Your daughter’s second-grade school program is scheduled in the middle of a workday. She’s playing a lion and has no speaking lines. The play only lasts 20 minutes, but the drive from your office is at least a half hour each way.
What do you do? Do you add that complication to your schedule and race back and forth to the school? Or do you excuse yourself and tell your daughter you’ll make the next one, when she has a bigger role?
It’s a classic work-family dilemma. We want to support our kids, but our jobs are important too. They help define who we are as men.
A dad named Mark wrestled frequently with that kind of decision. One of our staff interviewed him as part of our Father of the Year Contest, and here’s one of his insights.
He said, “When we’re at work, we like to feel important and vital to the company. We show how important we are by staying busy. We position ourselves to give the impression that we have a lot to do, and we can’t possibly break away unless it’s really important.” Mark finished that insight with this zinger: “We like to think we are more indispensable at work than we really are.”
That thought forces each of us to ask another question: Are you indispensable at work? What would happen if you left your job tomorrow? Sure, it might be a big hassle for everyone, but in a few weeks or a month, they would bring in someone else to replace you. They’d miss you for a while, but there are probably a number of people who have the skills to replace you in your job. The company or organization would go on.
Now, think about this: What if you died tomorrow? Who could your family find to replace you at home? Nobody. You can never be replaced. The loss would be immeasurable. To your family, dad, you are indispensable.
Taking a step back, the ongoing struggle between work and family priorities shouldn’t be minimized. Men can’t quit their jobs just to attend a second-grade school program. Mark shouldn’t be burdened with guilt if unavoidable commitments keep him at work. But all dads should continue to ask themselves, Where am I most indispensable?
Keep that thought in mind the next time a child has a game, a performance, or some other event. You can be sure your son or daughter is looking out in the seats for support and encouragement. They know you have other responsibilities. They may not know exactly what you do for a living, but they know other people are counting on you. Still, they’re scanning the crowd for the man they call daddy.
We’d love to let you off the hook and say that in the long run, it doesn’t really matter. But you know what? It does matter. So if at all possible, be there. This is not a guilt trip. Or an ultimatum. It’s a fact.
Dad, no one and nothing can take your place. And that’s a good thing. When it comes right down to it, we proudly wear the title “Indispensable.”
- Make a commitment to be at each of your child’s events that you possibly can. When you can’t make it, consider having someone capture key moments on video, and then talk with your child about what was happening and what he or she was thinking at the time.
NCF is a nonprofit organization seeking to improve the lives of children and establish a positive fathering and family legacy that will impact future generations by inspiring and equipping fathers and father figures to be actively engaged in the life of every child. You can also sign up for NCF’s Today’s Father Weekly email here.