In the previous post, we started to look at the difficult situation many local families bravely face on a regular basis, that of the father working for weeks or even months at a time “up north”, which typically means Ft. McMurray, Ft. St. John, or a similar northern community. The reasons are more than understandable: there is money to be made up north, and the hourly wage can be significantly higher than what a similar job would command in the Okanagan. It can become a resourceful (sorry for the bad pun) way to afford living in our beautiful region, and provide the essentials of family life without financial stress being ever-present at home.
The father of the family is faced with a significant challenge during his few days at home in finding a healthy balance between getting much needed physical and mental rest, and spending valuable time with his wife or girlfriend and children. But what about Mom? She may not be doing tough, challenging work of the same sort her spouse is, but she is working exceptionally hard as well, make no mistake. She must create and conduct the daily routines of getting the kids off to school, making sure everyone arrives for sports practices, play-dates, and have meals for the family prepared. She must coordinate a complex program at home, and if there are few relatives nearby to assist, the pressures placed upon Mom can be intimidating.
Interestingly enough, I have discovered through conversations with several local Moms that one of the toughest times to manage is when Dad arrives back at home from work far away. Why would this be? After all, it would seem that she now has the relief of an extra set of hands to help out around the house, as well as the enjoyment of reconnecting with her husband or boyfriend after time away.
Although no doubt many local fathers manage the balance of getting rest and being physically and emotionally present with their families brilliantly, some families struggle with making this work well. This in turn can increase stress for his wife; she may feel a need to re-educate her husband on the home routines she has implemented, ones that he may or may not be in full agreement with. Next, she can feel resentment at times through Dad arriving home to hero-status, and appearing to be someone who can do no wrong. As he usually wishes to make the most of his time at home, the father figure can sometimes also be less prepared to discipline his children as needed, shifting that responsibility primarily to his wife, and potentially making her feel like a “bad cop”, as opposed to the “good cop” status of Dad.
Finally, reconnecting in a genuine, natural way can be a difficult task indeed for a couple at this time. Look at all the potential pitfalls that can become real obstacles: resentment over hero-status, Dad being physically and mentally exhausted, short tempers, disruption of routines, and the list can go on. When the day is over, the real test becomes whether a couple in this situation can look at each other after the kids have gone to bed, smile, and relax into getting reconnected, revisiting the love that brought them together in the first place. Love is a powerful force, and is enough to overcome even the most extreme challenges. The more they are able to do so, the happier and healthier both the couple and the entire family will be.
So what are the best ways to minimize the stresses within a family, and is the “working up north” scenario truly sustainable in a healthy family? The answers to these questions can be complex, and we will examine some of them next week.