Fighting the war at home
March 17, 2013By Solomon Jones
For any man worth his salt, the opportunity to care for a family financially is more than a job. It is a source of pride and of self-worth. But in embracing the primary breadwinner’s role, we can’t forget what we mean to our families.
I work hard. Between writing stories, blogs and books, and also producing video, I am frequently stretched thin. But I love the work, I love the creativity it requires, and I love the city whose stories I’ve been blessed to tell.
It was with an eye toward this opportunity that I left a government job where I worked for a man I respect. I left because I knew that if I was going to make a real difference in this city and change things for the better, I would need to do it with my pen, with my words, and with my voice. I knew that I would have to use that voice to speak loudly, speak freely, and to always speak the truth as I saw it. I couldn’t do that while working for the government. But I can do so now.
Until late last week I felt comfortable pouring myself into this work, because I knew that my life experience had given me a unique perspective. It’s the perspective of someone who knows he’s made mistakes and is not afraid to share them; someone who’s seen life from great heights and incredible depths. I wanted to work hard and long to say all the things I hadn’t been able to say over the years I was away from journalism. Then one night last we as we lay in the dark, my wife told me that my 8-year-old son said he felt sad when I wasn’t home.
Hearing that broke my heart, and in an instant, years of ingrained thinking began to change.
I come from a family of workers. I watched both my parents work. I saw my grandfather work. I witnessed my aunt’s and uncle’s work, and for most of my life, beginning at 14, I worked, as well. Nearly 13 years ago, when Laveta and I got married, I learned about a different kind of work.
We decided early on that my wife would stay at home with the children because we believe her presence improves the children’s chances to excel in school and in life. I didn’t understand that at first, because I’d never seen it done successfully. And in truth, I didn’t understand how difficult it is to keep a home until my wife returned to work for a few months when the children were small and we had to switch places.
Staying home with the children for three months was enlightening, but understanding the work and understanding its value are two different things. As I’ve watched the children grow older, I’ve learned the value of my wife’s presence in the home, and I’ve seen our sacrifices pay dividends. Both our daughter and our son do well in school. They are mannerly and well-adjusted. They are good kids. And when I’m asked how we do it, I often give the credit to my wife.
My role over the years has been to encourage, love, guide and provide. But it is that last role—the one that keeps the lights on and food on the table—that can sometimes be all consuming. For any man worth his salt, the opportunity to care for a family financially is more than a job. It is a source of pride and of self-worth. But in embracing the primary breadwinner’s role, we can’t forget what we mean to our families.
For my son, it is my presence as much as anything else that matters most. It is not the stories I write, the videos I produce, or even the money I make. It is being there to tuck him in, being there to play with him, being there to hug him, and being there to love him.
If my writing is going to do anything to improve Philadelphia, it must first improve my home. That starts with me being there, because the job that matters most is being a father.