I’m a Dad, a Husband, a Writer … and I Want It All

I want it all.

I want to be there – actually, physically, there – for my sons. I want to be a life partner and best friend for my wife, and I want her to be those things for me, too. I want a career that pays me what my work is worth and provides the kind of personal and professional gratification that comes from making a meaningful contribution, whether from a business perspective or culturally.

I want all of that.

And I want this, too: I want to write fiction that resonates with someone. I want to write short stories like O’Connor or Fitzgerald and novels like Irving, Chabon or Russo. I want readers. I want readers that want to buy my work in order to read it.

I want that, and I want to play FIFA soccer on my PS3 while I drink cheap red wine or expensive English beer. I want to watch Mad Men and enjoy a nice glass of bourbon every now and then.

I want to play softball again, and I want to go on dates with my wife. I want to go to Walt Disney World every other weekend, and I want to fly to Cape Cod every August.

I really, really want to go back to London. Paris, too. And I’d like to see Rome and Florence one day.

I want it all.

I’m a dad. I’m a husband. I’m a writer.

I want all of the things behind those three curtains.

What? I have to choose?

Says who?

Here’s the problem. I do have to choose, just as men and women have had to choose since the rise of the original American middle class. That began about a century or so ago, when technology and progressive ideas about how the working class should be treated combined to thrust this country into an unprecedented era of relative ease and prosperity. It wasn’t always easy. Not everyone prospered. But on the whole, the world has never seen a society like ours, wherein individual aspirations are – in theory – paramount, and we are free to shape our government in order to create an atmosphere conducive to the pursuit of those aspirations.

A fiercely independent spirit – that’s the American ethos. That’s why we want it all. But who am I kidding? The past three generations – the Baby Boomers, Generation X and Generation Y – have collectively believed they are owed it all. We aren’t.

We are, however, owed the freedom to pursue happiness. The freedom to conduct that pursuit is an inalienable right, I believe.

So, what would make me – a dad, a husband, a writer – happy?

I want … it all.

Is that too much to ask?


There’s been a lot of public discussion lately about this topic, along with another subject that is directly related to our family, women as primary breadwinners. I think those two topics are connected.

Here is an interesting piece that ran Thursday in Bloomberg Businessweek. Alpha Dads: Men Get Serious About Work-Life Balance.

Here is a piece on the Pew research study that concluded that in 40 percent of American households, a woman is the primary breadwinner. That’s how it is now in our house, and I could not be more proud of my wife. Breadwinner Moms.

And here is a link to the blog of an online friend of mine, Scott Behson, an academic from Cornell who researches and writes extensively about family work-life balance issues. There is a lot of good stuff there on this topic, including a guest post by yours truly about why I asked off the baseball beat in 2005. Fathers, Work and Family.

I hardly ever ask for comments, but I would love to know how you do it. How do you make life’s pursuit of happiness work for you? How do you decide what to sacrifice and what will absolutely never fall by the wayside? Our family doesn’t have any big secret. We just do it day by day and work hard to stay on top of all of our responsibilities at home and at work.

Sometimes it’s great. Other times, it feels like our heads are going to explode.

There’s been some backlash lately about the term “work-life balance,” but for us, it really is a balancing act sometimes. For instance, we both took today off in order to attend Jay’s first-grade class play and Chris’ preschool graduation ceremony, which began a half-hour apart and took place a mile apart this morning. There was no way either of us would miss those events, but we had to sacrifice a precious vacation day to do it.

What sort of decisions have you had to make in order to strike that balance? What have you missed? Is it even realistic to think about “having it all,” whether you’re a man or woman? I’d like to think so.




14 thoughts on “I’m a Dad, a Husband, a Writer … and I Want It All

  1. The term “all” seems to be a moving target. If you would have told me 10 years ago, I would have a wife, two kids, two cars, some money in savings, I would have told you that’s “all” I need. I have all that, but now I want more or different things. I would say that attaining it “all” is impossible. Read “If you Give a Cat a Cupcake” to see what I mean.

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  2. I had our first of four over twenty years ago. I was very young at the time and often think I gave up a life. However I still feel I could not have it all. I wanted to be there 24/7. Our first left home last week for the summer. I was so upset. That night my husband was less upset and wondered if he had stayed at home all these years would his feelings be different. In some ways motherhood has been a waste of my potential, but now I am able to look back a bit i am so happy I stuck with it.

    • My mom was 20 when I was born. To this day, I don’t know how she coped with Dad in Vietnam and me and my brother hanging all over her. I mean, I know the story, but knowing the X’s and O’s of an event isn’t everything. Point is, she and Dad made their choices. Part of me will always wonder what her life (and Dad’s) would’ve been like if hey had made different choices in 1968. Thanks for your input!

  3. I’m just one guy, so take it for what it’s worth. You can’t. The amount of time you “need” to spend with your kids is directly at odds with the amount of time you need to spend at work to not get fired. When I was laid off 13+ years ago we had one kid and enough money to allow me to spend a few months figuring out what it was I wanted to do with my life. I decided to get back into writing, eventually starting a website. The more kids we had the more time away from the website, and ultimately it failed so I had to pull the plug and shut it down last year. I still owe $4K on it. Even now that I’m not doing something that requires constant attention I’m not doing enough to “cultivate” my “following” or whatever. And with all the kids I already have, I feel like I’m not spending enough time paying attention to them individually. So, to sum up, my experience is neglected kids and failed business. That would mean no.

    • As you say, Daniel, that’s your circumstance, so that’s what you know. Unfortunately, I don’t think your circumstance is all that unusual. Yet, why should that be? Because for too many years, too many people have let it happen. I’m no rabble rouser, certainly. But I do believe in speaking out when I see something that doesn’t make sense to me. Why would employers want unhappy employees? Unhappy=unproductive. Anyway, I’m sorry you went through all that and thanks for sharing that here.

      • You would think working for myself, out of my home, I’d be able to find that balance better, what with no commute and the ability to create my own schedule. It had gotten to the point where I was trying to wake up before 5 am to get stuff done before the kids got up, then during the day balancing between the two, then after they went to bed working straight through the time my wife and I “relax” right up until we went to bed. So I sent my resignation letter to my boss and he didn’t accept it for 5 years.What a jerk he was.

    • I know I can’t have it “all.” But I think it’s important for working fathers to stand up and say they want it all, too, just like working moms. Otherwise, society assumes men are content chasing professional achievement at the expense of family life. I am not, and never will be, content to do that. Yet, the way many jobs are structured (still; even in the online media world), face time at the office seems more important than actually getting the job done well. Example: I once had a sports editor order me to come into the newsroom more often, even though 90 percent of the work I did as a sportswriter took place out of the office. I was able to make phone calls from anywhere, including home, and that kind of flexibility meant a lot to me as a new dad. Yet, that editor didn’t care about what made my life easier. She wanted me to do what she wanted me to do, my needs be damned. That’s how it is, I think, in many offices around the country. For men and women. We need to speak out against that kind of rigid thinking if we ever want to see things change. Incidentally, I think certain jobs actually are better suited to flexible work conditions than to being a desk jockey or cubicle prisoner.

      So … I want it all. I’m not going to stop wanting it all, even when confronted with the stark reality that whatever “all” is, no one actually can have it.

  4. “Balance”, I don’t think my family has it. Actually, I know we don’t have it. But, I do believe we are in a happier place and the kiddo is getting more attention and better quality care since I left the 9 to 5, almost a year ago.

    How achieve ‘balance’? It likely requires my wife to work less. (she has a stressful but good, stable job). Unfortunately, with her job bringing all the cash coming in, makes it hard for her to cut back.

    So, in the mean time, I try to be the best SAHD I can be, knowing both the wife and toddler reap the benefits.

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