Being a bad dad and husband – part 1 of 2

How I believe my wife and kids saw me prior to cancer.

On this blog, I have shared a lot about my cancer experience. It seems most of what I write about is negative. The negative direction of my blog is mostly due to the fact I’m trying to give others an idea of what they may experience when a loved one has cancer. Today’s post will be different in that it focuses on a negative aspect of my life from before being diagnosed with cancer. In this post, I will share how being a workaholic almost prevented me from ever being a good father or husband. Tomorrow I will have part two of this post, which will focus on what I am doing now to be the father and husband I wish I had always been.

Work was my life

I used to be a workaholic. Before moving back to South Dakota about seven years ago, I would spend almost every moment working. As a network engineer/project manager I always had work to do. There were a couple of jobs and consulting work I would do that had me traveling all over the Midwest US and Canada. There was one year, in particular, I had logged over two hundred nights staying in a hotel. That was time spent away from my family. One of my sons was a baby at that time, and he refused to let me feed him because he didn’t know me. Even when I was home, I was never really home. I would be logged onto the computer and creating scripts or router configs for customers. I lived for my work and barely noticed I had a family.

When my family moved back to South Dakota I left the tech world. I was now spending more time with the family. There was hardly a sporting or school event I would miss. I was going camping with the whole family. I spent some time helping my wife grow her accounting business. On the side I started blogging about South Dakota politics. Within a couple of years, I was spending at least eighty hours a week writing about politics on my blog and acting as a ghostwriter for people in the political and business world. Plus I was traveling all over to record events and interview politicians. I had changed from being a workaholic in the tech world to being a workaholic as a writer. Nothing substantial had changed.

My family suffered due to my focus on work

I love my wife and kids, and I feel that I have always loved them. But the old me chose the wrong method of showing my love. To be what I thought of as a good provider, I felt I had to work continuously. It never occurred to me that what my wife and kids wanted was more time with me. I remember wishing I could spend more time with the family. Instead of spending more time with the family, I would work longer to be the provider I thought they wanted.

In this post, I won’t go any further into how my family suffered. I imagine almost anyone can imagine how tough it is for a family to be an actual family when the dad/husband is never there. Plus I can think of dozens of times off the top of my head where I know I disappointed my boys by not being there.

Then cancer happened

My focus on family started before I became diagnosed with cancer. During the summer of 2018 I began to have significant breathing problems coupled with a lack of energy (documented in this post). I thought I was going to die. That summer, I spent as much time as I could with my family. I wasn’t able to do much with them due to my breathing problems. But I still tried to spend what I thought were my last days with my family. The biggest joy for me that summer was traveling around the state watching my two younger sons play baseball. 

Monday, August 27, is when I got the news from my doctor that I had cancer. Specifically, I found out I have Stage 2 Follicular Lymphoma. Then I saw “the fireworks” on September 5 letting me know just how bad my cancer was. Since September 5 of last year, I have not stopped thinking about how much of my families life I have missed. Over the last year, I have been trying to find ways to make up for that lost time. 

Failure as a dad and husband

As I look over the last fifteen years of marriage, I cannot help but feel I was a failure as a dad and husband. In my mind I was a good provider for my family. But in reality I was rarely a true father or husband. At the time I thought just making appearances at certain events was enough for my family. I was wrong. I wish I could say that my family missed me, but I don’t think that is true. Looking back, I don’t think my wife and kids were around me enough to actually miss me. I was the guy who would come and go and make the occasional bad joke (on the plus side they get to hear a lot more of my bad jokes now!).

I am also amazed my wife did not divorce me during this period. We both love each other very much. But I left the marriage in all ways that matter. There were times over the years I would be around for a little bit longer, and I would be more of an attentive husband. But that would never last long, and I would also return focus on work.

Looking back, I can recall dozens of ways I was a poor father and husband. But I won’t go into any more of those ways in this post. I imagine anyone reading this post an understand by now that I was not there for my family.

Refocus on being a true father and husband

As I close this post, I hope to close the dark period of my life where I chose not to be a true husband or dad. Unfortunately, it took cancer for me to realize I was not focusing on my family in the way I should have been. Part of me still feels that death is coming closer, and I can’t help but have some regrets about the lack of being an attentive father and husband. But at the same time, I have renewed focus on spending more time with my family and not falling into the trap of being a workaholic again. My next post will focus on what I am doing differently now to be the father and husband I should always have been.

Song of the day

The song that ran through my head while writing this post is a beautiful song by Zane Williams. In particular this part of the song hits close to home:

And for every dollar I earn there’s a lesson you learn without me there
And every day I’m on the go I’m prayin’ that you know your Daddy cared
‘Cause the hardest part about workin’ hard ain’t the bills I gotta pay
It’s you growin’ up while I was away

There is also a version of this song performed by Pat Green. But I happen to like the original version by Zane just a little better.

Bonus song of the day

Of course taking about a dad who was never there brings Harry Chapin’s classic Cat’s in the Cradle to mind. Instead of sharing the original, I thought I would share what I feel is a great cover by Ugly Kid Joe.

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