A Day in the Life of a Dad

What do a police officer, a chef and an art professor have in common? Fatherhood.

Meet Ward Feger, Karl Ulmer and Christopher Olszewski. They come from three different states and they each go about their daily routines in distinct, fatherly fashions. In honor of Father’s Day, I decided to spotlight the schedules of these hardworking dads starting with two simple questions:

1)  What’s a day in your life look like?

2)  How has your life changed since becoming a dad?

Sergeant Ward Feger: Police Officer, Hainesville, Illinois, Father to daughter Jordan (22) and son Jeremy (19).

Sergeant Feger and his wife, Tina. Image courtesy of Feger.

Sergeant Feger and his wife, Tina. Image courtesy of Feger.

“I am a day shift patrol sergeant and work 6 a.m. to 6 p.m. I conduct a ‘roll call’ at 5:45 a.m. and assign the officers to their patrol beats. I go over what has happened in our city since we were last working and pass around investigative alerts - we call them critical reach flyers - and I review any administrative e-mails and memos.

I get a 30-minute lunch break. Sometimes I brown bag it at the police station [or] go to a local restaurant with a co-worker, but many times I just have a snack and have to work through lunch because I am needed on a call for service.  

The most challenging part of the day is keeping a balance between being involved on the street and supervising the police personnel and making sure I don't get behind on administrative tasks. If I do, I may have to come in on my own time to work on those tasks. Each supervisor is assigned coordination of certain aspects of the department. For instance, I am our fleet coordinator. I handle any issues with all of the cars we have in our department. I am also our traffic unit coordinator. I compile statistics on crashes and coordinate directed traffic enforcement efforts. Keeping the balance is challenging because the main part of my job is still being on the street to make sure police issues are being taken care of effectively.

The best part of my day is seeing officers go home without having any issues at work. This can be from getting injured or having a hard time dealing with a case they had to work on during their shift (like a suicide, child being harmed or a bloody domestic fight or crash). So many people think it's no big deal, but police officers are getting hurt or killed with more frequency and having psychological issues because of what they have to deal with. As a supervisor this is what I am concerned with or worry about, making sure my team is okay. It would affect me greatly if one of my people has problems.

Doing what I do, becoming a father changes your way of thinking. You want to make sure you go home to your family safely and thinking about your family makes you think better at work. Many younger cops that don't have families yet are gung ho and want to go a million miles an hour in everything they do. As a father, you think smarter and analyze to make sure you are doing the right thing. I firmly believe that the best cops are ones that have families to go home to.”

Ulmer at Blooming Grove Hunting and Fishing Club. Image courtesy of Ulmer.

Ulmer at Blooming Grove Hunting and Fishing Club. Image courtesy of Ulmer.

Karl Ulmer: Executive Chef at Blooming Grove Hunting and Fishing Club, Blooming Grove, Pennsylvania, Father to Katelynn (19) and Ben (17).  

“I'm a graduate of the Culinary Institute of America. I spent many years using my diploma to travel and work in some great places across the U.S., including Cooper Mountain, Colorado, Key West, Atlanta, Asheville, Nassau in the Bahamas. And I ended up back in the area where I went to high school.

I'm currently the Executive Chef and Clubhouse Manager of Blooming Grove Hunting and Fishing Club. This is the start of my 21 year.

I'm going to give you a run-down of my busiest day in the summer, Wednesday. We serve breakfast, lunch and dinner at our club, and have a minimal staff. In the kitchen, it's myself, my assistant, Amber, and I usually hire a culinary student to do their externship with us to make it through the busy part of our season, Memorial Day to Columbus Day. We will serve two people for a meal and 250 people for Labor Day weekend.

I’m up at 6:40 a.m. to make it to work by 7. I will make sure the extern is prepped and ready to go for service. Depending on how busy it is, I may jump behind the line to lend a hand. If not, I'm overseeing the quality of what is sent out.

I will look at our event calendar to see what our Saturday night function is and what is on the menu. I will also check our meal counts for the week leading up and a few days after. This gives me an idea of how busy we will be and how much food it will take to make it through.

After I come up with the three separate orders, I will head to the farmers market. It’s a 40-minute ride. Once I've gathered all I need, it's back to work. If I have time, I will grab a bite on my way back to work. If there are no lunches signed up for our club, I will bring the extern with me to get an idea of how to plan around what is in season.

Now it's my break, but Wednesday is also one of my three workout days. So I go to the garage below my apartment for a half-hour on elliptical, twenty minutes on free weights, and 15 minutes on the row machine.

After I'm done, it’s a quick shower and sit down for 30 minutes then back to the club. I'm usually done around 9:30-10 p.m. Then I head back to my apartment. If I was fortunate enough to have no one for dinner, I will probably fish on one of the many local lakes or go out and have someone else do the cooking.

Ulmer with Katelynn and Ben. Image courtesy of Katelynn Ulmer. 

Ulmer with Katelynn and Ben. Image courtesy of Katelynn Ulmer. 

My life before my children was much more carefree. I traveled to new towns for work just to ski or be somewhere warm. I'm more grateful now of the life I have and so proud of what my children have been able to do, the people the are becoming. I'm very excited for the future, but I tell myself to stay in the moment. I am truly blessed.”

Christopher Olszewski: Professor, School of Foundation Studies, Savannah College of Art and Design, Savannah, Georgia, Father to Peter (14) and Cameron (11).

Professor Olszewski's SCAD headshot. Image courtesy of SCAD.

Professor Olszewski's SCAD headshot. Image courtesy of SCAD.

“My family consists of my wife (Melissa), two boys (Peter 14 and Cameron 11) and Harley the Dog (9). Both of my sons are in travel soccer which requires hours of travel time to and from soccer complex along with tournaments around the Southeast region on weekends.

The day starts early getting the boys off to school. I teach 8 and 11 a.m. classes, so my lunch is at 10:30. I push down food while answering student questions and preparing for the next class. My office hours are from 1:30-2:30 p.m. where I speak with students, catch up on grading and socialize with faculty. 3:00 p.m. I head to the YMCA gym. From this point in the day, everything has structure. As I move forward, things get hectic.

From 4 - 9:30 p.m., there is a mad scramble to make dinner. The boys do their homework, Peter practices trombone, soccer practice, coordinating with other parents to drive to soccer practice, return home, snacks, making of next day’s lunch, showers and get to bed before 9:30. From 10:00- midnight, I squeeze in grading and preparing for the next day’s classes.

Somewhere in this scheduling mess, I have a robust creative practice where I work in my studio, develop creative projects, travel around the US, participate in professional conferences, conduct lectures and exhibit my artwork.

Whenever I can, I like to sit or lay with my boys before bed and talk about the day. Sometimes we watch TV or watch videos on the iPad. We talk about what we are going to do over the weekend, challenges of the day, new video game ideas, hopes and dreams of the future. It’s a pleasant way to end the day.

Overnight, I went from a dude to a dad. Once Peter arrived June 19, 2003, I was no longer the center of the universe. There was a shift and everything in my world revolved around him. Finances, life insurance, changing diapers, waking up at 3:00 a.m. for feeding, rocking to sleep, structuring the daily events around nap-time. It was an enormous adjustment but wouldn’t change it for the world.

In 2006, Cameron came around and the party really began. My boys are the most important piece of my life and have no idea where I would be without them.”

Professor Olszewski and his sons, Peter and Cameron. Image courtesy of Olszewski.

Professor Olszewski and his sons, Peter and Cameron. Image courtesy of Olszewski.