Sitting here in Burger King and munching my burgers, drinking coffee and cruising the net, I stumbled over an article by a “stay at home mum.” It was written by Liz Pardue Schultz and featured on Time’s website.
Her article pointed out, quite rightly, that being a stay at home parent in this day and age was not a job, but a privilege. Before I get a load of negativity passed my way, let me explain why I agree with the writer in her definition.
Back in the 1990s I had a bad back. No one could figure out why I was in constant pain and the amount of pills I took daily were ridiculous. I worked for ages, high as a kite, but still in agonizing pain. Finally, my doctor forced me to go to yet another specialist and thank goodness she did. The doctor used the latest technology to figure out what was wrong with me and how to fix it.
Despite all the bad press the NHS get, the organization saved my life twice, one figuratively and the other time literally. While I was waiting for surgery to sort out my problem, I became a “stay at home dad.” I looked after our daughter and cleaned the house. Pain was a constant companion and I was still taking handfuls of tablets but I had a captive audience for the frustrated performer that lurked just beneath my skin.
My daughter was, and still is, my favorite person in the world. Funnily enough, she was a mummy’s girl when she was very small, around nine months old or so, but when she got older, the funny chap who could do all the voices of each character in her storybooks suddenly got promoted above mum.
This guy would sing old songs, and teach them to her, and would spend hours getting her to drift off to sleep. After the surgery that completely fixed my back issues, I worked for two years at a nighttime job packaging and delivering newspapers and magazines. Six days a week I toiled and on my day off I slept.
Thee only thing that kept me sane was that I still picked up my daughter from school and had a few hours to spend listening to her day, telling her of mine, and playing games. A favorite was one where I would imitate Dean Martin and she would provide the chorus. The number one choice of song was almost always That’s Amore because in the chorus there was a woman who sang with such gusto she could have been performing for an opera. We would each compete to see who could match the singer’s range and decibel level.
After a while the job with the newspaper company got old, I had taken it to primarily get back into shape after the operation, and I learned that the Prison Service were hiring. I jumped at the chance as they had great retirement benefits in those days and it was shift work. The interview went well, although at the time I had no idea whether they “liked me” or not.
I took a pay drop to get my foot into the door and with the idea I could transfer from support, my first job, and become a prison officer proper, I left the nighttime job without a single doubt. Once I started my new job I realized I’d found the perfect job. Every other weekend off, many were three or four day weekends as well, the odd day off in the week and shifts that were sometimes only four or five hours in length.
Overtime was available, and necessary, when I first started. The pay for support officers was horrible and I could not wait to become a regular officer. The hours were the same for both jobs and after I was trained and upgraded to a “Guv” I still had loads of time to spend with my family.
While this was a blessing in terms of being with my daughter, it became a nightmare in terms of my marriage. My second wife had built up a lot of resentment when I was off with my back. Something faded in our relationship and she grew jealous of my bond with our daughter.
But this is not about the demise of my second marriage or my job in the Her Majesty’s Prison Service, it is about the things we do for love. The writer of the article (Remember that? Way back at the beginning of this Gone With the Wind post?) about being a stay-at-home mum not being a “job” made the point that the time she spent with her child was a privilege (I know, I’ve said that already.) but she was right.
I spent way too many years in a relationship that should have ended in the 1990s. I let a lot of overtime slip by and allowed some acting opportunities to pass because I loved spending time with my kid and when I wasn’t doing that, I was there for her when mum, or the world, would beat her up a little (metaphorically speaking) to help her understand or to just listen.
I could never understand mothers who fell apart when their kids grew up and left home. Until, that is, my own grew up and moved away to attend University. I had it easy though. I was urged to go up and visit my youngster whenever possible. This enabled me to continue playing video games with her, watch films with my “movie buddy” and learn what her life was like at “Uni.”
This worked out perfectly until she finished and by that time both our lives had changed forever. She moved in with me temporarily and then after I left the Prison Service, I moved in with her and her boyfriend. (A smashing chap who seems to have been made just for her.) The hardest decision I ever had to make was the one that took me back to the country of my birth and left my baby behind.
I have had an exciting life, nothing earth shattering, but normal? No, it could not be called that. But apart from my little adventures, lots of little things came together to make my decision to stick with a job that allowed me the maximum amount of time to enjoy my child growing up the perfect one. Sticking in a broken marriage was painful for everyone but it was still the “right” thing to do.
Amazingly, it was my daughter who helped me, inadvertently, to “man-up” and finally leave. God bless her and two close friends at work who helped me to grow up just enough to make my escape.
I still miss my “kid” but I know she’s in good hands, hers and her fella’s, and even though I miss her so much it hurts, we are both where we need to be.
Still, the things we do for love make up a lot of our life’s big decisions. Sometimes they are the wrong, or incorrect, thing to do, but often they turn out just right. Even if it takes years to figure that out.