Imagine that today you’re reading a letter from your child, only it’s ten or fifteen years in the future and your child is a young adult. What would he or she write to you? If you had the benefit of those insights about your relationship, would it change anything you do as a father today?
In an eye-opening video submitted for a contest recently, a father gets that glimpse:
The letter and this dad’s regrets were all a dream, but they became a clear wake-up call for him. Do you need a similar jolt in your fathering today? Many of us miss the point when it comes to our work. We fail to recognize that succeeding in our careers is empty if we aren’t also succeeding at home.
Maybe that’s because most of us started serious work pursuits and settled into a routine before we had children. Or maybe our attention and energy are more easily drawn to activities that have immediate rewards and consequences: a promised raise or threatened layoff from a boss, the prospect of a lucrative new account if we spend extra time with a client, or outside of work, the satisfying challenge of a hobby or sport we enjoy.
Unfortunately, children don’t usually give us instant feedback. A daughter isn’t likely to say, “Daddy, unless you’re home four nights this week, our relationship will start to drift apart.” Instead, the distance will grow gradually through the years. We’ll wake up one day and wonder why we don’t seem to talk much anymore.
Work is important; you play a vital role in providing adequately for your family. But there are trade-offs. If bringing home your current salary means you can’t be an engaged and caring father, then it might be time to consider a change.
Your family should be a high priority — and that should be very evident in your Blackberry calendar, not just in your heart. There are a wide variety of ways to show your kids that you’re committed to them. They can sense when Dad is making an extra effort — and they feel cherished. Show them that success at home comes before success at work.
- Plan a block of time this weekend (at least an hour) to do whatever your child wants — a board game, a tea party, a video game, practicing a sport, etc.
- Write a letter to your child as you imagine he or she will be ten or fifteen years from now. Save it so you can give it to him or her at that age. (Or use a resource like this.)
- Talk with your children’s mother about the day-to-day routine, your schedule, and how you can find more time to spend with family members.
- Learn a classic “daddy trick” that will entertain your kids and be a great way to spend time together — like the “hole in your head hat trick,” a comedy pratfall, or a strange handshake. This book has a bunch of ideas.
- Are you traveling for work soon? Spend some time and energy preparing your kids before you go. Leave them notes of affirmation; give them details of your itinerary, so they know exactly where you are; have someone shoot video of events you miss; etc.
– Daddy @ Work: Loving Your Family, Loving Your Job by Robert Wolgemuth
– CEO Dad: How to Avoid Getting Fired by Your Family by Tom Stern
– A Father’s Legacy: Your Life Story in Your Own Words
–Be the Coolest Dad on the Block by Simon Rose & Steve Caplin
More resources on work/family issues.