I recently went away for a couple days. Not in a metaphysical or transcendent sense; in a very real, concrete, out-of-state kind of way. I was gone a total of about 54 hours, just enough time for things to go all Chinua Achebe. Come on…am I the only one who had to read that book senior year?
I’m exaggerating, of course. The place wasn’t in shambles or anything. The kids were mostly clothed, the carpet still glued down. But it still felt vaguely like walking into a crime scene. And Detective Daddy now had to piece together the events of the previous two days. Let’s examine the evidence, shall we?
Bub was wearing his last pull-up. The diapers were almost gone. The trash was bulging, the laundry overflowing. And the Diaper Genie? Forget about it. A closer inspection revealed a dearth of bread, an alarming shortage of milk and eggs. The bathtub had honey bubble bath residue crusted on it. And we were out of bananas. I love bananas.
Just what in God’s name had gone on around here, anyway? In some sick Scrooge-like fantasy way, I have oft wondered what the family would do without me. Now I knew. Close the case on that one.
But I wasn’t upset in the least bit. Quite the opposite—I felt really good about my role. It showed me two things. Number one, I AM the PCG. I have routines and structure and methods with the kids. I have a WAY. I’m not saying it’s the best way, but it’s mine, and I own it.
This is in no way an indictment of my wife. She does a fantastic job, and she actually got some time to herself and out and about courtesy of my mother-in-law’s visit. And this is in no way an indictment of my mother-in-law, either—she is always such a welcome, huge help.
No no, it’s just that it wasn’t MY way. When normal people go on vacation, somebody usually fills in for at least some of your responsibilities. Then you come back to see that the place is still standing, and oh, you did this and that, checked my messages, great, I appreciate it. Not how I would have done it, exactly, but that’s okay. Thank you.
The second thing it showed me is that there is a difference between feeling appreciated and feeling VALUED. Parents are the banner fodder of the grossly underappreciated. If we ever do get much appreciation, it comes way, way down the line, when they’re in their thirties perhaps. It’s just part of the deal. The kids saw me the next morning, and it was like, ehhhh, Daddy’s here. It’s like he never left. No really, I mean it’s really like that to us. Like you never left. Now go toast me up a waffle with extra butter. Please.
As an at-home parent, you will never exactly be soaking in the bath salts of appreciation. But it’s nice to sneak in a quick shower of feeling valued. Even if our net worth is sometimes measured in full garbage bags and empty refrigerators, sometimes you have to see how things aren’t to see how they are. It’s easy to get caught up in the droning routines of everyday life and think we don’t always do that much as at-home parents. If you catch yourself thinking this way, try going away for a weekend. It’s like a full appraisal of your portfolio. And you’re worth every penny.