It’s amazing it took me so long to realize that it’s not just okay to compartmentalize, it’s really important. When I needed to erect a firewall between my own worries and FD’s I finally got the memo. My grown-up problems cannot be her problem.
I was raised in a worried home. Part of it was our own issues and part of it was ethnic. Jews—which we supposedly were—have a fear of the universe’s Evil Eye and a method for warding it off called “keina hura.” It’s usually about amulets, charms, and spells. My version of it can be distilled to a simple motto: “What you don’t remember to worry about will get you.” (Thanks to Rabbi Ron in the link above, I now know I could’ve just been chanting, “pooh pooh pooh.” Such a time-saver.)
Anyway, feeling like it’s your job to worry all the time is clearly stupid. A moment of happiness means you’re not only underserving of it, you’re slacking off and have to get back to “work” pronto. I even have a song about this dumbass inner voice of mine, “My Idiot Friend.” The jerk only got louder when I got laid off and dumped into the gig economy.
Here’s my theory of parenting: Children deserve a protective cocoon in which they can develop. The cocoon lasts until they’re adolescents and realize you were lying. You haven’t really kept them safe because the world isn’t. Their fury and terror at this realization explains teenagers. (Hey, I ain’t no expert.)
So I compartmentalize for the girls, but I also do it for me, because I know these years when we’re all together as a family are so fleeting and immeasurably precious. Let all my money, mortality, and emotional issues step back—I’m a dad.