In Today's Wall Street Journal, columnist Jeff D. Opdyke resigned. Citing increasing demands at a full-time job, and not spending enough time with his wife and children, Opdyke said in his farewell column, “I need to make less money and spend more time with family.” I say, “Bravo!”
(I know, the photo is of a woman, not a man — bear with me for a moment.)
Opdyke's words resonate with me on many levels. The fact that Opdyke is a husband (of a wife with her own professional career) and father make his decision to leave his Wall Street Journal post all the more interesting — and timely. He is doing in the middle of his career what I did near the beginning of mine — proactively controlling the amount of time he spends working for someone else so he can be more available to his family.
Back In the Day …
As a woman in 2000, it was “acceptable” for me to leave a demanding and well-paying career to pursue marriage and family. It was practically unheard of that a man would scale back his professional pursuits in order to spend more time with family. My, how times have changed. And while it's not any easier, I think it's a good thing that more men want to spend more time with their spouse and children, and are not ashamed to announce it to the world in the Wall Street Journal.
For decades, women struggled with the notion that we had to bring home the bacon, fry it up in a pan, perform through the night as an irresistible love kitten, and look fabulous while doing it all. Add children to the mix, and you have a recipe for what has become known as “Mommy Guilt,” the feeling that lives with a mom who is trying to do it all and feeling guilty about every bit of it.
They're not making a good enough dinner, not spending enough time with the kids, not doing a good enough job at work, not pleasing their man enough, not being a good daughter, not being a good girlfriend, and blah blah blah!
Today, as I lead a growing business and also serve as a wife and mother of young children, when I do feel a bit of guilt, it's usually because I'm not focusing on myself enough. But that's me.
Whatever my issues are, I find it refreshing to see a sort of “Daddy Guilt” theme running through Opdyke's announcement. While he does not use the word, “guilt,” he does say this:
I was raised by my grandparents, and I know what it's like not to have your father in your life as much as you wish. I feel terrible pulling myself off his bed when I'd be so content falling asleep next to him.
Such disappointments have shaped my family life over the past nine months. To cite one more example: A couple of weekends ago my son and [my wife] were making plans for the family to watch a movie when my 7-year-old daughter, talking to no one in particular, said wistfully, “Maybe Dad can join the family this time.”
And then there's [his wife's] simple request: “I want my husband back.”
I don't need to see the word to feel the emotion; at least I think I perceive it: Guilt. And it has usually been associated with women who are mothers, and not with men who are fathers. This was confirmed to me as I searched for a graphic to accompany this post. I scoured Fotolia, the site where I purchase many royalty-free photos for this blog, and when I searched on the word, “hectic, I found the graphic above.
There is no similar one for a father. Hmmmm. All the dads look confident or frustrated, but they are not depicted being frazzled and torn in a million directions at once.
I don't want to wish “guilt” of any kind on anyone. It's not a positive thing. But the reality is that women have felt it for decades, whether they wanted to or not. If the guilt is going to be there anyway, it should be shared.
Anyway, whether you are a part of the corporate rat race, or whether you've gotten off of it (or been forced off by the current economy), and whether you are a man, a woman, a wife, or a husband, I encourage you to take a few minutes to read Opdyke's column and congratulate him for leading his life instead of letting circumstances lead it for him.
… for making less money so he can attend to things that are infinitely more important.
Question: Does Opdyke's decision “speak” to you too?