Diary of a Widower

Daily entries by a husband, who stayed behind with his two sons

Is putting your kids first ‘brave’?

MONDAY, September 27 – I’d prepared a pretty good text, which I was planning to read at quarter past one, during the daily meeting. As long as you have the words in front of you, on paper, there’s no problem. No matter how difficult the text is. I’d made out all right speaking next to Jenn’s coffin, surrounded by hundreds of sobbing friends, and I didn’t do too badly in court either when I faced the man who had killed her and who was himself sitting there sobbing uncontrollably.

But this afternoon, it doesn’t work. I just can’t do it. Goddamn it! I start off with a joke while my colleagues look back at me with rapt attention; but then I’m the one who can’t keep back the tears. My vocal chords were paralyzed. After several attempts, I had to give up. H took the text from my trembling hands and read it for me:

‘It is with a heavy heart that I tender my resignation as deputy editor-in-chief. I can no longer totally devote myself to fulfilling my duties with total dedication. NOS News deserves an executive management team that functions at a full one hundred percent of their capacities.  Unfortunately, my personal circumstances make this impossible.

I made this decision shortly after Hans, Giselle, Marcel and I embarked with confidence on the new season. Gradually I have taken up my duties again. I had and still have the energy, interest, peace of mind, concentration, and qualities necessary for the job. I’m doing much better, but that is not my only consideration.

It’s important for me to be there for all of you, my colleagues both during office hours and outside office hours. That means following all the broadcasts and all the responses and reactions to those broadcasts. This means not only during regular hours, but also in the evenings and on weekends and doing so alongside the busy program here in Hilversum, in The Hague, and elsewhere.  This makes for an incredibly hectic job.

The nature of my work clashes with my home life, which is no longer ordinary since Jennifer’s death. In making this decision, I have opted for my children. I want to be there for them, as a father. Unconditionally. During the past few months I have done my utmost to make it all work. I wanted to give myself until the end of this year, but last week it became clear to me that things were not working out the way I had envisioned. Either you do it the right way or you don’t do it at all. For this reason I am resigning effective as of today.

I will still be with the NOS. The exact nature of my work will become clear in the days to come. I am extremely grateful to all of you, for your trust, patience, understanding and support. Thank you all.’

The hours that followed were like a warm blanket that settled over me. People responded by email or phone, via Twitter and Facebook. What kept recurring was the word courageous or a variation thereof.

Am I brave? I feel that I’ve done the only thing I could. Re-reading this diary, thinking back to the way I struggled to adjust my working life which meant so much to me to suit the new circumstances, I again experience the avalanche of emotions which I had to surmount in order to reach this rational conclusion: ‘I’m only giving up this job because I love my children and I want to be there for them.’

Courageous? Apparently.

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