In cel­e­bra­tion of the Fly­ing Dad Dudes

The se­cret lives of hus­bands who go the dis­tance for their fam­ily and mar­riage

The Hamilton Spectator - - COMMENT - THOMAS FROESE Thomas Froese writes about father­hood, travel and life. Find him at www.thomas­


In fact, at the air­port this morn­ing a stranger ap­proached me and said: “Ex­cuse me. Are you the guy who writes about father­hood stuff ? I ap­pre­ci­ate that so much. But re­ally, how do you do it? Your kids, so well ad­justed. Your wife, so re­mark­ably hot. You, al­ways on the mark. You’re one lucky dude!”

Or maybe he said: “Ex­cuse me. Are you the guy who left this bag­gage trol­ley here? Can you please move it out of the bloody way? Yes you, dude!” The two greet­ings sound so sim­i­lar, you know.

Re­gard­less, I was at the air­port this morn­ing and am now writ­ing from a favourite spot, 40,000 feet in the air. My for­mer univer­sity home in Uganda has asked me to re­turn for a stretch to teach Amer­i­can Lit­er­a­ture: some Hem­ing­way and Fitzger­ald and such. So I’m the fly­ing fa­ther. The miss­ing fa­ther. The alone and bor­der-cross­ing fa­ther in this sai­son de la lib­erté, a spa­cious time to con­sider our en­tan­gle­ments of the mo­ment, that is our New Year’s res­o­lu­tions.

But for me (as Ugan­dans are fond of say­ing), I think I’m meant for more. For big­ger things. I think it’s time to be a fully-equipped ad­vice colum­nist. Like Dear Abby or Dear Pru­dence or Dear Miss Man­ners. Just send your in­quiries to “Dear Daily Dad.” I re­solve it.

Pub­lish­ers, for sure, will now pur­sue me with vigour: “Mr. Froese, we’d like to pub­lish the best of your best ad­vice. We’ll fly you over the ocean. Over the deserts. Over the moun­tains. We’ll fly you to Licht­en­stein.”

They’ll in­struct me to talk to hus­bands ev­ery­where. To hun­dreds. Thou­sands.

“Find what men want in fam­ily life. What they re­ally want. Then we’ll pub­lish your work as “The Se­cret Lives of Hus­bands: Go­ing the Dis­tance in Mar­riage and Fam­ily Life.”

Of course, I’ll ac­cept the of­fer. I’ll talk to truck­ers and fish­ers and men in var­i­ous sta­tions in life, men liv­ing away from their wives and chil­dren for long pe­ri­ods. And what do they want?

Many sim­ply want to sup­port their fam­i­lies fi­nan­cially. In 2018, world­wide, it’s pro­jected that wage-earn­ers work­ing out-of-coun­try (mostly, but not ex­clu­sively fa­thers) will send about half-a-tril­lion dol­lars home through cross-bor­der re­mit­tances. By­pass­ing cor­rup­tion of in­ter­na­tional aid, it’s a re­mark­ably re­li­able source of rev­enue for de­vel­op­ing na­tions.

I’ve pre­vi­ously met some of these faith­ful fa­thers, some of the world’s 200 mil­lion peo­ple liv­ing out­side their coun­tries of birth. Low-in­come In­dian and Pak­istani cab­bies in oil-rich Dubai, with their sharply-pressed pants and crisply-starched shirts, are par­tic­u­larly mem­o­rable.

Or con­sider Dun­can, my neigh­bour, a re­tired engi­neer who of­ten flew for longer stays to places like South Amer­ica and South Africa. Or John. “I have a mis­placed hus­band” ex­plained his wife, a reg­u­lar at the Y whirlpool, later telling me, “I’d rather have a hus­band for half-a-year than be a widow.” John flies to the warmth of Chile for months at a time, to both share his pro­fes­sional skills and save his health.

Yes, a cof­fee-ta­ble book on lost hus­bands and fly­ing fa­thers. Why not? Along with my ad­vice. Nat­u­rally, it’s about fly­ing. It’s also what my el­dest daugh­ter has on her bed­room wall. It’s this. “Be brave.” This is it. When you fly alone, be brave. When you’re left be­hind, don’t be afraid ei­ther. Be brave in all of it.

Fam­ily time apart isn’t un­com­mon, es­pe­cially glob­ally. It can even do a world of good if it helps you re­cal­i­brate to ap­pre­ci­ate loved ones more. Enough re­search shows this, that, usu­ally, ab­sence does make the heart grow fonder.

Also, it’s a myth that women in par­tic­u­lar crave mar­riage to be some never-end­ing oa­sis of pure in­ti­macy. Many crave cho­co­late more. And, in my ob­ser­va­tion, cou­ples who can’t spend time apart are among the most bor­ing and hope­less peo­ple around.

Their delu­sion, that all their needs be met in each other, is a trip to mis­ery. Many would do bet­ter to put on a blind­fold, walk to a world map, stick a pin on it, and buy a ticket to the Is­land of Wher­ever. Alone. For per­spec­tive.

There are worse things to do in life. Run­ning away from time alone is one of them.


Fly­ing away from home and loved ones re­quires some courage, but can give fresh per­spec­tive and re­newed fond­ness for each other, writes Thomas Froese.

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