Not too long ago, when the internet and telecom boom enveloped us all, consultants, marketing folks and bankers began to travel more than ever. The Monday through Friday work at client sites away from home increased, and a new species, ‘Friday fathers’ was born.
Friday fathers are visitors who get to come to a familiar bed after sleeping in different hotels, only to leave again on Monday mornings. While the families enjoy the fruits that the labor and career of Friday fathers bring, all the luxury comes with a pretty high price tag. The financial cost of all the “stuff” can seem dislocated from the true cost, which is, time away from home.
When these modern day hunters and gatherers come back home on Fridays, the only outward signs of distress they show are the results of jet lag. Never mind the two hour delay in boarding at the airport or the wailing infant in the six hour flight back. They generally do not crib if they are asked to buy liquor at an airport duty free shop, en-route home, for a house full of friends and family. Friday fathers are expected to keep a cheerful appearance when the limo drops them at home and the wives and kids are waiting for a hug, and guests are already digging into the hors d’oeuvres. When someone asks them how their trip went, these tired but selfless souls are supposed to come up with a witty answer whether the inquirer is listening or has already sauntered away for another glass of wine.
Sometimes upon arrival, there are no guests in the house, and the families are waiting anxiously only to whisk away the Friday fathers to attend some social gathering. Some Friday fathers do arrive home to quality family time, warm hugs, and homemade food and to cute expectant faces. But these Friday fathers make the mistake of pleasing the family too hard and make their arrival home a kind of Christmas celebration, getting gifts for the kids on the way back from their trips. The grand entrance home is always a big event. What kid does not like Santa Claus coming every Friday evening?
At other times Friday fathers are given that “special” treatment that makes them feel like guests in their own homes. They long for the kids to ask them a solution to a problem or hear demands from their wives which make them feel important but since the family has learned to fare all right by themselves for five days, the wives and kids leave the Friday fathers alone, making them feel unneeded. They are also given greeting-card-style sugar coated niceties that visitors get. It feels like the family has conspired secretly to give the raised part of the soufflé or the more tender part of the meat to the weekend visitors, only to make them feel extra special where they just want to feel normal.
On Friday nights it is also a struggle to coax the little kids out of their acquired beds as they have become so used to snuggling with moms on week nights. Saturdays fly away in birthday parties or soccer games, because some stay-at-home bosses think family bonding is better than sitting around on the weekend. Sometimes Friday Fathers seek out the golf course as a way to relieve the work week stress but by the time they come home, the wives are ready to go for yoga classes or there could be another weekend outing already planned. There is hardly a time for them to chill at home with the entire family. They do however; get the privilege of taking the kids to birthday parties where they end up enjoying cheese pizzas in between yawning and beaming at their kids.
With those happy memories, of a very hectic weekend, Friday Fathers are too-soon back at the grindstone, preparing for their next client meeting and yet another trip to the airport where the employees now greet them by their names. Back on Monday evenings, it is usually a Skype good-night from the family along with a summary of the day.
The lives of Fridays Fathers provide their families with both opportunity for success, and grand amenities. It is a sacrifice that demands time away from home. Even with a chaotic and busy weekend at home, they do enjoy the warm hearth and a kitchen with familiar smells; kids running around, and the house in a cozy mess. All this is unlike the chemical smells of hotel rooms and commonplace formalities of board meetings which rejuvenates them. The pressures of the work week melt away with the soothing complaints of their wives and innocent demands of children. The taste of cookies cut unevenly and the chicken served without any garnish gives a satisfaction that the perfection of restaurants can never compare