Daddy Guilt: Dads Who Travel for Work

For dads who travel for work, guilt can creep in just like it does for moms. What can families and employers do to help dads achieve work-life balance, too?

When my husband took his job, he was told it would entail a lot of travel–about 50 percent of the year. Though he had some misgivings about being away from home so much (and being one of those dads who travel for work a lot), he accepted. It’s a great company, good pay, and it was his best offer right out of grad school.

We’ve been lucky, though, that so far he hasn’t had to go anywhere for any real length of time.

Then he got the opportunity to work in a city-north-of-us-that-shall-remain-nameless– for 100 percent of the year. We wouldn’t move, but he would commute every week and spend three nights away from home.

He was all set to go if his company got the job. We told ourselves we would make it work. But I could see how guilty he felt about being away from our daughter that much. And it made me want to write a little shout-out to the guilt-ridden working dads out there.

I know it’s most often the moms who are responsible for child rearing, and so it’s most often them who end up feeling guilty for having or choosing to work.

But I know a lot of dads who would love to spend more time with their children, too–dads who also would benefit from more flexible work schedules, paternity leave, etc.

While more and more companies are putting the needs of working moms on their radar, I wonder how many also are thinking about fathers. My husband’s company was accommodating of his concerns, and he knew going into this new job what it would entail.

In general, I think employers just assume men won’t have any issues around things such as childcare.

And I think that does everybody a disservice. Go beyond the warm fuzzies of a daddy who doesn’t want to miss tucking his baby in at night and consider that ignoring fathers continues to put the burden for child rearing squarely on the mother, which leads to more guilt for her as she tries to juggle it all.

My husband learned last week that he does not have to go to that northerly city. But there will be other jobs that take him away from his little girl for long stretches.

We will deal with it–we made that commitment when he decided to go to work for this particular company. Still, I hate to see him feeling so conflicted. When I work in the office, I only miss a few hours of our daughter’s life. He will miss entire days. Talk about guilt!

8 thoughts on “Daddy Guilt: Dads Who Travel for Work

  1. This is something we talk about a lot. Men are raised to be the provider (most) and taught that they don’t have the option (and most don’t) to stay home and or work part time. The don’t get flexible work schedules as women do or 12 weeks off. They do get the short stick sometimes..
    I have a sister in law however that would beg to differ….

  2. Wow, Sara. This post really hits home! O’s dad works long hours, and is also gone one night a week. Since O’s bedtime is so early, his dad barely gets to see him during the week, and I can see it actually effects both him AND O, even though O is still so young.

    We tossed around the idea of him being a stay-at-home dad, but ultimately we couldn’t afford it, and I don’t think it set well for Jason not to be the bread winner of the family.

  3. There is book called “Mommy Guilt” (it actally applies to Daddy Guilt too) that you should check out. It’s by Devra Renner and Aviva Pflock.

  4. Great post!
    My husband and I have discussed this many times.

    My husband worked for a company that was very “un”flexible about childcare and family time. Expecting long hours all week long…including some weekends.

    He no longer works for that company. The company he works for now is better about it…but not much.

    So frustrating!

  5. This is a great topic, Sara! You made some really smart points. It’s not about the “mommy wars,” it’s about balance for parents, both moms and dads.

  6. My dad is gone 7 months out of the year and when he comes home i only see him half of that time too so in total I only see him about 3 months out of the year. Honestly just suck it up. My dad has been doing this job since I was born. At leased you guys get to see him every week or every month or on Cristina’s and your birthday because I don’t. He’s always gone

    1. I absolutely agree. There is a price to pay for everything. You can’t have it all. Your father is teaching you the value of hard work and responsibility. Try to cherish the time you have together, it’s the quality. It the quantity.

  7. Sara, a good post. It truly does strike home with me. My work requires a lot of sacrifice on the family front. Because there are very limited opportunities for myself in our current city, I ended up accepting a job in a larger, nearby city. We did not all move because my wife has a very good job where she is now. As a consequence, I commute or travel internationally every single week and only get to see our daughter on the weekends. I love her more than I can say and my wife is wonderful and extremely accommodating. But the guilt just keeps nagging. That choice between being truly there for the child and wife and providing for the family financially well-enough to not have to worry is a constant pain point. Most of the men I know do not simply assume their wife will take care of everything. They are fully aware of the trade-offs and carry a great deal of guilt with them but often feel trapped in the financial and professional circumstances they are in.

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