by JOE HOCKEY
Dealing with “the guilts”? Get over it, dad.
Oh to be able to sleep in until 7am!
That, at least, is how I feel at 5.30 am on those mornings when I wake up after way too little sleep to find at least one of our three children demanding their share of me.
Ignatius, aka. Mr Personality, a few months short of his third birthday, is in his cot singing LMFAO’s recent hit “Party Rock Anthem” with an occasional burst of the chorus of “Wheels on the Bus”.
Adelaide, her mother’s daughter, knows what she wants and gets it when she wants. She carries her seven “kittys” around the House with a purpose not to be challenged early in the morning by a transient father.
And seven-year-old- Xavier, who jumps into bed for a cuddle, has his lines down pat… “I love you Daddy. Why are you always going away? Can I watch the TV?”
These are my children, and this is my life.
Despite that groaning feeling when they wake me in that fashion, I cherish that morning ritual and wouldn’t have it any other way. Nevertheless, I am always hit by terrible guilt when I usually walk out the door at 6.45am and head off to work.
My wife and children may not believe it but when I walk out the door I really feel “the guilts” – every single day.
And the truth of it is, that guilt stays with me throughout the days, the months and the years of my life that I am away as an absent father.
I often wonder if my own father felt the same way when he and mum were raising me and my own siblings.
I grew up in a small business family. Mum and Dad had to run the business six days a week.
It was seven days a week until my tenth birthday when the family had saved enough money to fulfill the Genesis dream of a day of rest.
Even though Dad was home every night and I saw him every morning he was sort of absent from my day. Much as he would have loved to, Dad could never attend my Saturday sport until my final year at school. He never had time to kick a ball or play a board game because he had to work. When he was home he was exhausted.
As the youngest of four children I received more benefit than my siblings of the family’s financial success. I received a better education, overseas travel and lots of toys I really wanted. But nothing quite made up for the fact of how much I still missed my dad as he was always working so hard for the family.
He was my hero and he still is. Because despite all his commitments, he still managed to be a great father. Only now, do I appreciate how wondrous it was that he was able to achieve that.
Like him, I hate to miss a birthday, a school assembly or to simply share in the moments of discovery where a child learns how it all works.Being interstate for more than half the year places a burden on the family. And while Skype makes it easier to stay in contact, it will never replace a hug.
For all those of us who travel it is never easy. From the fly- in fly- out mums who drive trucks in the Pilbara to pay the mortgage in Perth, to the dads that drive interstate buses or fly planes, its hard yakka walking out that door to leave parenting behind.
So the lesson is to make it meaningful when you are around, no matter how mundane or frustrating the parenting can be.
I am grateful that one of the best things my wife has ever done for me is to teach me how to be a good dad.
She had to, because for many years Melissa has been the primary carer and primary wage earner in the family. She worked long hours with huge stress and lots of travel.
At the same time as we had three children under five years of age, Melissa at work had the daily challenge of meeting the expectations of men who didn’t know how to be an equal partner in a child rearing household.
So from the very start Melissa made me change nappies, burp after a feed, provide mind numbing entertainment for a playdate and dress (and re-dress) the kids during the day.
Now with two of the children at school, it’s soccer practice, ballet and book reading to the class.
At first I thought that was enough. After all then I was a busy Minister in the Federal Government. How arrogant!
Whether they like it or not they are a part of my life.
For example during the last election Xavier and Adelaide were running ahead of me along a footpath and stopped dead in their tracks as if they had seen a ghost. They turned back to look at me and Adelaide cried out …’Daddy, daddy these people have a photo of you in their front yard!’ whilst pointing to my new campaign poster. They discovered politics.
And these days instead of calling me “dad”, Iggy just calls me “Joe Hockey” he has discovered his dad is a public figure.
So I redouble the effort when I am around. A 5.30am wakeup is a blessing and an opportunity.
I have learnt that there is no good guide to absent parenting so get over “the guilts” and make every moment count.
Joe Hockey is the Shadow Treasurer and Member for North Sydney. Follow him on Twitter here.