Confessions of an Absentee GeekDad

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Well, it seemed a great idea at the time…

Set your Way-Back Machines to the carefree days of 2007. My family of four were residing in Broward County, Florida; the place made more infamous by Butterfly Ballots and by Anna Nicole Smith. We had been there for just five years, but my wife and I were both actively searching for new work outside the area. We were hoping to find a place well away from the insane South Florida traffic, the 60-70 hour work weeks, the over-crowded public schools, the sci-fi sized insects (Palmetto Bugs my narrow butt, those things are really Mutant Cockroaches!) Not to mention the regular pummeling we seemed to be receiving from hurricanes and tropical storms.

After a few weeks of sending out resumes and flying around the country for interviews, I was offered an mid-to-upper management position in Tucson, Arizona. On paper, the new job would have been a promotion for me. However, the pay was less than I was making in Miami and the small number of support staff there would have kept the amount of hours spent at work pretty high.

At this point I should explain that my wife and I both work in the world of non-profits; specifically, non-profit arts organizations. While there were a goodly number of places in the biz that were hiring, most were not jobs that could provide a living wage for a family our size. Not to mention the lack of other pesky little concerns like health benefits, 401-K’s, home-time with the kids, etc. Family-time is important to us but decent pay and health benefits can become crucial when choosing new employment.

GeekMom had received word that an arts education organization she had worked in conjunction with for many, many years was going to be posting a brand new job. This executive level position was being created to essentially run the main offices, so that the Director of the company could be freed up to travel and do more fund-raising. The company was based in a small town in Kansas, which was a bit unusual. (Most international arts organizations tend to be located in larger cities.)

We did some online sleuthing and found that the housing costs were quite reasonable in that area of the country, the public schools were great and the commute time to anywhere from anywhere in town was less than 15 minutes. (It took us both over an hour to travel the 17 miles into downtown Miami for work!)  We also figured out that with the salary my wife would be making, I could  be Mr. Mom when the kids got out of school in the afternoon, freelance the occasional theatre job, and perhaps begin auditing classes at the local university to someday get my Master’s Degree. Life was good!

My wife took the job and the kids an I joined her about a week before school year was to begin. We lived for a short time in an apartment, but found a great house that was within walking distance to my son’s Elementary School. All we had to do was sell our house in Florida. (Important Safety Tip: Never try to sell  a home during a mortgage crisis!)

After much financial wrangling and gnashing of teeth, we were able move into new home and did indeed get the old one in Florida sold. The kids were loving their new schools and I was loving the fact that I would be home in the afternoon to help the kids with homework. I actually had time to work on projects around the house instead of putting them off until the theatre season slowed down. The wife is also enjoying the fact that I had dinner ready most nights when she got home from work, much to the astonishment of her female co-workers.

It is here that the plot begins to unravel a bit. Turns out that the reason that GeekMom’s dreamy new position was created in the first place was that company was facing some severe economic shortfalls. In fact, she says that if the Board of Directors had known the extent of the red-ink, they never would have agreed to hire her in the first place. Secondly, the Director of the company who was being freed up by the hiring of my wife to do more fund raising, was not doing a very effective job of it. Then, he resigned. A few months later, Board of Directors, decided that the company was in too deep and decided to pursue Chapter 7 bankruptcy proceedings. It was looking like my six-month long life of leisure was rapidly drawing to a close.

I began interviewing again. I was offered several different jobs within commuting distance but none of them paid enough to cover the mortgage. As I mentioned, most gigs doing what I do are only available in larger cities. My wife found a new job after a bit, but her salary was only about half of what she made in the previous job.  I began casting my job-seeking net wider and farther affield…

Fortunately, I was able to land a job before the savings account ran completely dry. The position was in my field, the pay was good and the people seemed really friendly. There was only one catch. It was located 11 hours away in Houston. Not quite the commute I was looking for…

The wife and I had many discussions. We had no equity built up in our new house, so selling now it felt like a really bad idea financially. The kids had only been in their current schools for one year and they were really thriving in them. And dammit, I just got finished emptying the last of the boxes from the previous move. After GeekMom’s recent job experience, she wanted to make sure that my job worked out before making another family move. So, there really seemed to be one obvious choice. My wife should stay in Kansas with the kids for a year and I should head down to Texas solo.

Hey, people do this all the time, I tell myself. This is a just temporary situation. Military families have to be apart for longer periods. Off-shore oil rig workers cannot come home every night. And what about astronauts on the International Space Station? Sure it may be a little inconvenient, but eventually it will all work itself out, right?

So here I am in Houston.  I am back in the land of traffic and large insects, and the hurricanes seem to have found me again, too. (Jim Cantore is following me!) I my power has been restored and I just now got my home internet connection back up. The new job is very busy, but the hours required are less than what I had to put in in Florida, and the people so far have been good to work with. The bank account is starting to head back into positive territory. I am a getting used to living on my own again.

I miss my family terribly!

I do have some geeky tools at my disposal to help keep in touch. Like GeekDad Contributor, Chris Radcliff, I too have a MacBook Pro with an iSight camera, so video chatting with the family is easy. (Easy that is, when I have high-speed service. Stupid hurricanes.) I have VoIP unlimited long distance on my land-line, so we can talk on the phone as much as we want when we cannot connect by computer. Online shopping has been a big help as well. GeekMom and I were apart for the first time ever for our 15th wedding anniversary. 1-800-Flowers got the flowers and chocolate to her on time (just like the do when I am at home!) And Amazon had to be the one to deliver the presents for my daughter’s 13th birthday this past weekend.

Okay, so that one kind of hurt. But all-in-all, things could be much worse. Everyone is happy and healthy and we talk to each other every day. We all know that this is a temporary situation and my wife is doing a yeoman’s job "being in single-parent mode" as she calls it. She and the kids were able to fly down for Labor Day weekend and I have tickets to go home for Halloween. (Mmmm… candy!)

Are there any other GeekDads out there in a similar situations? What do you do to help stay connected?

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