Family Magazine

Working Parents Fight for the Right to Parent. (whether Others Like It Or Not)

By Kenny Bodanis @KennyBodanis

I'm generally very careful (read: sensitive) to not compare day-to-day responsibilities and stresses between parents and individuals without children.
Now, nearly a decade into fatherhood, I admit I have become what I used to resent.

Before becoming a parent I can remember being put off when asked if I could work overtime - or weekends - to replace So-and-So because they had their kids.
Why should I not be entitled to a Saturday off because I'm single? What gives you the right? Can't work? Then don't have kids.

"New Office" by Phil Whitehouse

Now, here I am.
Now I am most likely the cause of someone else's occasional misery.
The truth is, I do care. But not enough to not fight for my right to parent.
If you ask me whether I'm available to put in extra office hours during which I have what I feel is an important commitment to my family, I will answer 'no'. I will also be prepared to deal with the consequences.

One of the great perks of being a writer is having a flexible time schedule. It is currently 7:06pm ET, my son is at a Cub meeting, my daughter is at a soccer practice with my wife, and I am at a Tim Horton's, writing.
Anytime, anywhere. It's a luxury.

I am equally fortunate that my other job, in the media, also offers very little immediate supervision. I am treated like an adult. As long as the show gets produced, there is tremendous elasticity built into my work schedule.
The station's coordination staff is also very understanding when I answer their request to work with "Those days really don't work for me - my kids are off school." My colleagues are (at least outwardly) equally forgiving and willing to take over.

My wife often says that one of my weaknesses is that I like to be liked. 

This attribute doesn't help stave off feelings of guilt when I learn a friend of mine is committing to a twelve-hour day so I don't have to put my kids into daycare.
I feel guilty enough to give them my sincere thanks and promise to return the favour whenever possible, but I don't feel so guilty as to not speak those promises while leaving for home to see my kids.

I can't stand debates between parents and non-parents about whose life is more stressful.
Stress levels are like budgets; with the exception of those wisely invested individuals, people generally find a way to max themselves out. More money buys a bigger house. More free time breeds more expectations of one's self. Whether that free time is filled with feelings of loneliness; with a training program for a triathlon; or caring for a relative, stress always seems to find the leeks in an individual's personal walls.
Kids or none, stress is a language everyone can relate to.

One difference between the parent I am today and the single person I used to be is: I remember, and have the experience of having been, that single person. I believe, in many ways, I still am that person, plus two children.
Perhaps that is where my selfishness comes from.
Perhaps it is my worry that these elementary school years are my one shot at taking advantage of my children's naiveté and dependence. 
If I am absent now, or too busy now, or too preoccupied now, I worry I may not be able to make up that important emotional ground once my children are cynical teenagers.

Kids at Zebra Crossing
"Kids at Zebra Crossing" by Mats Lindh

As when I was single (or dating my now wife), I have a job, and a house to clean, and a hobby or two I try to nurture, and movies I try to stay current with. But, now, the gaps in between those wants and responsibilities are filled with these little kids.
I may not fight to see the movie, or make enough time to nurture my hobby (hello book, nine years in the making), or perhaps not even fight to make enough time to cultivate friendships.
do, however, fight for the right to parent. And I thank you, those who make sacrifices so that I may do so.

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