Yesterday, I was having a rough day. Tuesdays I'm basically gone 9-7. I have two one-hour breaks between classes. Both times I came home yesterday Aaron had just put Aidan down for a nap. I went to class teary eyed because I felt like I was missing out on so much happening in Aidan's life. Some days it's harder than others. I very briefly explained to my professor my puffy eyes and face. There's another student in my program who has a six-month old son and he's been struggling leaving him home, too. Later that evening, my professor sent us the following email:
"I'd like to share that story with you now. I share it simply in the spirit of sympathy and support. I think, too, that probably many of the faculty could share a similar story, and understand, and have real sympathy for the challenges you both face.
I remember when I was in the middle of my doctoral program at Texas Tech University. I was still in the process of seeing clients several evenings a week. Additionally, we had practicum one evening a week, and it lasted from 5 PM to 10 PM.
One night, exhausted at the end of a long day that had begun early in the morning and extended well past 10 PM, I remember driving home and arriving home feeling very mournful. All the lights were off. I got out of the car and walked to the front door, but instead of opening the door and walking in, I knocked. My wife, Shelly, came to the front door and opened it to find me there. She immediately drew a perplexed expression, wondering why I hadn't just come in.
With tears forming in my eyes, I said, “I don't know if I can do this. I leave in the mornings, sometimes before the children are even up, and always before I've had enough time with them. I'm gone all day and come home at night, often after they're already in bed, or at best with just a few minutes before they do go to bed. This isn't what I ever wanted—you know all I ever wanted was to be a father. I feel like I'm missing everything I've lived for. And isn't it ironic to be pursuing the profession of a marriage and family therapist and feel that I'm hardly a father to my own children.”
At that point, Shelly said, “Mark, the children are alright. We'll be fine. The sacrifice is only for a time, and our family will be blessed by it down the road.” Shelly was right. Things got a lot better during the third year of the program, and better and better since then.
I just wanted you to know that I feel sympathy for the challenges you are both facing as you attempt to be both father/mother and full-time doctoral student.
For some reason, I think it's also important to know that many men face and feel the same feelings as mothers, on a daily basis, and sometimes truly resent the necessity of paid work away from home that takes them away from their children and families through so many important events in their lives. I hope we can all work and advocate for the sanity of family-work balance that allows both fathers and mothers the time they so desire at home."
Often in school, we don't get or take the time to get to know the faculty and feel like they don't really take the time to get to know us or care about anything we're doing outside of their class. I'm so grateful for moments like this that remind me that there's a reason I'm at BYU studying Marriage & Family Therapy and that even though some days it is crazy, it will be worth it and our family will get through it.