The Third Row

It was one o’clock in the afternoon during the middle of the week. I was not giving writing instruction, engaging in literary discussion, overseeing group work, or even watching the clock anxious for an unruly class to be dismissed.

Instead, I sat in the third row and watched a performance. While, it was not quite Broadway, I was mesmerized throughout the entire twenty minute production. I did not check my cell phone, consider grading papers, or mentally review a piece I am writing.

It was SJ’s kindergarten graduation. The children sang and danced and said the lines that their teacher had been drilling into their minds through many practices.  During the performance, I wore my proud sentimental dad hat. The teacher and freelance writer hats were off.

SJ performing at his kindergarten graduation.

SJ performing at his kindergarten graduation.

A big part of being a good employee is to be responsible, productive, and efficient.  In this day and age where it still feels like job security is tenuous, it is natural to feel pressure to constantly be on.  Therefore, some may be thinking, while a kindergarten graduation is sweet, is it worth taking a day off from work for this?  My internal debate over this question lasted seconds. I had the time, and this is exactly what I wanted to use it for.

These days there is much talk about balancing work and family. It used to be that women were the ones who were primarily responsible for child care and or struggled in this balance. However, recently a Pew Research Center survey ( found that “50% of working dads say they find it very or somewhat difficult to balance these responsibilities.”  According to the survey, “46% of fathers say they are not spending enough time with their children.” Yet, they also want to work full time at a high-paying job. By the way, this conflict is occurring for men in all types of jobs including professional athletes (

Something has to give.  And ultimately, each of us has to make his or her own decisions on how to balance family and work. There is no right answer.

While I feel some sense of contentment at work, sometimes, I think I could and should be further along in my career. I question whether I am reaching or on track to reach my full potential. Isn’t part of my job as a parent to demonstrate a work ethic? Then, I wonder if I made more money, would my family be better off? It certainly would relieve certain stresses (and bring others – I know).

My job allows me to be home early. For three days a week, I am the parent in charge. Dinner, homework, bathing are all my responsibility.  While this may leave me grunting and frustrated at times, I enjoy the bonding time and recognize its importance. I know my boys. I know their best friends’ names. I know their favorite television shows. I know what they like to read.

It’s nine o’clock and the boys are in bed (normally).  It should be time for winding down – maybe watch some television, read, surf the net or talk with my wife. However, I don’t take this luxury. Instead, part two of my work day begins. It’s time for lesson planning, grading papers, or writing an article, blog post, etc.

So, I struggle like many others with balancing work and family. I strive to give my children the best of me and find meaning in work. Either way, I am happy to sit in the third row knowing that is where I should be.

40 thoughts on “The Third Row

  1. Teaching is a difficult job with few breaks. My husband used to be a teacher and he always has grading to do when he came home. We appreciate what you do and know you don’t get paid nearly enough for how important you are.

    • I think this issue effects people in all professions.
      I think you told me once before that your husband was a teacher. What did he teach?
      Thanks so much for your kind words about teachers.

  2. I often think the same thing about my career. My boss once suggested that I could some day be Registrar of our university. But, he said, my four-day work week would end. And I told him that right now I like my work week just the way it is. Later, though, I know my children will not need me around as much, or even want me around for that matter. It’s hard to imagine ever getting to that stage at this time though, isn’t it?

    • It is hard to think that way sometimes – agreed.
      You sound like you are content with how things are. I would guess you are managing things very well then. That’s great.

  3. I love this article! A dad that will take a day off work to support and watch his child graduate kindergarten. We need more dads like you. We need dads to step up and teach their boys how to be responsible, faithful men. Go you!

    • Thanks so much for your enthusiasm and kind words. I am definitely trying to be a good dad as are many others.

  4. I loved this Larry. I am definitely with you on the enjoying your kids as much as you can! Some sacrifices need to be made, I chose to put a hold on my career and raise my kids (I definitely had a more romantic picture in my head but nevertheless I don’t regret it at all).

  5. I know what you mean…balancing work and family. I must say fathers like you are rare nowadays. Where I live, a lot of parents are not parenting. They outsourced it to their in-laws/day care centers/live-in maids. My hubby is an event planner and he works from home. I help him with the administration and some design work. We are fortunate to be able to spend a lot of time with our two young daughters. Then there is the other problem of not having a fixed income :(. But I believe our rewards will be great…not now but in maybe in 15 or 20 years time. So, let’s hang in there and enjoy parenthood 🙂

    • That’s cool that your husband can work from home and that you and him can spend so much time with your daughters. I agree with you that children do and will continue to benefit from your presence – even if you are not able to get them as presents as you wish.
      My wife went back to work after three months (for both boys). We had to do the outsourcing thing. This was not easy – emotionally that is.

  6. Good for you! I can’t imagine trying to find that balance. It’s got to be extremely difficult. I know my husband struggles with this and we talk about it occasionally. I tell him just to do what feels right and if it isn’t balanced all of the time it’s okay. Sometimes he puts more time in at work other times he lets work slide and is more focused on home. He’s always there for the important things with the kids and that’s what matters most to me.

    • It is challenging and I can very much relate to your husband’s struggles. The fact that he is always there for the important things lead me to believe that he is getting this challenge right.

  7. You were totally right where you should be! Family is always more important than work, it’s not even a contest (except sometimes when it is… that’s just how life goes!)
    That’s just so cool, I love kindergarten graduation, such a magical time! Hope everything is going well and that you guys have a great summer!

    • I think I was too Kate and agree that family is more important than work (not even close).
      The graduation was cute.
      Summer wishes to you as well.

  8. The picture of SJ is adorable! Our kids have t-shirts and flags just like that, but you know, with crosses all over them. 🙂

    It’s hard to balance work time and family time, but the family will grow up and the work will still be there. You’ve made the right choice for the very brief time you have with the boys!

    • I really don’t see that, but there is certainly reason for him to look like me (assuming no mailman was involved).

  9. Beautiful piece, Larry. Here’s to the ever-elusive balance you described and the joy of third row seats. Your family is lucky to have you and so is the blogosphere!

    • Such kinds words Mary. Thanks.
      I haven’t seen much posting from you lately. I hope everything is okay over there.

  10. I think all parents go through this feeling at one time or another. I totally think you did the right thing by being there.

    When I was growing up, my mother NEVER came to any of my school shows, award ceremonies or volunteered at a school party. She always said she couldn’t get off work to be there. It was always so hard for me to look out and see all the other moms and dads and no one was there for me. So now I go to everything for Jake. I even volunteered twice a month every month he was in kindergarten. I don’t want my son to ever feel like no one is there for him.

    • I think you are right – very common. That’s cool that you go such lengths to attend Jake’s events (I know how much you love his baseball games). I am sure the pressure is even greater on you as a single parent. I don’t know how you do it.

  11. beautiful post Larry! you are a great dad and I hope you know it! 🙂 taking time off to be with your kids is great!
    I’m sure they will appreciate this when they will be older!
    Hubby has to work from home sometimes but he tries he’s best to leave work at work here so he can spend more time with Nathan (Nate).
    It’s not always easy but he is always there when Nate goes to the clinic! 🙂
    wish you a great weekend!

    • Glad you like it and I very much appreciate the compliment.
      It sounds like your husband does a pretty good job of balancing family and work.

  12. This is a very special article. I can feel your love for your children. From what I hear of other parents: enjoy your children while you can. They’ll grow up so fast. I think you’re doing it right Larry! Well written!

  13. Good for you for realizing that the place you needed to be that day was in the third row – being there for your son.

    Sometimes we get so caught up in what we think needs to be done that we forget what we want to do and how important those things are in our lives. Balance is hard, plain and simple.

  14. Great post. So nice that you could be there to watch your son. I’m taking next Thursday afternoon off to do the same thing. That balance thing is tricky…and exhausting.

  15. So glad that you were able to make it to the kindergarten graduation! It is definitely one of those things you don’t want to miss!

    (and yes juggling work, family, friends, and blogging I find to all be very difficult to keep track of all at the same time. I can only seem to do two well at a time!)

  16. You are right in thinking there is no right answer Larry. We are two work-from-home parents and I am finding the balance incredibly hard with a toddler and a newborn in the house and trying to work even a part time schedule. Sacrifices are made on both ends. I trust that kids generally turn out just fine as long as the raising of them comes from a place of love.

    My fingers are crossed on that one, anyway:)

  17. Great insight on the shifting “traditional” roles that fathers find themselves assuming. Our society evolves in many ways — such as the occurrence of kindergarten graduations!

    • Thank you sir. I think the kindgergarten in graduation has come up for many reasons – not the least of whick is Hallmark. Sometimes I think they control America. Ha ha.

  18. Thanks for sharing. It’s good that you get to spend time taking care of the kids. I love it whenever I get the chance. Funny that you mention education as a field that demanded a lot of your time. I was actually thinking of leaving management for a teaching role as I figured it’d give me more time with the kids (at least summers off).

    • Teaching definitely offers a more flexible schedule than man other jobs. Like you noted, the summers are great. However, the school year is not very flexible – going in late or working from home are simply not options.

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