In the nearly-fourteen years we’ve been married, Dada has been the guy who gets home from work and is home. He will tell you how his day went, what he’s got on tap for the next day, mention whatever project looms in the near future, and let it go…
I will now switch to the past tense: that’s the way he WAS. Now, suddenly (and justifiably,) at the age of 51 he is the guy who is ALWAYS working. Mind you, I say justifiably because the project they’re working on is pretty friggin’ important, and I understand this, and I’ve been trying to do my darned best to be an asset and not a liability.
This is the way the week is going lately: leave for work, work, work, work, call at lunchtime (IF he takes lunch) sounding overwhelmed, come home (later than usual,) walk in looking overwhelmed, eat overwhelmed, walk around overwhelmed, sit down to work at my desk being overwhelmed, sleep fitfully, wake up, do it again. The weekend is pretty much the same, except he’s not leaving the house, just working from here and not really coming down from the ARGH level his project provokes.
Neither the kids nor I are used to this. We’ve been, up until now, a family that works to live, and not the other way around. Coming home is a time to leave work behind, and now the darned thing is stuck to Dada’s shoes, hair, clothes, nostrils, and we can’t seem to get it off him. His focus is stuck. We understand it’s necessary to be focused, but we’re worried about the part where he can’t be shaken back to normalcy.
I know what you’re thinking: “is he really WORKING or is he preoccupied with something (someone) else???? Hmmmm.” He’s really working. If this is the way he would have an affair, I pity the woman who would get involved with him. He eats with a pained expression on his face, and we can all tell that he’s thinking of the long list of things he has to do when the meal is over. I’ve caught him scribbling notes about what needs to be addressed once this project is launched and fully operational; not even Grand Moff Tarkin looked as focused during construction of the Death Star. In fact, there are moments when Dada reminds us more of Admiral Motti in the midst of being choked by Darth Vader’s command of The Force.
So…last night I had to do a reality check, and we both went to bed angry. This is something we never do. We might go to bed miffed, but we do our best to hash it out before going to sleep. This morning we woke up miffed. It seems, or so I’ve been told, that I’m not “getting” how hard Dada is trying to not be so focused. I had to explain, as calmly as a woman having a hot flash can manage, that when you get home and don’t even kiss your wife hello, march upstairs to change and come back to have dinner still talking about how much you have to do is not, in fact, “trying.” And then I got the word again: “I’m trying to help you as much as I can!!!” That’s when I said, quite simply, that I DON’T need his HELP with the house or the kids or the trash or anything else. I can DO the housework and then some (I AM, after all, a WOMAN and highly-trained to do all this) by myself.
Men will very likely take Dada’s side on this, and women might say “oh, but the poor guy is trying!” I know that, but I’m going to tell you the same thing I told him so, please, bear with me.
A database is an ethereal space in which concrete information is stored and manipulated. Ultimately, we are ALL expendable and replaceable in a work environment. We might be easy to replace, or it might take a little longer to replace us, but…we ALL are replaceable. No one should do their job in such a way that their job security is so iron-clad that time off is out of the question, that illness is more of catastrophe because of our absence from a work obligation. You know where you’re not expendable or replaceable??? In the Real World. Do you know where the Real World is? Where the people who love you and live with you are. Yes, yes, you do what you do for your family, to give them what they deserve…what good is a house, nice furniture, a car, vacations, nice Christmases if the person you want to share them with is not there?
We’re poor. That is: we have enough money to live on, and we -from time to time- gasp for air with a lot more desperation than we would like. However…I’ve never really felt like this is what defines us as a family. It used to be that was defined us as a family was that outside that door (of B-88, or 52, or 145, or 517, or 1207) work stopped. We talked about it, but we came home to be at home. We were here; we were present; we didn’t dwell. I understand this project is HUGE for Dada, but…I don’t want Dada to be over before the project is done. Does that make sense????
I explained to Dada this morning that, ultimately, if something happens to him because of this relentless whirlwind of work- AND self-imposed stress, he will have achieved nothing. “I can’t be in love with your insurance for the rest of my life. Your co-workers will initially offer their support, but they’ll have to go back to their lives. And I’m going to be REALLY pissed off that you didn’t listen when I told you that you need to disconnect for at least half an hour a day, and allow us to help you be yourself, and not just Work Dada.”
We can do this. I am 100% behind getting the work done and doing it efficiently, but I’d like my family to be fine when it’s over. I’ve put my foot down, and perhaps I’ve also put it in my mouth, but I am sort of madly in love with the man, and I’d like to see him get very old over a long period of time, and not just get very old because he’s stressed himself out over THIS. And the kids (who are no longer “kids”) miss him, and wish he would be his usual self long enough that they could get a little bit of what he usually brings to the dynamic of our family.
I guess this is what I get for living in the La-la Land of “we don’t live to work, we work to live,” huh? I’ve taught my family one philosophy, and now another one is being pushed down our craws. Yoda said “there is no try; there is only do,” and now I am expected to try to unplug this wonderful man from his “work brain” long enough to enjoy a meal… I guess it would be a lot easier if we didn’t LIKE him so much…