Why Settling (Always) for an Omelet is a Lousy Way to be a Father


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Hey … guess what five words anger my kids. Like, instantly.

  1. Your game has been canceled
  2. Your sister’s wearing your pants
  3. We’re all out of cheese

Actually, all of those could be considered true statements.

(If she finds out her game’s been cancelled while her sister’s wearing her pants and we’re out of cheese? Well, ever kicked a hornet’s nest?) No, the five-word string I mutter at times that nearly 100% sets them through the roof like bull sharks after tourists is:

I’ll just have an omelet.

When I’ve made delicious food, it gets scarce quickly. I’m still cleaning up and a kid will come for seconds. Or, the serving spoon gets moving like a hummingbird’s wings on Red Bull, and … you know, a dad should take care of his kids first.

Misguided sacrifice

Only, when I say it, they get mad.

You’re not having an omelet, dad, they bark back, and pass (at least momentarily) on that second stack of pancakes. What’s meant as a simple statement of sacrifice – one I’m happy to make – upsets them, and for so long, I had no idea why.

My gesture of self-care actually comes off as self-centered.

Our natural desire to take care of those we love isn’t a weakness. We can’t wear it as a badge of righteousness, though, a subliminal gripe sent into the universe. Sacrifice works best silently, and more important, self-care must become a priority.

If I empty my tank to give my girls the last enchiladas, I’m cutting myself off at the knees.

I’m also denying them the very virtue I believe I’m living out – compassion. What if I could give them that gift? Allowing them to put me first, to empathize? They do it on their own, anyway, even before I resign myself to skipping what I’ve made for dinner.

Have you eaten, dad? they’ll ask, and they mean it. They’re looking out for me.

Out with the trash

What do we model to our kids when we’re willing to throw ourselves down every volcano? After a while, it looks a lot less like unconditional love, and much more like a self-degradation of our own value. We’re putting ourselves out with the trash.

I nearly skipped meditation service on Sunday.

Camdyn queued up The Office on Netflix. That’s tough to turn down, even if Jenna Fischer doesn’t have a huge role in the episode. I’m going to service, lovey, I told her. We can watch it when I get back. I’ll get pizza and we’ll watch Chile vs. Germany, too.

We saw The Office episode, and it seems like 42 others. (Judge if you want – yes, my 12-year-old watches The Office.)

We talked, and we laughed. We cooked and played, and went our separate ways, me folding laundry, her flipping through Instagram on her tablet. I even annoyed her a few times. (I’m not perfect.) But I had experiences in that time away from being dad …

Experiences that further restored that energy I need to be my best dad. Or hell, best guy.

It’s not like I never play the omelet card, though. Dad has to take one for the team. He just can’t pass up the opportunity. I did it on a night that it actually wouldn’t have worked. If we were out of dinner, I couldn’t have just settled for an omelet.

We were having omelets for dinner.

day quote self care

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28 thoughts on “Why Settling (Always) for an Omelet is a Lousy Way to be a Father

  1. Very true. It reminds me a lot of how we were raised when we were younger. I mean, even to this day. My mom always puts our needs (my sister and me and my dad) before her own and I just want to shake her and say, “NO. Put you first. Then there wouldn’t be any passive anger and resentment.”

    1. Right, Divya? We see the examples our parents set. They stick. It’s a fine line, knowing when the selfless service is good, and when it’s counterproductive. You have to go by feel.

    1. Thanks, Audrey Dawn. I like the mindful approach of preparing them food, and also making sure you sit to eat with them.

      I love when my girls make sure I’m good, and don’t make a big deal of it! It makes me hopeful they will treat others like this too. Thanks for stopping by!

  2. What a spectacular point. We lead by example by showing them compassion and sacrifice so we should allow them to follow our example and return it to us. What’s even better is having kids willing to show that compassion!

  3. As I read this post, I kept hearing those famous flight attendant words, the ones where they adamantly tell you to put your oxygen mask on first before helping anyone else. Before I had my daughter, this made some sense to me. But now that she’s around, these instructions seem somewhat futile: as a mother, I can tell you that without a doubt, my natural instinct to protect her would kick in, and I’d scramble to get hers on first. (Surely this would happen, and I’d get in trouble with the friendly flight attendants and then I’d be trying to do both at the same time, and that certainly wouldn’t work and then we’d all be in a heap of trouble, wouldn’t we?)

    The point I’m trying to make is that I’d be sitting at the table, without an oxygen mask, eating an omelet right there with you — struggling to breathe, and perhaps not entirely enjoying the meal, but being perfectly fine with the situation I’d created.

    But like your girls, my daughter would be making me eat, too, and she’d probably be trying to put her little mask on me first. It seems like we’ve both been fortunate enough to have such compassionate little women in our lives who know that when we take care of ourselves better, we’re better for them: We laugh a little harder at The Office, we’re happier because pancakes are better than eggs sometimes, and at the end of the day, we breathe a little easier.

    So I actually think they know what they’re doing — because they also want us to be able to still walk (no knee cutting!) They’re smart little cookies, those girls of ours. Now, speaking of cookies, I would be okay eating those for dinner every night, and I don’t think there’d be any sacrifice involved in that decision. I think this is the perfect solution, don’t you?

    1. The idea of putting that mask on ourselves feels contradictory to all we know as parents, doesn’t it, Corey? But you’re right – it would put us in a heap of trouble, and some guy would jump ahead of us and get on the inflatable slide before us.

      And there are times we end up eating the omelet anyway. Maybe the kids don’t see, or don’t know. Maybe it’s holding off on new shoes or a haircut so she can go on a field trip or play in a tournament.

      And as you’ve discovered – and I’m still learning – those girls of ours are aware, of a kid without a friend, or a parent who needs looking after. and everything is better if we heed that.

      You will get zero argument out of me when it comes to cookies for dinner. We’ve fought hard to make them acceptable for breakfast (not really, but stick with me here).

      I love the way you think.

  4. Its such a balance. As parents sometimes we get tunnel vision and focus so hard on our kids that we forget we need to take a minute and be good to ourselves too. You are an amazing Dad! Im my mothers culture we were raised to offer our food, even if we were halfway through our plates, to anyone who happened to come by while we were eating. Its a hard habit to break.

    1. It’s a fluctuating balance too, Kim. What good can we be if we’re not taken care of? I have amazing kids, and I just try to do right by them, every day.

      I love that penchant for thinking of others first, though. Can you imagine this world if it were widespread?

  5. A very wise post, Eli. I was terrible about this for the longest time, which is why sometimes I have to give the extra explanation to the kids now that “it’s not always about you.” Sometimes I have to recharge if I want to be there for them, and if that means closing my door for 45 minutes then everyone will survive. Your family sounds perfectly wonderful!

    1. Thanks, Laura. It’s good for us to teach the kids that lesson too, that they are the center of our attention a lot, but not the center of the universe!

      I used to feel so guilty going for a morning run when I first became a dad. I am – just as you are – so lucky to be part of this family.

      1. My go-to if I am at a nice restaurant is a filet or salmon. Breakfast etc. I just do bacon, eggs (over med) biscuits and gravy and grits…. of course. Mexican? I do live in TX… would be tacos or taco salad. I’m not going to venture to far out. BUT I will try things and I love sushi!!! 😉

      2. Can’t go wrong with filet or salmon, Courtney. Breakfast go-to for me is a scrambled egg and cheese burrito.

        The real-thing tacos are best, but I’m not above Taco Bell in a pinch. I never really found a sushi I was crazy about. Give me sesame chicken instead.

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