What Almost-Almost Made Me Cry Today

March 16th, 2010  |  by  |  Published in What Almost Made Me Cry Today  |  7 Comments

Once again, I find myself at 35,000 feet, tear ducts wide open and ready to drain me of any last drops of moisture in my body. Today’s in-flight movie: The Blind Side, in which Oscar™ winner Sandra Bullock adopts a quasi-homeless black friend of her young son. Will I almost-cry today? Probably not—I don’t even have my headphones plugged in, which makes the melodrama easier to ignore.

Or maybe I will. I’m coming back from yet another work trip, and even though it lasted only ten days, this one feels longer than usual. While I was away, Sasha was sick for pretty much the first time in her life, and every night Jean was telling me stories of yellow gunk oozing from my little girl’s nose and eyes, of how she wasn’t eating, of how clingy she’d become. I could tell from Jean’s tone that she was exhausted from the childcare, and exasperated by my absence. Even with help from my mom, it was tough.

And okay, I don’t want to compare their ten days to mine, which I spent eating my way around Rome and the hill towns of Abruzzo, but it was tough for me, too. On previous trips, Sasha was younger, and although I might be gone for a week or two at a time, I was missing an unformed baby. Now Sasha is, if not quite a whole person, certainly a character—a human system of hazily articulated desires and unconsciously charming behaviors. Missing Sasha now is different because I like her: I want to be around her, play games and read with her, wipe the schmutz from her orifices, maybe even take her out to a bar one evening. (Kidding!)

At the same time, it all makes my travel—my work—that much less fun. Ten days of bucatini all’amatriciana and pecora alla callara (on someone else’s dime) may sound  exciting, but if I could’ve done it in half the time, I would’ve. That line I wrote about last week—“Io sono casalingo”—was truer than I knew, and as I waddled back to a friend’s apartment or a stone country house from each gut-busting meal, I couldn’t help feeling jealous of these people who were already home with their families. I guess this is what you call homesickness, a feeling I’m not too familiar with.

The even more frustrating thing is that my travel schedule is not slowing down. Two weeks from now, I’ll be back on the road, on another ridiculous adventure, with even more limited Skype and phone access to Sasha and Jean, who themselves won’t have my mother around to help them through the day. After that, who knows? I’ve been asked not to go anywhere for a while, but what can I do? This is my job. Like that of a fisherman or a soldier, work leads me far from home, imposing its responsibilities in place of the ones I’d rather fulfill, and what kind of father would I be if I didn’t work? Despite all the enlightened modern fatherhood we espouse here at DadWagon, I still feel compelled, on a genetic level, to be a provider, even if I’m only a minority earner.

But the truth is, Jean could support us, and I could stay home. I could become that guy I told the Italians I was, un vero uomo casalingo, doing the laundry, cooking dinner, wiping snot from his daughter’s nose and almost-tears from his own sad eyes.


  1. karen says:

    March 16th, 2010at 6:40 pm(#)

    Funny, Alec doesn’t travel near as much as you do, and he can’t make the choice to stay home, but he who dreamed of travelling for work now longs to go nowhere without the kids.

    I found it surprising, he’s changed so much from when we were two individuals who happened to be married but not always connected at the hip or otherwheres.

    Also interesting that you are facing that choice that so many women face … many *could* stay home, but giving up a much valued career, one that they’ve worked so hard to shape and build, and one that probably won’t be there in the same way after they take the time off … well. It is a bitter choice, either way. No wonder stay-at-home and working moms often feel like each is critical of the other.

    Lucky those of us who were always the wanderers, the jacks-of-alls, masters-of-none, in this regard. It may have kind of sucked when others were busy forming their careers, but it made the stay-at-home years a no-brainer.

    Welcome home Matt. I hope that Sasha and Jean both feel much better soon.

  2. Mike says:

    March 16th, 2010at 9:50 pm(#)

    Il molto buono articolo di blog! Or something like that (I can’t fake Italian very well). I say drop the job, and become the Casalingo. I’m jealous you have this option (which I don’t at this stage in our lives, but might after my wife finishes her graduate work). Not only do more men need to see other men choosing to take this path, but I think women also need to see that men value the choice to stay home. If you ever choose to stay home, please write about it as much as posisble (blogs, major publications, book, etc.), and let me know so I can read it.

  3. Chris (Tessasdad) says:

    March 16th, 2010at 9:58 pm(#)

    I could be way off on this, but it kind of sounds like you know what you want to do. The “provider” stuff is playing tricks on you because we are conned into thinking that it is synonymous with bringing in money, but staying home with Sasha is providing for your family in a huge way.

    IMO, the struggle is more likely about you enjoying what you do and that you’re good at what you do. Maybe, there is a way to work from home as well as stay home with Sasha.

    Good luck man.

  4. Matt says:

    March 17th, 2010at 7:28 am(#)

    Thanks for the support, dudes. It’s hard to drop the job, though, especially when people come up to me all the time and say things like “You know you have the best job in the world, right?” And it is fun—in a couple of weeks I’m going to walk from Vienna to Budapest, for friggin work!—so maybe i can handle a few more months of struggle.

  5. gregor says:

    March 20th, 2010at 12:05 am(#)

    I’m coming late to this, having just got back from South by Southwest. 6 days away from the wee one was rough. She went from tentative steps to purposeful strides in that short time.

    If you quit and stay home what will Sasha think of that decision in 15 years? You’ll muddle through, you’ve already taken her along on a couple of your adventures, I’m sure there’ll be more of that in the future.

    Besides, the Italians have no problem with kids in bars.


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