Can a dad take a personal day off?

“Because I Said So” column for The Commercial Appeal

Feb. 14, 2013

Can a dad take a personal day off?

Despite the ease with which this column must seem to be written, each verb and subordinate clause just rolling off the tongue, there are those weeks that I don’t feel like writing it at all. I just want to ignore it the way my kids ignore their mess, their homework and my good advice.

These are weeks when little of note is going on in my house or with my kids, so I’ll call each of them into my office one by one and ask a series of questions, have them tell me a story, or amuse me with a joke like I’m a talent agent on the vaudeville circuit. They aren’t much for auditions these days, though, so there are weeks when I think, like many a vaudeville agent must have, of firing these four kids and hiring four more; four kids with pizazz and some stage presence, kids who will heed my advice and clean their rooms.

But maybe it’s not them. Maybe it’s me. We all get a little burned out, don’t we? On our jobs, our routine, the television shows we watch and food we eat. Even the Pope knows when to say “enough is enough.”

Sometimes we can even get burned out on being a parent. It’s OK, you can say it. We all need a break sometimes, though it’s never quite that easy. You can’t just tell your baby you’re taking a personal day and leave a stack of diapers where they can be reached, a dish of baby food on the kitchen floor. Hanging a “Do Not Disturb” sign around your neck is often met with even more questions you aren’t in the mood to answer.

I know people without children who consider their pets to be kids. They’ll even sympathize, shaking their heads and saying, “Oh, I know what you mean, I have a Labradoodle and a Whippet.” But I can’t leave my kids in the backyard with a bowl of water and a rawhide to chew so that I can have a quiet meal out and see a movie. They find their way back inside the house every time.

Enough times of this and I’m pretty sure the neighbors would call child protective services to come take them away. I wonder if they’d take them just for the night and have them back around lunchtime the next day?

I’m not looking for a permanent vacation. This isn’t a resignation letter to be taped to the television for my kids to see and, most likely, ignore. I still need this job; it makes me whole, completes me, all of that sappy stuff that makes up a good parenting column.

All jobs should have personal days built into the time off schedules; a day here and there to wander off alone and read a book, see a movie, shop or visit the zoo. Being a parent is work — hard, demanding and unpaid work — and some days I just don’t feel like doing it.

So I’m calling in sick, giving myself a time out, and I’ll ask that someone come by this afternoon to toss a tennis ball to my kids in the backyard and refill their water dish.

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