The Demands Of Work And Home
Creating and spending quality time with my son is one of the biggest challenges I face in being a father. It feels like I am constantly being pulled away by the demands of my primary job and all the usual responsibilities of being an adult.
Like most people I know, my primary job takes up a significant amount of time in my life. I often have to keep hours into the evening, through and beyond family dinner time, and typically work a full day every other Saturday.
I provide a service for businesses, so I have to be available and fixated on my computer for those long ranging hours. I admittedly want to exceed any expectations placed on me by my employer, so I adhere to the demanding schedule.
Beyond my career, there always seems to be some trivial, but necessary household item to tend to as well. Be it cutting the grass, maintaining our household budget, or emptying the dishwasher, there are plenty of tedious and recurring obligations in the home that need to get handled.
I am fully aware that emptying the dishwasher does not come close to ranking as an important priority in comparison to spending time with my son but the dishes pile up each day, regardless, and need to be tended to. For other parents, their daily life distractions may be paying bills online or doing laundry.
These chores are all representative of the everyday pulls we encounter in life. If we are not careful we can inflate their importance and begin to assign urgency to them. I am guilty of doing this.
The Constant Pull Of Distractions
A text message chime goes off, an after-hours call from a client comes in, or a new email populates the inbox. All of these things, minor and benign on their own, can converge and act upon us all, inhibiting our ability to spend focused time with our kids, which they need and deserve.
While there are countless tasks to tend to in a home as an adult, my biggest impediment to spending quality time with my son is my primary job. I expend a great deal of energy and focus on trying to be a high-level achiever at my job, which often feels is to the detriment of spending quality time with my son.
What is the tipping point where a hard fought career, long hours, and exhausted energy from the work day begins to detract from our relationships with our kids?
My Father: My Role Model
As a father, I want to be an earner and set a tone in the home to show that hard work and exceeding responsibilities is what brings success in life.
My father owned his own business for 40+ years and worked incredibly hard but never once left me feeling deprived of his love and attention. Even with my Dad working so hard at building and maintaining his business, he always seemed to be around and consistently provided quality time for me and my brother.
My father has instilled that parenting ethic in me but I can not determine whether I am making the same positive and attentive impact for my son that my father made for me. I sometimes feel guilt and sadness over what feels like a lack of creating true quality time for my son.
Our Kids Are Aware
My son is aware and in tune with my work schedule. He often asks me if it is my late night at work or if I am scheduled to be working the coming Saturday. His desire and need to spend time with me are palpable.
There were points in his toddler years when his behavior would get slightly off-kilter for moments. Thankfully, off-kilter for our son is still pretty remarkably behaved, but these brief situations were noticeably off for him.
Both my wife and I were able to observe and agree that these behavioral situations were arising because my time and focus became too centered on work, with not enough time being spent attentively on my son.
Even just the smallest opportunities I could create to focus solely on my son turned these moments around and made a world of difference for him emotionally. My son is now 5 and his need for quality time being spent together is only growing. Am I giving my son the time and attention he deserves?
Time Spent Gone Wrong
Another layer to the challenges I face in spending quality time with my son is the actual interactions when I do get to spend time with him. Often, moments within our time together can get unwound or emotionally blown up from a fit or act of defiance from my son.
My son recently turned 5, so these meltdowns and acts of stubbornness are occurring less than when he was a toddler, but they can still occur and often derail opportune moments of spending quality time together.
These situations, in particular, can get me down. I tend to over analyze the moment gone wrong and blame myself for possibly exacerbating things. I feel like I have let opportunities to further bond with my son slip away, due to a lack of patience and presence.
So what can we do as parents who may be overcommitted, distracted, and in need of more quality time with our kids?
Create Small Opportunities
- I have heard kid’s emotional well-beings described as empty tanks and it that it is up to us as parents to fill those tanks by spending time with them. It is not even necessarily the amount of time, but the fact that focused time on our kids is created and spent.
- Even if just for a 2-minute break from work, creating a moment of undivided attention for your kid goes a long way, for the both of you. I work from home, so I admittedly have an advantage in trying to create brief moments of focused attention on my son.
- Just walking up from my basement office and picking my kid up for a hug, seems to refill both of our emotional tanks.
- I try and do my best to pay focused attention on my son, which involves sustained eye contact with him. He deserves that kind of attention and apparently direct eye contact can instill confidence in our kids.
- I am guilty of often listening to my son try and speak to me while my head is buried in a laptop or cell phone screen. It is unfortunate and it happens more than I would like.
- That is all the more reason for me to try and be mindful of our eye contact within certain moments. Kneeling down, getting on the floor, and dropping down to their eye level are all ways to indicate respect and foster a higher sense of self-assurance in our kids.
- Recently I volunteered to be one of the assistant coaches on my son’s t-ball team. Turns out I was the only parent who volunteered, so I was the only coach.
- I was a little bit nervous about doing a good job and being effective, but also wanted to have this life experience, so I moved forward despite my nerves.
- It was awesome to see how excited my son was that I was coaching his team. His energy levels before practice were through the roof. It was sweet and I am thankful I took the plunge and volunteered.
- Is there anything in your kid’s daycare, preschool, or organized activities that you can volunteer to help in?
Drop Your Expectations
- Planning big events and surprises for your kid can be a fun and rewarding experience, but it could also backfire and may not be necessary to refill your kid’s emotional tank.
- I am guilty of building up the mental expectations of big outings in my head, like a trip to the zoo or attending a pro sports game, only to have a fit or tantrum from my son unwind the actual moment.
- If your big plans do get blown up, do not get hung up on the disappointing turn of events. Just try and focus on the time being spent, however, it is being spent, and drop your expectations entirely.
- The next time around, consider just having your kid sit on your lap while you read them a book or build a castle together with blocks. Either of those simple activities may be ten times more impactful than some grand plan with heightened expectations.
Your Daily Routine
- You may be getting some quality time in with your kid and perhaps you are not even recognizing it or giving yourself credit for it. Each morning I am responsible for getting my kid woken, fed, dressed, and out to his preschool. It can be a pressure cooker and is not always pleasant, but it is time being spent together and it has bonded us.
- We especially enjoy the brief car ride together, listening to sports talk, pop and rock, and chatting. My son does not stop talking the entire brief car ride, and it is time I truly cherish.
- If you have recurring tasks from a daily routine, you may be able to create some quality time within those seemingly mundane moments. Bath time always feels like a nagging chore to me at the initial thought of it, but when the actual bath happens it can present an opportunity to be silly and bond with my boy.
- Try and be present during the daily moments of life. Quality time can arise from what otherwise may have felt like the daily minutia of responsibilities.
See A Therapist
- If you share my concerns about losing out on quality time with your kid, your feelings may be just and an indication that some changes need to occur. As mentioned above, the changes may not require significant upheaval to your life.
- Sometimes, just finding more presence within our daily routines can create more meaningful interactions with the ones we love. Talking with a therapist can be an empowering tool for parents.
- Therapy can provide a set of life skills that allow you to be in the best possible headspace for navigating the confounding waters of being a parent. You can also set proper expectations for what being an effective parent truly means.
- You may discover you are being a bit too hard on yourself, which I can be at times, a result of my own hyper-sensitive ways. Therapy does not have to be some last measure resort to a life that is falling apart. Therapy can be a proactive tool of choice, used to improve your life and find more joy in being a parent.
Family Truly First
Creating quality time to spend with my son is the most important thing I can do as a father. I recognize how lucky I was to grow up with a father who seemed to naturally know the importance of spending focused attention on his kids, despite all his obligations as a business owner.
I want to crush the expectations of my employer, achieve high-level results, and provide for my family. I am also passionate about building out this wellness and parenting platform called Still Feel 21. In order to attempt to pull off all of these goals and objectives, in addition to the countless household tasks, my head has to be in the right mental state and thoughtfulness has to be applied to the priorities of my day.
The time I spend writing and producing content for this site is always in the early morning hours, before anyone awakes in my home, or late in the evening after my son is in bed. I made the personal commitment to never allow building out this site be a conflict with my primary job or especially a detractor from spending quality time with my son.
I have also made the commitment that family truly comes first. It is an easy thing to say, and can even have the ring of a cliche, but I am consciously trying to live that value. When my responsibilities with my family are being met first, I then feel most at peace.
I am slowly learning that providing for my family does not always equate to depositing a dollar in the bank account or placing a meal on the table. Most importantly, providing for my family can mean closing up my computer and looking my son in the eyes while he asks me something about trucks or sports. It is what he deserves, and what ultimately brings me joy as well.