HusBenKoh had been very busy at work for the past couple of months, and on many days, he would leave for work before anyone of us woke up and could only return home after the kids have gone to bed. Because of this, Phoebie, our soon-to-be-six firstborn, would always miss him. When husBenKoh had to go for a work trip, it was even worse for Phoebie. Every night, she would cry as we talked to him on the phone before bedtime, telling her Papa how much she missed him.
When husBenKoh came back from his work trip, he managed to find time one day to send the kids to school with me. Instead of taking the school bus, we told Phoebie that we would send her to school. Needless to say, Phoebie was over the moon.
As we arrived at the school that day, I needed to go to the washroom, so I asked husBenKoh to walk her to the school hall where she would join her classmates. After I was done, I went to the car and found my very emotional husband. Surprised, I asked him if he had received bad news while I was in the washroom.
He said, “I just feel very sad that I haven’t been able to spend much time with Phoebie. When I walked her to the school hall, she was holding my hand very tightly, asking me to wait with her. It felt like she didn’t want me to leave. When she went into the school hall, I saw her sit next to her friend and she turned back to wave at me a few times. She pointed to me and I could tell that she was proudly showing her friend that her Papa was at the door.”
So here was my Husband, overcome by mixed feelings of pride, that his daughter would show her friends who he was, and by feelings of guilt, because he had been so busy with work that his daughter missed him badly and didn’t want to let go of his hand.
“Well,” I started, “Do you know what this means?”
I told husBenKoh that while he feels bad for not being able to spend more time with the kids, he should be comforted because when children start to miss him, it means two things:
1. He has done something right with the children somewhere at some point.
All the bedtime stories, all the sharing sessions after a long day, all the time spent playing with them and all the outings he brought the kids on when he could, all mattered to our children. Breyen, our two year old may not be able to express himself as well as Phoebie, but Phoebie is able to tell him through her actions that she really treasures all the things that her Papa has done for her. Her Papa may have been tired after work but because he was there to read that bedtime story and to be a part of our nightly sharing time, she knew her Papa cared and she cared about her Papa too.
What may have seemed small or little things we did for our children were big to our children. The little sessions of quality time we spent with our children whenever we could had affected them and they know we love them.
2. The children yearn for more time with us.
While it isn’t always possible for every parent to do things with the children on a daily basis, the children are looking forward to the next time the parent is available. They want more time with the parent, for the parent to get to know them more and for them to hear from the parent. They want to do fun things with the parent and they want to share their thoughts and opinions with the parent.
I told husBenKoh that I know he doesn’t always have control over his work hours, so I don’t blame him for his long working hours. If anything, he should be thankful and glad that Phoebie misses him whenever he is not around because she loves him enough to sense his absence. It beats having a child who is so immuned by the parent’s absence that she doesn’t even ask for the parent.
The best way to remedy his guilt, I told husBenKoh, was to make use of whatever little time he can squeeze out between his busy periods at work and do something with the children. It doesn’t have to be a big thing, and as long as it is quality time spent together, the children will appreciate it and treasure every bit of it.
Even if he only makes it home in time for a hug and kiss at bedtime, that hug and kiss would mean the world to the children and the children would know that Papa loves them.