Half Days on Wednesdays

I am lucky enough that I have the freedom to decide my own schedule. I’m a grad student, which despite how it may sound, IS a job. I get paid (not much, but some), I have work to do. If I don’t do the work, I don’t get the pay. But (right now anyway) the work is almost entirely product-based, which means nobody cares if I do it from 9-5 on Monday to Friday, or if I do it all in a 30 hour spurt on the weekend. As long as it gets done. So my schedule is flexible.

But since I want to finish my degree quickly I pretty much think of myself as having a 9-5 job. I go to my office (or study room) every morning, and come home at around 5 every day. I try to put my studying away when I get home so that I am really home and present for my family when I am home, not distracted.

My big exception to this is on Wednesdays, when I take a half-day and let my wife go off on her own. Sometimes she goes out in the morning, and sometimes in the afternoon. It doesn’t matter. I look forward to Wednesdays. Although I really love my work, Wednesdays are great for a lot of reasons.

Firstly, it makes me feel like a good husband, which is always nice. I love how happy my wife is after she’ s had a chance to spend a few hours drinking coffee at Starbucks, or browsing at a used book store, or even just grocery shopping without two kids. She gets to have some time to herself–some time OUT to herself, and I like being able to give her that.

I also love being able to spend time with my kids and no one else. When G was a baby, my wife and I each worked part-time, and I got a lot of time with her by myself. I really believe it helped me be a better father, because I didn’t have anyone else to rely on or to pass the buck to. It was all on me. It was sink or swim. And that gave me a confidence, and a competence, but also a closeness to my daughter that I think would have come more slowly otherwise. I don’t get that as much with M, and I miss it. But on Wednesdays I get that. It forces me to build my parenting skills–to learn how to deal with two kids at once and no help–but it is also a chance to spend some undistracted time with my kids.

I know many (most) dads don’t have the same flexibility I have, and aren’t able to just take a half day once a week. But I really can’t overstate how nice it is to spend time parenting without a net.