Graduating from college in the early 1980’s having studied social work and childcare Julian found it difficult to find work in his chosen field given the state of the economy at that time. He was newly married, had a young step-daughter and a new baby on the way. As a result Julian took a job in building maintenance working double shifts to help make ends meet. Life was not exactly easy but family had to come first.
Eighteen months later the family faced a difficult choice. His wife, Denise, was at home looking after a two young children with a baby on the say, and Julian just got notice he was laid off from his day shift. He was still able to work nights, however the income from this job was not enough to support a family of five. After some consideration the couple decided it was necessary for Denise to return to work as a nursing aide during the day and for Julian to continue to work nights. This would allow Julian to take over being the parent at home during the day to care for their three children
Starting with the birth of their third daughter, Julian was at home with the girls from 8am to 4.30pm Monday to Friday. At 4.30 he would leave the girls with a neighbor and head for his 5pm to 1am maintenance job. Denise would be home every night by 6.30 to make dinner, bath and then put the three girls to bed. This arrangement lasted for almost 10 years until their youngest daughter reached 3rd grade.
Julian treasures the years he spent with his girls, both when they were at home and at school. He would walk them to and from school each day, attend school events and trips and was very proud to model for everyone what being an involved father could mean. As he says, “I liked the fact that the kids and the teachers saw my girls with their dad every day. I think it mattered to us all.” He can also identify how the time spent with the girls increased his ability to engage as a parent, “One of the benefits of being so involved when they were young is that we saw them grow, in every aspect of their lives. Also, we valued not having to have other people tell us how our children were. We were around to support them in their strengths and we had hands-on input.”
Julian also remembers some of the challenges as well. To begin with there were many days when a full day of parenting, followed by a full shift at work was exhausting. In addition, money was always an issue requiring some adjustment on the part of everyone. They rented a house to keep expenses low and when the car died they used public transport, not buying another car for years. But both parents new the time they had with young children was finite. Once when Julian was offered overtime at work, he turned it down. He knew the extra money would help, but he preferred to have the extra time for family.
Julian can see that his decision to be an involved father was influenced by his own childhood. “My dad was not there for me in my life and that affected me. It made me want to be in my girls’ lives.” He then continued, “My mother was at home with us when we were young, but eventually she became a single mom. She made many sacrifices for us. She had seven kids and she leaned heavily on the older boys, as there was just one girl. We boys were the babysitters, and we learned early that being a parent meant sacrificing.”
When asked about the impact of the decision for both parents to work and share in the care of their children Julian explains; “We were able to take advantage of an open door. This schedule wasn’t planned, it just worked out for us, and my daughters and I forged a strong bond as a result. If I had not been at home all those years I probably would have had to work much harder to have those relationships.”
Today Julian is the director of a large Philadelphia childcare center. As he reflected on his story he said, “Hopefully now I am in a position to help teach and guide parents. When we have problems in our families, we have to take a deep look and ask ourselves, what can we as a community do to help?”