Absence Makes the Dad Grow Stronger

Jack with the kiddies after Phoebe's recent First Communion

If you've perused the RLAM: The Tour portion of this site, you know that Dimity and I have been on the road promoting our book quite a bit this spring. At bookstores, running specialty stores, running races, Title 9 stores, maternity stores, my older daughter's school, you name it. I'd say I've been away from home close to 20 nights this spring, and I'm only about halfway through my tour dates. (Same goes for dear Dimity, who hits the Midwest next week while I'm headed to Maryland.) My traveling  has become almost routine to my kids, yet every.single.time I mention a publicity trip to my father, he says, "Oh, Jack is so patient. He's so understanding."

Let me say: I love my own father, but he's an old-fashioned, 83-year-old man (is that redundant?!). He's always had a very traditional view on how families should work--with the father's career and time positioned front and center. Whenever I tell him one of my gal-pals is moving with her family because of her job, he always asks, incredulously, "but what about her husband's job?" not grasping that the wife might be the primary--or, shocker, sole--breadwinner.

He also doesn't seem to grasp that a) I'm not jetting off to Cabo to drink margs with my girlfriends--I'm w.o.r.k.i.n.g; and b) Jack is every bit as much the parent of our three kids as I am. Taking care of Phoebe, John, and Daphne is part of Jack's responsibilities, not just mommy-me.

At the start of my tour, Jack had a bit of this old-fashioned-ness running through him. But I want to take this opportunity to thank Jack immensely and whole-heartedly for how chipper he's been about taking care of the kids in my absence--and to praise him for what an awesome job he's done. Instead of just coasting by, Jack has risen to the challenge, doing activities like flying kites with the kids or bowling with them. And in the process, he's forged a deeper bond with the children that I marvel at whenever I'm home. Before RLAM hit, our son, John, would only snuggle with me. Now, when we're all piled on the bed watching "Up!," John scootches across the bed to tuck in under Jack's wing. Phoebe positions a pillow between Jack's splayed-out legs and reclines like a queen. Only stubborn, mommy-centric Daphne seems largely immune to her Poppa's charms.

These bonds were formed by my absence, whether promoting Run Like a Mother or training for my marathon. Instead of being deprived of their mother, our kids have been gifted with the presence of their father. Have you found your husband's behavior and attitudes have changed due to your running or work schedule?

16 responses to “Absence Makes the Dad Grow Stronger

  1. I liked this post a lot. My husband, Dan, is a runner too (or when he’s injured, a swimmer), so he’s always understood about the need to exercise. As a dad of 3-YO twins, he’s also been more involved with our kids from day one than most dads of one-at-a-time, partly because he *had* to be (Sarah, I know you know about this). All that said, I haven’t seen as much reduction of the “we love mommy best” stuff in either my son or my daughter. They both remain much more clingy with me–one or both may still cry when I leave for a run. Not being sentimental in the least, I am eager for this to end. Moreover, I feel bad for Dan that they treat him as “second choice” after all he does for them. Maybe it’s just an age thing?

  2. It is always so reassuring to read about other mothers’ experiences and also reminder of how lucky I am. I often face the same tug- of-war for running time with my runner husband as many of you do — very rarely does one of us actually miss a run (creative scheduling, 70% time at work for me,running together with the help of family and paid babysitters, etc. ensure that). The benefits over our years of marriage have outweighed the struggles as we trained for 10ks, 20ks, half and full marathons together. My recent pregnancy resulted in more solo running though and for every minute-per-mile I added he dropped one — but he will be pushing the new jogger on an upcoming 10k — and he isn’t acting like a martyr about it.

    I also have to say, the more kids we’ve had, the more he has stepped up to the plate to care for them when I go to medical conferences once or twice each year. We are also lucky to have family in town to pitch in when things get crazy — while it can have some down sides — there are a ton of benefits! (Note: truly good friends can also fill this bill.) When either of us travel for work, we know we have someone to call. Kudos and good luck to those who travel away from nursing babies! My mother has gotten a lot of free frequent flier miles by coming with me to conferences so that I can take whoever was nursing at the time (my husband does refuse to keep a nursing one at home).

    Overall, I think it is having this whole package together that let’s us run and be sane parents of four.

  3. Girl(s), don’t get me started! 🙂 I have to weigh in and say what a great entry, Sara! It’s wonderful that your hubby has been such a great parent and partner!!!! That’s awesome. I loved reading everyone’s comments…you are all indeed very lucky! My YARD GUY saw my hubby at the bank today and told him he’s never seen someone bikeride or run so fast – he went on to say I could get a ticket for bikeriding that fast! Ha! I love it…even though my husband doesn’t share my fitness passions, his lack of interest/particpation/assistance does nothing to dissuade me from getting my workouts in…I feel like I should leave a note to the yard guy tomorrow, “Sorry, G, had to go on a field trip today…see ya next Wednesday!” 🙂 heehee…

  4. Hmm….I can’t say that my husband is the greatest and doesn’t begrudge my constant running off on the weekends. He does. I can see it on his face. Meetings to organize Run for Congo Women, writing group meetings, teaching Kindie Sunday School, amazing book signings I just must attend…I see his frustration. But it doesn’t stop me. I feel guilty, but also know that if I said I am ‘going out for a run’ it wouldn’t seem like a good enough reason to leave him with the kids. Not sure if that is self inflicted assumption or not. Like unless I am leaving for a legitimate reason…it won’t be valued. You know?

    Lots to think about…


    1. Oh I hear you–I have gone so far as to literally sneak out of work early to run, then quickly shower and dress back up in order to come home and NOT appear like I have been out running! But I do this more to avoid the “Oh-YOU-got-to-run-today-and-I-haven’t-been-able-to-for-three-days-because-I- am-too-busy-at-work-AGAIN” arguments. I detest being made to feel guilty. I do a good enough job of that on my own.

    2. You guys are too funny-and helpfully honest. I do feel that a run is a legitimate reason for sure, but I totally get that not everybody feels that way. (I’m sure he approved of you going to the book signing though, right, especially on a rainy Saturday afternoon. Plenty to do then, right?) As honest as it sounds, I’m glad it doesn’t stop you from doing what you need to do. And if you need to hide it, artsy fartsy, that’s cool too. Do what you need to do to get it done.

      Funny: I met a woman on the tour this weekend whose husband always approved of her running, but never doing anything else for herself. So she’d fake going for a run, and actually get a pedicure. 🙂

  5. The great thing about being married to another runner is that they understand your desire to run. The bad thing about being married to another runner is that they also have that same desire to run. Unless you have a live-in babysitter, you are forced to schedule (fight for) running time. The majority of our squabbles are based on “who gets to run most” or “who ran last”. When this happens we revert to a six-year old mentality (“But that’s not FAIR!”). There is a lot of give and take and for the most part, we figure it out. It’s all about balance–if one of us isn’t running everyone suffers. 😉

    1. Oh, yeah, Dimity plays that tug-of-war with her husband. My Jack has actually started working out at gym since I wrote the book (I honestly believe the Husbands chapter SHAMED him into it!), but he is NOT one to wake up early and exercise, so I still “own” those hours. Plus, he avoids gym on weekend as he thinks it’s too crowded. Works for me!!

  6. My wonderful husband has to put up with BOTH work and running/triathlons!! I am a flight attendant and while many times I am home every night, there are months that I am gone 8 or more nights a month. Since we had our first child, he has ALWAYS been there to fill any gaps and take care of what needs to be done while I am away. People are shocked he will take all three kids to the zoo but he LOVES doing it.

    As to my sports, he is my BIGGEST fan/support. And while he doesn’t always drag the kids to the races, if I really want them all there..he makes it happen. He knows that I am a better mom and wife after getting out for a run.

    I love knowing that my husband and partner in everything is someone that I trust wholeheartedly is both taking excellent care of our children and sending me on my way with his blessings….which I turn around and do when he needs to go golfing! 🙂

  7. Cheryl–
    Impressive that you are racing a half while you have a baby who still breastfeeds in the night. Good luck to you in your race–and to understanding hubby for stepping up to the plate!

  8. My husband has been very supportive of my running since I started last November. He really enjoys the ‘view’ too. =) So far, I’ve done one race and he was wonderful on his own with all five kiddos. Now, the true test will come at the end of June when I’ll be gone overnight to race my first half marathon. Please say a prayer for him as the littlest one still nurses at night.

  9. I am the primary breadwinner in my family and have been since we got married. It has been especially apparent since the economy tanked as my husband is an electrician and construction is still at a stand still. I often feel “role strain” as a mother, athlete, employee etc adn I can feel stressd and isolated as a result. I think the kids do miss me when I am gone..which is a good thing. But, like Sarah alluded to it is so great to see the kids have a strong and unique bond with Jasen too. Two sets of arms and laps are a plus. One of the things I love best about Jasen as a father and husband is his willingness to be there and be engaged with the kids and myself! He is my biggest fan at races and rarely misses one. I try to give him time to himself as well (even if its just being able to watch the baseball game on TV) by taking kids to the gym while I work out!

  10. My husband is a great Dad and is always on board if I need to leave him alone for the kiddos, for whatever reason. I think time without Mom helps them to bond, and to learn about life from a different perspective. And since those breaks often help me remember how much I love my family it makes me a better mother too.

  11. Yeah, I think my husband likes who I am so much when I get back that he’ll do just about anything to get me out there. 🙂 This last weekend I came home to a monopoly tournament – judging by the passionate playing, I was clearly not missed at all! 🙂

  12. Amen, Amen, Amen! My husband is SO very good about never begrudging my running time. He loves hanging with our 2 little guys…. Though I have to say this is more so now that they are (almost) 4 and 6 since they can all play Legos and lightsabers and all that Y-chromosome stuff together. (And also because except for Saturday mornings I’m back from my run before any of them are awake…)

  13. I think my dear husband actually loves when I take off for a run, or race without him and the girls. I stay home with my girls and so when it is all four of us, I am constantly “in charge” when it is just him they eat popcorn and watch movies, stay in their PJ’s and just enjoy each others company without all of Mommies demands being thrown about…..and your right it builds the best bonds with Daddy, and they need that!! very well said……oh and I am so excited for you to come to Maryland!

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