I am not sure I know the answer to this columns gist but I am hoping perhaps we could all discuss it in the comments column below and I can formulate one from there.
Time is precious. We know this but very rarely give it much thought. It is a saying rather than something most of us live by. This leads me to my “father’s dilemma” this week. We tend to have children when we think we can afford it; work is going well, our spouses make plans to give up work, buy new houses and possibly upgrade cars to accommodate the new arrival. All of which takes money and time away from the “cash” pool.
Once we have had one child many of us start the conversation of a second with in a year or two. Again the upgrades and time off work begins. As a father you want nothing but the best for your family. Invariably you work harder to achieve this and invariably that means more time spent at the office, on the road or in many cases commuting between Joburg and Cape Town. The irony is this comes with more stress, less time and less family focus. Which is exactly the opposite of what you are working to achieve. So how do we use the time we do have effectively?
In my case I typically leave early in the morning and arrive home at around 7pm, missing school runs, bath times and the generally bad behavior that comes with two boys when they are at home. So I arrive home stressed from the day, my mind on work to an understandably very tired wife and two kids on the brink of going to bed exhausted.
So here is where the discussion begins. Where do we get the time to be “cool Dads”, with no stress and irritability hanging over our every interaction with our children? Again I don’t have all the answers here by the way so feel free to post below!
I started to arrive home late due to trial and error. If I bring work home with me I (a) can’t focus on the kids and (b) can’t focus on work. So I stay at the office wrap up my work then head home. But I am still tired and stressed. So when I do get home I am still not the “cool Dad” I would dearly love to be.
On weekends I tend to be a train wreck. Tired from the workweek my body is screaming at me to take up a position on the couch and hog the Super Sport channels, whilst my brain and heart are telling me to get the kids outside or break out the Lego. I end up somewhere in between and not quite getting the “me” time and the “us” time that I would like it. And of course the ‘couple time’, which we all tend to neglect and put on the back burner as the “last of our worries” (another conversation).
Like I said I don’t have the answers, or rather all of them, so I canvassed a few Dads and below are a few points that I believe could enhance both relationships, work life and of course the interaction with our children.
1) Exercise: This I know to be true. Exercise de-stresses us, kicks in the endorphins and gives us a sense of wellbeing. We feel better, move better and lose the groggyness that limits our normal interactions. In a nutshell we handle life better.
2) Drink Less: It sounds like a no brainer but its not always the first thing we think of as parents; men anyway. Alcohol acts as a depressant, can increase our irritability and as most of us know, slows us down both mentally and physically the next day.
3) Time management: Everybody has heard older generations at some point say I wish I had spent more time on my family and less time at my desk. Better time management allows us to block off work time, family time and “me” time. Trust me guys, the quickest way back in to the good books and your wife’s heart is being a great Dad. It’s not always easy to get right but even if there is a 50% better time management in your life you are off to a good start.
4) Plan: Plan family time, plan getaways and plan time off with your wife / girlfriend. So much time is spent planning your workday, why not use the same mentality in planning your real life.
5) Dad and kids: Give your wife a break and let the kid’s focus on you. It’s all too easy to go out as a family and take a backseat, while mum does all the work and you carry bags and pushchairs. By taking the kids out on a “dad day” you are not only forced to not “disengage”, but you are also showing your children that you too are an equal partner in this; and of course you may just enjoy it.
These are not all the answers but I think they are a good start. Time management I believe to be a key one here but you may have other ideas. Let me know below and maybe I can add to this list!
We only get one shot at getting it right with parenting. Having them is not always easy but life without them is completely unfathomable.