I started a new job a few months ago as associate editor of Columbus Alive, a sister publication of Columbus Parent. Any employment change is a big deal for families, and this one felt especially life-altering given that I'd spent the previous nine years working from home as a freelance writer.
Not coincidentally our oldest child, Liam, is 9. We decided when he was born that I'd work part-time from home and be the primary caregiver while my wife, Kate, kept her full-time job. It wasn't perfect. In the early days, when Liam didn't nap, I didn't work. When he did nap, inevitably the person I was scheduled to speak with would reschedule. And then we had another kid.
But overall, we made it work. In fact, even though I sometimes lost sight of the larger picture in my day-to-day routine, it was a huge privilege to spend so much time with my kids while also reporting and writing stories on (mostly) my own terms.
Change isn't something I'm naturally drawn to. When Kate wants to move a piece of furniture or paint a room or really do anything at all that's different from the way things currently are, my reaction tends to be, "Why? It's fine as it is."
But change, people tell me, is good. And so when opportunity came knocking, I peeked through the keyhole, then slightly cracked the door, then opened it a little wider, then eyed the change suspiciously, then asked it a lot of questions … and eventually let it in.
When Kate and I told our kids I'd be changing jobs, they had some questions. Would Daddy still pick them up from school? (Not every day, but yes.) Would Daddy still be a writer? (Yes.) Will he be famous? (Ha.) Will our picture still be in Columbus Parent? (Oh man.)
So far, their favorite part of my new job is getting to spend more time with grandma and grandpa. (Liam also likes to see how I answer Alive's "Question of the week.") Their least favorite part is that they don't get quite as much time with me as they did previously and that I have to drive Downtown at rush hour. True and (sigh) true.
When I walk from my parking garage to the Alive offices, I feel happily casual in my khakis and untucked polo shirt as I stroll next to guys in crisp, dark business suits. Yet my kids still comment on the "fancy" clothes I wear to work. In their experience, anything other than jeans and a hoodie is dressing up.
They've noticed other, smaller changes, too. During my first or second week on the job, I came home around dinnertime, but for whatever reason I wasn't hungry. This was unusual. I am always hungry for dinner, and if it gets pushed back too late, I get hangry. My kids know this.
Maggie, 7, looked at me with a crooked mouth and concerned eyes. "Daddy," she said. "Don't let them change you!"
Truthfully, I think the adjustment has been toughest on our dog. We've gone through two couch cushions, some curtains, a dog bed, a set of bed sheets and a comforter. But we'd had the comforter for more than a decade. It was looking a little ratty. The new one? It's a change. But I'm getting used to it.
Joel Oliphint is associate editor of Columbus Alive and has nightmares about moving.