Since this is a parenting blog with a focus on personal development, we normally post tips and advice that parents can use to improve their own lives and the life of their children. But today’s post will be a bit different.
Today, I want to tell you about some things that happened to me with my own kids and to appeal to both mothers and fathers to do the best you can to raise your children in balance and harmony, including giving them enough time with their father.
This week, we watched the movie “Brave”. I cried at the end (I will not spoil it for you). After the movie, it occurred to me that scenes in which parents and children realize how important they are to each other (sometimes when it is too late) make me cry every time. Maybe this is part of my inspiration for today.
Our family has lived in a good number of places around the world and has visited many others. In all of them, fathers mostly go to work in the morning, leaving their children with their mothers, and come back in the evening tired, stressed, preoccupied and unaware of what their family has gone through during the day.
This used to be my life too. For 15 years, I worked for large companies, spent long hours commuting, stayed late at work “just to finish something on time” and even traveled on business. Among our friends, I actually spent the least amount of time on the road or at work and the most amount of time at home, but for the most part, I was “missing in action” as far as my family was concerned.
I remember still thinking about work every Saturday morning and starting to relax and enjoy my family time around midday. I remember being on call, limiting family travel to the maximum response distance, carrying a mobile phone with me at all times and anxiously expecting it to ring. I remember having to give 8 extra days during a certain month so that my employer would allow me to take 8 days off to travel overseas with my family and finally get our Australian permanent residence. That was literally double time in that month, eating into my meals and sleep and gobbling up all of my weekends.
When Ronit and I decided to start our own business and work from home, I had to get to know my kids and even my wife. I had to learn where to shop for food, when to take the kids to school, when to pick them up, what they did outside of school hours, what they liked to do in their spare time, what made them laugh, what troubled them and how they related to one another. I found out how our household worked, what challenges Ronit had faced alone for many years and how to fit in during the times I had previously been at work.
As I worked my way back home and into the family life, my kids relaxed, opened up, warmed up to me, did better at everything they tried and smiled a lot more.
Then, Ronit started traveling and presenting at conferences and schools around Australia, leaving me to take care of the kids and the house. That gave me an appreciation of what she normally did when she was around, but it also gave me a chance to be alone with my kids and to get closer to them.
A few weeks ago, I started jogging to a nearby park and exercising there. Initially, I did it by myself, because everyone was working or studying, but then Tsoof joined me a couple of times and Eden joined me a couple of times too. This weekend, Ronit ran a workshop on Saturday, and all my kids decided to come jogging and exercising with me.
As you can expect, a 48-year-old man, a 23-year-old petite woman, a solid 16-year-old boy and a tiny 11-year-old girl are an odd mix when it comes to physical activities, but we quickly worked things out. Tsoof and I jogged ahead and started exercising, while the girls caught up and stretched. Then, we walked back home “the long way”, talked, laughed and had lots of fun together.
At some point, I remembered the stories of some life coaching clients about their separation from their kids and that some people attend our parenting workshops for the parenting certificate, which they use to be allowed more time with their kids after a divorce. It made me happy to be there with my own children. I felt incredibly lucky in today’s high-divorce-rate society. But it also made me deeply sad for all the fathers who cannot be with their kids and for all the children out there who get little or no time with their dad.
A close friend of ours now lives in one country, while his ex-wife and his 3 children live in another country, where his ex-wife has gotten a court order that prevents him from seeing them. Every time he talks to them, they beg him to come and it tears his heart out.
Sad, isn’t it?
Ronit and I believe strongly that parenting is mostly done by setting an example for our children. Living a fulfilling, peaceful, happy life is by far the best thing we can do for our kids. Children are like little (and then big) mirrors of us, which means that if they grow up without being to reflect certain things, they grow up incomplete.
Traditional wisdom wants fathers to be there for their sons, but girls grow up in a world where half the population is male and they must be able to deal with them to have a good life. Similarly, boys need “mother time” to learn about women and to get in touch with parts of their personality that cannot develop otherwise.
So if you are a father and you are trading time with your family for more work, more money or more anything else, stop! Find a quiet spot, take a couple of really deep breaths, close your eyes and consider your priorities. Is there anything you can do to spend more time with your kids?
If you are a father separated from your children, I am truly sorry for you, but please do not focus on your misfortune. Focus on the wellbeing of your kids instead. Is there anything you can do to see them more and spend more time with them? Can you be a bigger part of their life by phone, email, social media or in person?
If you are a mother and your kids get little or no time with their dad, especially if you are separated and feel angry with him, please stop and consider the impact of your situation on your kids. There are no bad people, only unfortunate circumstances and every relationship is based on both sides. Please find a quiet spot, take a couple of really deep breaths, close your eyes and consider your priorities. Is there anything you can do to help your children spend more time with their father?
Whatever changes you choose to make, they may be hard and they may take time, but I know your kids will thank you for making them. Be brave, be reasonable, be compassionate, be loving and see how these are reflected right back at you from little eyes and little smiling faces.