My youngest son, Tanner, is putting on his shorts in the garage. We’re in a rush to make it to the bus stop, and his Transformers underwear is still clearly visible. This is not good. Optimus Prime stares me down from back of the tighty-whiteys. You’ll never make it.
Wait. Let me back up 47 minutes.
My alarm goes off (sound setting: church bells) at 6:20am. Ten minutes later, I walk into Jackson’s room. I don’t see my son, only a Star Wars blanket and an exploding Roman candle of blonde locks. Good morning, sunshine, I say, squeezing his earlobe. I walk down the hall to Tanner’s room. Light switch. Squint. Mumble. Stretch. Breakfast is followed by a Category 2 hurricane of khaki shorts and ankle socks, hair gel and toothpaste, water bottles and sneakers. By 7:18, we need to be en route to the bus stop. And somehow, I have to make this time meaningful. Because in a very real way, it’s all I’ve got.
Forty-eight minutes. One episode of Law & Order (without commercials). That’s how much time I get with my boys every weekday. As a result of the long hours at work and the 142-mile daily commute, I often walk through the door at night, only to hear “dad” from a darkened bedroom.
This isn’t anything special. One in five fathers work 55 hours or more every week, according to The New Dad: Caring, Committed and Conflicted, a study by the Boston College Center for Work and Family. That’s an 11-hour workday.
There won’t be a bow-topped box under the Christmas tree filled with extra time. (Minutes! Just what I wanted!) The iPhone 6 won’t be adding a 25th hour to its daily calendar. So what’s the answer? Be more like Mom.
For the first time ever, women make up more than 50 percent of the workforce, and the number of female executives is on the rise. Yet Mom has always understood that family is the priority. For Dad, historically the breadwinner, this is new territory for us. We have to get serious about finding time elsewhere.
Let’s start here: Only 6 percent of fathers frequently interrupt work time for family issues. Conversely, 21 percent frequently interrupt family time for work issues. I often scroll through e-mail and check voicemail in the morning. I bet I could get an extra 15 minutes every week by changing that. That’s 900 extra seconds to connect with my sons, and maybe, just maybe, they won’t have to get dressed next to the recycling bin.