Carolyn Hax: The preschoolers’ traveling father, redux

Carolyn Hax
Columnist May 15, 2012

Adapted from a recent online discussion and continued from yesterday, about the father of preschoolers who travels two weeks per month.

Re: Traveling Dad:

Carolyn Hax started her advice column in 1997, after five years as a copy editor and news editor in Style and none as a therapist. The column includes cartoons by "relationship cartoonist" Nick Galifianakis -- Carolyn's ex-husband -- and appears in over 200 newspapers. View Archive

Two weeks is a long time, but gone doesn’t always have to be gone. Can he Skype a couple of times a week? Pre-record favorite bedtime stories that can be played while he’s away? That would lessen the bedtime burden and make the kids feel more connected to Dad while he’s away.

Anonymous 1

Re: Traveling Dad:


Maybe you can do things to ease the bedtime routine. Like have husband call at that time (or Skype, whatever). Put a framed photo of him on their nightstand so they can say goodnight to him. Whatever you can do to incorporate dad into the routine when he’s not home.

Anonymous 2

Skype would be especially effective, thanks — though it needs to be part of the routine, and not part of the problem: It only works if he can swing it every night at the same time.

If he can’t be consistent, then present it to the kids only as a special treat. The last thing a settle-down routine needs is a setup for disappointment.

Oh, my, I just had such a happy-sad memory. My old friend Murph, who died in the World Trade Center, used to call his daughter every night of his business trips and read her “Goodnight Moon.” It became such a touchstone for them.

Re: Traveling Dad:

Carolyn, you wrote yesterday: “Don’t forget those early years. Your husband came through for you, so come through for him now.” To be fair, he really came through for the kids . . . and it’s the kids she feels he has ditched with the new job. She doesn’t “owe” him for coming through for their children, because that’s what fathers, and mothers, are supposed to do.

Anonymous 3

Mmmmm, I don’t agree entirely. She started with how much support he gave her career, and then noted that he took leave to care for the kid(s) on the days she worked. So, I think it’s appropriate to say he came through for her, even though, yes, the upshot is that they were both coming through for their children, which is what mothers and fathers are supposed to do.

My point in my answer was, and remains, that when two parents are coming through for kids, it often involves unequal efforts and unequal sacrifices — sometimes by choice but often not. Often even the choices are driven by the reality that 50-50 arrangements aren’t something nature supports. We’re not putting flour in measuring cups here, we’re balancing jobs and needs and skills and opportunities and whatever else.

So, one way many parents deal with this is by taking turns making the greater sacrifice. Parent X back-burners a career for a few years, then, when X gets a great opportunity, Parent Y’s career goes to the back-burner for a while. That’s just one example. It’s for the kids, but it has to work for the parents, too.

There’s no one arrangement that’s right. I do think it’s helpful, though, to look at any one decision in the context of what is right for this family at this time. Life is long, and so is any real measure of fairness.

Write to Carolyn Hax, Style, 1150 15th St. NW, Washington, D.C. 20071, or tellme@washpost.com. Subscribe at www.facebook.com/carolynhax.

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