It's true. We all know it. Our little corner of the everyday world is more complicated than ever before. My family is no different. Five years ago when all that mattered was my career and playing baseball, long before I had a family, I truthful thought that I could handle any situation or "psycho-social stressor"--as my psychologist father would say--that presented itself in the course of everyday life.
But let me tell you, the stresses that run congruent to both parents working full-time AND on opposite shifts while raising a family are far beyond what I thought my mind could comprehend just a short time ago.
Each day, my wife goes to work at 6AM, I wake up at 6:30, my son wakes up between 7 and 7:30, sometimes earlier. I watch him from the time he wakes up I have to go to work around 1:30PM when my mother-in-law comes over for a few hours covering that interim time from when I leave to when my wife gets home around 4PM. I come home around midnight. I fall asleep around 1AM and start the process over again the next day.
Seeing how I've never played babysitter for 30+ hours a week and worked 45 hours on top of that, the adjustment period is a difficult one and its still ongoing. There are times that I wish either my wife or myself could stay home while the other assumes the responsibility of bread winner. Where work and babysitting is concerned, this was the first time where I've actually had symptoms of anxiety although at the time, I thought I was coming down with something. Ultimately, I was getting burned out...real fast.
Each day while I drive the 38 miles to work, a somewhat effective way for me to unwind is to listen to sports talk radio. Much of the time, I only listen passively as it makes for great white noise drowning out the sound of passing trucks and other extraneous vibrations eminating from the undercarriage of my ten year old car.
As I was making the turn onto the interstate one day, a caller got my attention. While some people call in to hear themselves talk, this guy was different. He had a story to tell and it went something like this:
"My name is Mark. I just wanted to call in and say that your show really helps me get through the day. I have an 18-month old son who was born with a genetic defect. He's already had 5 surgeries and just yesterday, he had to be put on a feeding tube. Your show helps me get away for a few hours and for that I am thankful. Merry Christmas."
Needless to say, I was blown away. At that moment when the caller told the host "he had an 18 month old...he has a feeding tube", something in me clicked. While I finished that left turn onto the interstate going north, everything suddenly came into focus. What in hell do I have to complain about? Sure, each day of the week, my day is around 17 to 19 hours long with around 5 hours of sleep at the end. And sure, watching my 18 month old is the most fulfilling but yet the most draining experience EVER.
But I know this much. I have not had to utter the words "genetic defect" or "feeding tube" when speaking about my 18 month old son Nathan. My son was born with a cleft-lip but that was cosmetic. For all intends and purposes, it's like it never happened. His cleft-lip is in the past. Poof. Done. That caller's infant son will need 24 hour care for the rest of his life. I thought my day-to-day life was tough. It pales in comparison to what this caller has to go through each and every day.
The entire ride to work that day was a sobering one. The radio stayed off and I reflected on the intangibles of my life promising never to take anything for granted. Since then, when a day isn't going great, I think back to the to that caller named Mark and his infant son and I realize how great I have it.
As car rides to work go that afternoon early last week, it was the best one I have ever had.