Saturday, May 14, 2016

On the Homefront -- The Neverending Job

My name is Howard Balaban.
Some of you know who I am. Some of you don't. Some of you think you know who I am. Some of you have heard things about me, and others of you have actually heard me on the call for Lockport Express games on the internet.
So consider this column an introduction of sorts, with more semi-regular entries to follow.

I have a college degree from a school that has churned out many successful people and many well-known people in my chosen major. I like to think that maybe, if I'd made a few different choices, or shuffled priorities, or had a completely different outlook on life, I could be one of those famous alums.
Alas, I'm not.
Instead, my job title is three letters: D-A-D.
When my wife and I welcomed our first child in 2006, we were living in Ohio and I was working nights as a copy editor. She was just starting her medical residency. Three months into our son's life, the newspaper where I worked downsized, and they let me go due to having the least amount of seniority, or at least that's what I was told. So the grand plan of having me stay home was accelerated.
In 2009 we added a daughter to the mix, and I was still home, meaning child care was going to once again fall on my shoulders.
Now, there is one thing to keep in mind when talking about medical residencies. And that is this: They are NOT anything like depicted on TV. My wife worked long, strenuous hours and was barely able to make it through the door to get to the bed to sleep whenever she got home post call. And for as much as she wanted to be the stereotypical Hollywood mom, we agreed it was in everyone's best interests to once again accelerate things. So the kids and I moved to Medina in the summer of 2010, just in time for our son to start school at the ground level in the fall, and with the vast majority of the kids he'd be with through 12th grade.
By the time the next summer came around, we were beyond ready to reunite our family. And, just in time for my 31st birthday, we were once again a whole unit.
A year later I started freelancing for the dearly missed Journal-Register, and another year later I joined the staff full-time, doing everything I could to keep the community news front and center. I heard good and bad things about my reporting, especially as it concerned one or two key local issues, but it was when people talked to me about my columns that made me feel like I'd done something good.
You see, the job of a reporter can be fortuitous in that the writing can be done anywhere. I did a lot of work at home, leading to very few changes to the status within our household. Essentially, I was still a SAHD - a stay-at-home dad.
A few months before the paper closed for good we found out the third time was a charm and that we would be adding baby no. 3 to the picture. Sure enough, two weeks before the J-R was shuttered, she was born.
Now it's been two years, and I still haven't found full-time work outside of the home.
But for the past 10 years my "job" has been Dad. First and foremost.
There is no manual for parents, no matter how many books are sold on the subject.
I'm not perfect, and no one is. However, over the past 10 years (well, 10 years in August), I've witnessed what many parents would call perfect moments.
I've seen each of my kids take their first steps. Seen their faces light up at that first-ever bite of chocolate. Laughed hard - and as quietly as possible - as they've said things they shouldn't. Watched with pride and misty eyes as siblings met each other for the first time.
And even though I was ticked at the time, I've enjoyed certain moments of getting backtalk, for it meant there was a growing understanding of sarcasm.
Being home, though, also means most of the stuff that goes into keeping up a home falls on my shoulders. Stuff like the cooking, cleaning, and other daily chores that I far too often let slide.
Guess what, though? My kids are happy and healthy. And the two older ones are starting to realize that if they help out even just a little, there is some sort of benefit. Possibly extra time to watch a movie or play a game. And with my wife working more regular hours for the past few years, all of us have found that being home is quite often the best place to be.
And one day, I promise to them, it'll be clean. First, though, I have to go finish planting a few things outside.
Cleaning after, I swear!
Til next time.