“It’s time for you to be a father, not chase tail all over the country.”
The voice cracked on my cell phone.
Angrily pacing in the airport, waiting on my return flight, with the phone clutched tightly in my hand, I countered, “It’s about me at this point in my life, my focusing on myself is not wrong. You can’t pour from an empty cup.”
My daughter had been crying in the background when my mother spoke next.
“You’re a shitty father. Your kids need you and you’re flying around chasing pussy.”
I had never heard my mother speak this way to me, and it shocked me greatly.
“Has everyone lost their damn minds up there? Do I get time to myself to travel, date, and sleep with women? What business is it of yours what the hell I do when I don’t have my kids?”
“It doesn’t matter. What matters is that your kids need you and you’re not here”, she said.
I had this happen before. It was clear as day to me.
Back in my marriage, my miserable dead end marriage, my ex used to call me at work with kids crying and guilt me into trying to come home, saying “they miss you”.
She would leverage my job against my family and she knew she was doing it. And here was my mother, another women in my life, trying to guilt and shame me into coming home because my daughter was a mess.
My daughter had been suffering from anxiety, a curse that I passed down to her, and she wasn’t coping very well. And as her screams and cries harangued in the background of my phone call that day, I wasn’t having another woman in my life try to tell me what I needed to do, leveraging my lifestyle with my kids.
I wasn’t hurting anyone. I was just going out on my time that I didn’t have my kids, traveling and meeting new people, and yes, I was having sex with women. So? “What the fuck?” was going through my head big time as I tried and failed several times to calm down. So there I was, in an airport in Pensacola, yelling at the phone.
Before this altercation, I had spent the better part of 2 years traveling all over the United States, by car and by plane, visiting places I’d never been, meeting people from Twitter and other walks of life, and yes, sleeping with women.
I had spent the majority of my 20’s working, not dating, and being terrible with women. My 30’s were spent with marriage and kids. And after I jettisoned my marriage after 10 years at 40 years old, it was time, albeit late, for me to sow my oats. I hadn’t had this kind of power with women in my life and I wanted to try it out for a spin. I was doing it within the rules of my divorce.
There were weekends I didn’t have my kids, so what harm was it for me to go and enjoy my life?
“I really thought I had thought this through” was running through my head.
Why wasn’t I able to pull this off? I thought I had done my homework. Why in the hell was I dealing with this?
I wanted to continue to travel. I wanted to continue to date all over the country. I wanted to continue having fun with my free time.
But what I didn’t understand? With my particular circumstances, with who I was, and with what I was doing, I couldn’t pull it off.
Some men can and do.
My kids were suffering from my absence, even if I didn’t believe it.
Yes, when I was there, I was there for my kids. But, I wasn’t really there. Between work, hotels, flights, rental cars, date nights, and all the other stuff that was piling up, I was missing from my kids lives. My mind wasn’t where it needed to be. With pussy, dinner plans, and travel getting the lion’s share of my attention, I was mailing it in with my kids.
They needed a strong, grounded father who had built a foundation of strength and stability. They were getting neither from me. And when the inevitable blowups occurred, they (and the women in their lives) needed a strong, masculine calm to break the tension, something that I could not provide at that moment.
And I knew it. Damn I was having fun doing this life. But in a round about way, even if my mom was wrong for calling me a shitty father, she was right about one thing. This wasn’t me, and I wasn’t there.
I couldn’t pull it off. Some other dude could. I couldn’t.
So, as I left the airport bound for home that day, I had to rethink my entire strategy and if it was even possible to have these incompatible lives.
My mother had said very hurtful things to me. Things that I knew weren’t true, but things she had never said to me before. I had to grasp why she felt this way.
The women in my life (mother, sister, and ex) were losing control of the situation because I never had it under control. I took off week after week for a new destination, all while leaving these women in charge of a situation that I figured they had control over. But the minute I left, the shit hit. Why?
Because I wasn’t there. Not necessarily there physically. But there. My presence. My infrastructure. My frame. My setup. My processes.
I had done none of it to help offset any issues that I was hoping wouldn’t come up. I knew about my daughter and her volatility. I still did nothing. I blindly let myself get away with it, and now the check had come due.
She wasn’t getting her dad. She was getting a dude mailing it in on the days he was around and passing it off to others on the days he wasn’t.
The one thing I had wanted in life was to be good with women, and here I was, better than I’d ever been, and I was being asked to give it up for my kids?
Yes. Yes I was.
My kids needed me.
Putting It To Bed
Did I have to give it up?
The thought and question raced through my mind as I flew back home.
The flights lasted longer than any other I’ve ever taken, because I was being asked to let go of something I like doing, but it was becoming detrimental to my home life.
I understood, finally, that I could travel and do some of the things I wanted to do, but just not to the scale of how I was doing them.
I had to get back home and plant firm ground to give my kids the foundation and frame they needed to thrive, even when I wasn’t around. So I did just that and established myself firmly.
And as if by magic, my kids improved dramatically.
As Zac Small says, “Presence is greater than presents.”
And it was proven after my flight landed that night.
A year later, I went back to my mom.
I went up to her, gave her a hug, and told her I forgave her for calling me a shitty father.
She apologized for calling me that as well.
She understood that I had improved as a father, by simply being there for my kids, as opposed to being there for unnamed women.
No amount of pussy is worth jeopardizing your family over.
The women in my life that were the most important to me were getting the full me, finally.
Daughters, mother, sister were getting me, but also, the real me. I wouldn’t put up with any shit, but I would respectfully acknowledge that I was lacking in certain areas as a father, and that was more important to me to correct than any other issue at that time.
And my job was to make sure that my kids got me first and often. I needed to be there for them, even if it meant sacrificing my short term goals, I had to focus on the long term of my kids.
My lives, for just me, were at the moment and for the foreseeable future, incompatible. I couldn’t be the single dad who picked up girls any more. I had to just be the dad. And be a good one, which I knew I was.
But I also had to come to the realization that a long term relationship is what I wanted.
I just had to come home.