By Jeremy G. Schneider, MFT
I have written quite a bit about how hard leaving my three-year old twins every morning is for me. To sum up: I hate it. I hate leaving them every morning and feel there is something fundamentally flawed with a society that makes it so difficult for parents to stay home with young children.
Yesterday that difficult experience took a surreal turn. Yesterday, I didn’t leave my children to go to work. Instead, I brought them with me! My wife and I and our children took the train and the subway together to get to where I work. I kept reminding them this is how Daddy goes to work every day and they seemed like they were trying to absorb it all.
I took the opportunity to bring them to work because my wife had a meeting elsewhere in the city. When we got to my stop, we all got off and said goodbye to Mommy. They handled it very smoothly and we started walking out of the subway into the building I work, while she got back on the subway to head to her meeting.
When we got inside they were SO shy. Everyone was excited to meet them (apparently, seeing two bulletin boards of pictures and the hundreds of pictures on my screensaver is just not enough) and this was a bit overwhelming for them. I’ve been working there since before they were born and many of my colleagues have heard quite a bit about my children. Now, they are closing in on 3.5 years and haven’t been to my office in over a year.
After awhile they did get comfortable and behaved very well – even letting me get some work done while they were there. At one point, I stood up from my desk to go talk to a colleague and bumped into my children. For a brief moment I had gotten lost in what I was doing and I was taken aback to find them there. Something about that unnerved me, but I wasn’t quite sure at the time what it was.
I had been wanting to bring them in for some time and I think they really enjoyed it – especially Lucas who has more trouble than Dorit with my leaving. That place, my work, is the cause of so much pain for him, I’m quite surprised he didn’t spit and stomp all over it. Instead, he enjoyed seeing the place that takes me away from them. When we had lunch afterwards he said, “Remember we went to your work?” When my children ask me if I remember something, they usually ask about something that has significance to them – not necessarily a positive experience, but a significant one. When Lucas does it, he tends to be asking about stuff that connects him to his parents. It is possible that seeing my work was another connection to me for him – rather than the cause of pain it has always been.
For me the experience was captured by that moment where I was taken aback to find them there. Work has always been separate from my children and having them there was like the bringing together of two worlds that were meant to always be separate. How many times have I been at work, looking at their pictures, wondering why I do this every single day? How many times have I gotten a phone call from Gem and wanted to leave work right then? How many times have I walked out the door, still hearing their screams in my head? How many times have I heard my children ask me, “You have to go to work?” and wishing I could say no, but having to say yes. I have carefully built a firewall between these two lives of mine, my two worlds. Work is the place I go everyday, where I am without them, where I try to simultaneously keep my connection to them, but not think too much about them so I can get through the day. It has been a balancing act.
Today, when I was leaving for the train, Lucas said, “I’m going to miss you, Daddy,” but it didn’t have quite the same pain that saying goodbye has often had in the past. Maybe seeing work, sitting in my chair, playing with stuff on my desk, seeing all of my pictures of them, is helping him with my leaving.
When I walked into work this morning, however, as usual they weren’t with me, but I remember them having been there. Those same images that might help my children deal with my leaving better seem to threaten to ruin my firewall configuration, to blur the line between my two worlds; the world where I want to be, the other where I have to be.