I am amused by the serious instruction of friends, “Do what you love and what feels right for you.” Their career counselling advice amuses me because they haven’t regarded that what I love and what feels right can sometimes yell wildly at each other in conflict. In the red corner, What-I-Love argues that there are Tassie mountain summits that I am yet to tread. In the blue corner, What-Feels-Right makes the counterpoint that the mountain trails are way off course from the parenting path that typically follows alongside my two daughters.
Naturally, my mountain temptation can be sated during weekends when my daughters are not in my care. On those weekends, what I love wins out over what feels right. Mt Wellington consistently wins out over mowing the lawn. Such decision-making is repetitively easy because the outcome only affects me. Or, if there are others involved, they will often, like me, give over to the lure of the mountain.
Yet, when the decision of which path to tread affects my daughters, it gets a little trickier. I try to care for myself so that I can be in good shape to care for my daughters and friends and family. While I am not always comfortable doing so, sometimes I know that the right thing to do is set aside my own interests to spend my cherished time within huggable distance of my girls.
This weekend offers one of those trickier times. I would love to attend a talk by a chaplain at an all girl’s school – “The Importance of Fathers for their Daughters.” I love learning and knowing about healthy relationship-making, especially if it offers something for my parenting connection. However, during my precious weekend time with my girls, they are already committed to play dates and birthday parties that cut heavily into our time. Do I attend the talk about how dads make a difference in a girl’s life and key strategies for a loving father or opt for our cherished together time?
Another pressing decision relates to my career. I am busily marketing my training skills and considering the offerings in the big cities of Melbourne, Sydney and Brisbane. By most career measures, the mainland wins out. However, my parenting is done in Tassie. While I am on the hunt for a new role my non-negotiable is a compromise on my parenting time. Fly-in fly-out might work if my schedule of care offered five straight days of care to give me nine consecutive days a fortnight to offer to an employer. Maybe I can negotiate a change of care with the girl’s mum. Maybe there are employers who can take on work-from-home parents. At this stage, I am holding firm to my commitment to be an available dad to my daughters. I have a heartfelt instinct that children need the best of love, care and support in the very close presence of a dad as well as a mum.
However, right now, my day-to-day is blessed. There are caring people around me and I am not pressed to compromise my parenting time for the sake of a job that allows me to support my children.
And, right now, I lament the circumstances that press some dads to have to weigh up the time with their children against having to work away from their family. Sometimes loving your children and being available to them tugs in contradicting ways. I am busily planning options with the support of wonderful friends to be a present dad and provide the practical support of school and clothes and do the things I love.
Photo by Tim Mossholder.