Traveling for my new job has become somewhat of a routine – for me. Out three to four days, home the rest. That takes a toll. While not little anymore, the kids need dinner, help with their homework and, even though they get wrapped up on their phones, text messaging their friends, and multitasking on their computers, they just like knowing their dad is just in the other room. Resilient as they are, it affects them. Even more, and shockingly not as readily recognized by me, it takes a toll on my dear wife.
Rationally knowing that I get to go out believing that our home is being cared for, I think at times I take that for granted. The dog needs walking, and the early morning and late night have been mine for so long; it is hers while I’m gone. The house needs tidying, the laundry needs washing, the shopping needs to be done and a host of so much else. Not to say that I do these tasks regularly, but my being home or on the way home allows these chores to be done with the comfort that a parent is around tending to our family.
With all that it takes to run a household, I suppose the years of being directly in it and having so much done around me have made me somewhat inadvertently insensitive to the daily grind. It is both, a labor of love and one of necessity, and she does it tirelessly. Yet, tireless is not the right word, because it does take its toll emotionally. In a talk the other night, after packing for my next trip, my heart fell and I found myself lacking the words to comfort. I consider myself astute and generally savvy, but I admit there are times that I am caught speechless and dense.
It isn’t so much that I am out so much, and isn’t that the weight of keeping our home running clean and strong. It is simpler. Although we talk everyday and usually again before we go to bed, albeit miles apart, I have yet to just say “thank you” and acknowledged that it is her very work, devotion and strength that allows me to do what I do, that I enjoy so much. The shame is that there is nothing I could say; she is right, and the words after being told that I neglect to say it, just wouldn’t seem genuine. I mean it, and know it, but just saying it – once in a while – would make such a difference.
We learn that words are so powerful; they have the force to help as well as to harm. I have made a career and a decent living on words, spoken and written, and when my wife tasks me with not bringing my work home with me, I don’t believe this is what she intended. With little else to say, but offer a sheepish apology, I sleep restless until my alarm sounds me at 5:30 AM. When people say that traveling for work is hell, they are onto something; yet, what is usually said selfishly about traveler might be applied to those left behind. As I wrote, I found my routine. I have a relatively fine time living out of my suitcase and loving the work and my workplace. Our kids are older, and we talk daily and trade Instant Messages from every port of technology we all have – it’s not great, but it is ok. My wife, however, who bears the brunt of essentially single parenthood, keeps it all going and makes it such that it all seems seamless and easy.
Appreciation is often best demonstrated by simple things. Flowers smell nice, but eventually they droop and get thrown out. Jewelry looks nice, but usually becomes an heirloom; worn on occasion and filling the jewelry box waiting for one of the kids to have an occasion to wear it out to one of their special moments. Simply saying it is more priceless and timeless than buying it, and is sometimes exactly what is needed.
Thank you for taking care of us every day with dedication and love! I know it isn’t easy, but you make it seem so and you always have.
Juda Engelmayer is President and Partner with the NY PR agency, HeraldPR