working and missing out on things at home? I think a lot of them do. I just don’t think they are “allowed” to talk about it like wives and mothers are.

I think mostly about my own husband, of course. He has a very demanding, very busy job. He works about 75 hours a week and gets paid for 40. He puts his heart and soul into his job. He has to. He’s a high school band teacher. It’s what they do. However, it doesn’t come without a lot of sacrifice.

Ches’ job is not one for a family man. He is rarely home in the evening or on the weekends. Even when he is, he is doing work to prepare for classes or answering calls from boosters or studying scores of new music or watching videos of other marching bands… The work is never done. I understand there are lots of jobs that are demanding of home time. However, Ches and I are really feeling the sacrifice now that we have 3 (almost 4) kids… and those kids are old enough now to have their own activities that kind of need a dad. Yes, moms can do things like Cub Scouts and after school sports and the like, but sometimes a kid just needs his dad. Mom can’t do everything, all the time. And when you are in a two parent home, Mom should do everything, all the time.

We have been talking to each other for a while now and what to do to make a change. So Ches can be home and see the kids, have dinner with the family, attend Pack Meeting, or whatever. Basically, we have two options: Ches can completely change careers, or Ches can teach at a different level (middle school doesn’t have marching band, jazz band, pep band, winter guard, winter drumline, etc., so it’s a lot less demanding on the out of school time stuff).

Now, if we went with option 1 (completely change careers), what would Ches do? We spent years and tens of thousands of dollars on his schooling. Ches has a bachelor’s degree and a master’s degree in music education. He is not trained for anything else. Oh, and he’s good at it, by the way. He’s a successful teacher and his students (most of them) seem to really love him. He also loves teaching. No, he doesn’t love the long hours and he gets frustrated when he gives his all and the students don’t prepare (there’s a concert tonight and festival tomorrow and Ches is quite discouraged right now…). But over all, he really, really loves his job. He loves those kids. He cares for his students on a very personal level, too. How lucky is he to have a job where he loves what he does and he’s good at it, too? So option 1 just doesn’t seem likely.

Option 2 (switch to teaching middle school) is a lot more likely. He spent 3 years teaching middle school in Idaho (while teaching high school), a year of just middle school here in Arizona, and then two years teaching middle school while teaching high school. He can do it. Like I mentioned before, middle school is a lot less time consuming because there just plain aren’t the myriad of extra activities for the students that he has to be in charge of. The biggest problem with option 2 is the money thing. We all know teachers don’t get paid much. Honestly, we are barely scraping by (thank goodness for tax refunds… we are able to catch up on the bills!), and Ches makes as much as he does because of the extra activities. He gets a small stipend for each activity. It doesn’t adequately compensate for all the extra time he puts in, but it’s something. In middle school, he doesn’t have that opportunity. On the other hand, he would have more time to get another part time job or maybe work as an assistant with a high school marching band or whatever. Then again, we’re back to him not being home with his own family, like he wants, because he has to make that extra money. Sigh. I feel like we’re just running around in circles.

In church the last few weeks the topic has come up quite a bit, actually. The feeling I’m getting over all is that they are telling men to stop sacrificing their family time for their jobs. Even if you have to change jobs or careers, you have to do whatever you can to be home with the kids and your wife. Your family needs you at home. Ches and I have been feeling that for a while now anyway, but it suddenly just seems to be thrown in our face everywhere we turn.

Oh, the other problem is that once Ches makes whatever changes to be home with the family, doesn’t that just free him up to have more involved church callings? Ches was saying that he remembers his own dad not spending the evenings at work, rather most of his evenings he was gone for church things. I’m not saying that’s bad, and there are lots of things that need to be done. I appreciate the sacrifice the leaders of the youth make for the teenagers, whether through Young Women’s or Scouting. I know a bishop has a LOT to do to run the ward. But if the point of making this change is to spend more time with his family, how is he supposed to do that when he’s gone several nights a week to do things for the church? How much family life should be sacrificed for church callings? (Am I a total apostate for even asking this question???)

Working dads have the same dilemmas as working moms do. Budgeting time and resources to make the family unit run smoothly is really hard. There is always going to be a lot of sacrifice, whether it’s the job that suffers, the kids that suffer, or the church attendance that suffers. Something has to give. And knowing what it is that has to be cut down or taken out completely? That’s the hardest decision of all.