I’m going to take a break from the “bod” part of this blog and concentrate on the “dad” part today.
As I write this I’m sat on a train from London back to my home town, a journey I’ve not taken in 6 days. A combination of late finishes, on calls and living out of London have conspired to keep me away from home and more importantly away from my family for 6 bloody days.
The job I do is not a 9-5, it involves shift work, early starts, late evenings and emergency cover. Don’t get me wrong, I love my job, it can be exhilarating, rewarding, soul destroying and mentally and physically challenging. Sometimes all in one day. I can’t imagine doing anything else and, frankly, I’m not qualified to do anything else, but despite what the rest of this post will suggest I really do like my job, and I like to think I’m quite good at it.
When I started working in operating theatres, and particularly when I took my current job and knew I would be commuting to London to do it, I knew there would be weeks like this. So really I’ve got nobody to blame but myself. On average I spend 2 nights a week away from home. It sounds a lot but to be honest they are nights when I would be finishing very late and starting very early the next day so actually I wouldn’t see my family anyway, these nights I can cope with, it’s not ideal but it’s life.
Then now and again periods like the last 6 days come along. Times when it feels like the people who write my rota are trying to kill me and time itself seems to stand still. 6 days without hugging my kids, 6 days with out holding my wife, seemingly endless nights of sleeping alone in a bare on call room alone and frankly, lonely.
The loneliness is the worst thing. It seems an odd thing to say that in a hospital full of people, in one of the busiest most culturally rich cities in the world that I’m lonely, but I am.
When I’m at the hospital and actually working it’s not too bad, it’s busy I’m distracted, I’m surrounded by people I know. But as soon as I leave it hits me, once again I’m heading back to an empty flat, hospital accommodation with nothing more to greet me than yesterday’s boxer shorts screwed up on the floor.
I don’t sleep well when I’m on call. There’s always the chance my sleep will be inturrupted and to be honest I don’t sleep well without the warm presence of my wife gently snoring next to me or without being able to go and kiss my slumbering children good night.
And then there’s the guilt…
I’m not stupid, nor am I so wrapped up in myself that I think I’m the only person this is hard for. The age of technology, FaceTime and mobile phones mean that I’m able to at least speak to my family, to see their faces and them see mine. But I’m not home, I’m not there to help my wife look after the kids, to show all of them the genuine love and affection I have for all of them. To do the bedtime routine while my wife chills out for a bit. More than once I’ve had facetimes with one of kids in tears because they want to see me. Generally speaking my kids are amazing and despite their upset just accept out of hand that the “poorly people” at the hospital need me more than they do at that moment. But the guilt cuts deep.
The only thing that keeps me going is knowing WHY I’m doing it, the on calls, the over time, the late finishes. They all pay for our lives, there is no other job (that I’m qualified to do) that will do that. The nights away are a pain in the arse for me and for everyone else, but they’re a necessity and they pay the bills. I just hope that as my kids get older they get that, that I didn’t want to spend time away, that I had to, who knows, one day maybe they’ll even read this.
My wife is a stalwart, she just sucks it up and on weeks like this she just carries on and lives as if she’s a single parent. Her resolve is amazing, and though every now and again she has a moan about it, she just gets on with it. I couldn’t love her more.
So that’s my moan for today over, it’s been a long 6 days and there’s one more night away to go this week. But right now I’m coming home, today I’m going to embrace my wife, today I’m going to hug my kids, and I couldn’t be happier.