I ran across this personal essay by Linda Duffus and thought it was pertinent to our profession. Although I’m not hauling long distance these days, I can personally attest that this job is very tough to balance with family life. Linda is a product of a trucking family and she articulates a child’s perspective about growing up with a long haul dad.
The role of the long distance trucking parent is not an easy one. I know one situation where the mother is on the road and the dad handles the childcare, but in most cases, the father-figure is expected to be all things to the family besides just a breadwinner and home repairman. He’s also expected to be disciplinarian, companion, friend, great lover, sage, fun guy, moral compass, sugar daddy, Santa Claus, strong man, problem solver and the rock of the unit.
Unfortunately, parents sometimes don’t realize how deep an impression their words and actions have on their children. Thanks for the following Linda!
A Kid’s Point of View
>>My father was gone a lot. That’s what happens when your profession is
>>truck driver. You have to go where the load takes you and it takes just as
>>long as it takes. It’s easy to understand that concept when you are an
>>adult with bills to pay, a little less so when you are five and you have
>>to walk to swimming lessons in the frigidness of winter because the only
>>person in the family that drives, your Dad, is several hours away from
>>home, bouncing around in his loud, noisy truck. It makes you angry that he
>>will be spending the night in some motel, maybe with a pool, while your
>>feet are cold and your hair is frozen into icicle strings that smack your
>>face as you’re pulled along by your Mom, who is tired and angry and cold
>>Back home in the tiny apartment, you, your brother and your Mom have a hot
>>chocolate to warm yourselves up, and soft, fluffy jammies bring comfort.
>>After a quick read of a story and a brush of the teeth, the three of you
>>climb into Mom and Dad’s bed and snuggle yourselves into sleep. All so you
>>can rest up for the morning, when a walk to the babysitters is the start
>>to the day. It wasn’t quite the “ten miles through snowdrifts up to the
>>armpits in bare feet” that my father used to walk when he was a kid, but
>>it seemed awful enough.
>>A few days later, my Dad would return. We’d know he’d be coming without
>>even having to ask. Mom would be dressed up all pretty, and like as not,
>>my brother and I would be in trouble for doing something wrong and the
>>threat of “wait till your father gets home” would be said with a little
>>more weight behind it than it had on other days. I swear that sometimes my
>>father started removing his belt as he climbed the apartment stairs. He
>>knew that the moment he opened the door, my brother and I would race for
>>his arms and my mother wouldn’t be too far behind to tell him what
>>horrible children he had left her with. I don’t think my mother really
>>felt like that, I think she was just tired all the time. She worked
>>full-time and had all the responsibility for raising us.
>>Depending on the seriousness of our wrong-doing, we were sometimes given
>>an hour or so reprieve, a chance to gather round as Dad emptied his
>>satchel of amazing treasures he’d brought from his latest adventures, well
>>those and a bunch of really stinking laundry. Mom would get the dirty
>>clothes into the basket and downstairs to the washer and my brother and I
>>would get our loot. A good trip might yield us tiny wrapped candies, or
>>little cakes of motel soap with the names of places we couldn’t read
>>printed on them. Sometimes there were stuffed animals, or coloring books
>>and often it was little packets of jam that we’d covet for breakfast the
>>next day. If he’d been to Sudbury, a chunk of slag might be the gift. We
>>used to get pretty excited about straws wrapped in paper sleeves. (My
>>brother and I were raised to be grateful for everything!)
>>Mom would come up from the laundry, and suddenly it would be bedtime. It
>>didn’t matter what time of day or night it was. Apparently a family nap
>>was in order. But there was no space for my brother and I in our parents
>>bed now. Dad was home. We’d be banished to our own room, but we didn’t
>>care, we had our treasures. I guess Dad was tired out from all his driving
>>and Mom was just tired out. They always seemed to nap for quite a while.
>>Dad would be home for a couple of days, and our lives would be completely
>>turned around. Toys had to be picked up, meals eaten at certain times and
>>we had better be quiet while Dad napped in the chair, listening in his
>>quasi-sleep to some stupid sports show that was interfering with our
>>Wonderful World of Disney. We’d sulk off to our room, quietly of course,
>>and break the soap bars into little bits with our safety scissors. Or use
>>the jam packets as booties for Barbie and GI Joe. Of course Mom knew we
>>were up to no good – we were TOO QUIET – and she’d sneak open the door and
>>we’d be caught and all hell would break loose. She’d yell, he’d jump,
>>off’d come the belt and my brother and I are crying in bed with red
>>bottoms and counting the hours until Dad had to hit the road again.
>>Looking back now, it seems odd to be remembering things this way. I know I
>>had an excellent childhood, I know that I was deeply loved by both my
>>parents and that they did the best that they could with what they had. I
>>know that there was never a time when family wasn’t first. And it worries
>>me to think of what my own kids will remember from their childhood!
Harry Rudolfs has worked as a dishwasher, apprentice mechanic, editor, trucker, foreign correspondent and taxi driver. He's written hundreds of articles for North American and European journals and newspapers, including features for the Ottawa Citizen, Toronto Life and CBC radio.
With over 30 years experience in the trucking industry he's hauled cars, steel, lumber, chemicals, auto parts and general freight as well as B-trains. He holds an honours BA in creative writing and humanities, summa cum laude. All posts by Harry Rudolfs