In choosing our priorities we make sacrifices. If we recognize the gain, the sacrifice is easy. Father's have been "sold a bill of goods," when we have been told that our "work" will give us all the fulfillment we need in life. We are now discovering that we need to feel connected with our children and families to truly be content with life. No father on his deathbed has ever said, " I wish I had spent more time at work." It is coming to understand as fathers that our relationships with the important people in our lives, especially our children, is of paramount importance to our feeling good about ourselves and to feeling our lives have meaning.
When I asked my children what they think makes a good parent they gave me the following responses: Our 12-year-old daughter said that taking your kids to school and picking them up, (on time) and having time to play with them and help them with their homework was important. She also commented that young children should spend more time with the parents than a baby sitter.
I asked our 16-year-old son about what he thought it took to be a good dad. He summed it up by saying it just takes time to spend with your kids. He said people should not be prejudiced against teenage fathers, if they can have the time to be with their kids they can be good fathers too. It all comes down to time.
I know from the dads and new parents I work with, as well as my own wife and me, balancing our many needs and desires and finding the time it is often overwhelming. I encourage you not to give up the struggle. Most important, when it comes to your children, finding the time for them will not only benefit their development but, particularly for us fathers, can make all the difference about how we feel about what is of real value and meaning in life.
Like the season's of the year, our lives as parents, as fathers, go through transitions. Look at the time you spend with your children in relationship to the season of their life. Getting your son or daughter off to a good start often takes more time and is very intense. I can't remember how many times I've heard, "They are only little for such a short time." I can't remember any days (and nights) that were longer than when our son and daughter where between birth and two years old. And today I can already feel they have one foot out of our house and into lives of their own. And I could not be prouder of each of them, for how wonderful and difficult our life has been. But more than a few times I wish we could go back in time, and my children could be our babies once again.
Bruce Linton, Ph.D. is founder and director of the Fathers' Forum programs for expectant and new fathers. He is a former contributing editor to "Full-Time-Dads" magazines, and columnist for Parents' News in San Francisco, California. He is the author of Finding Time for Fatherhood (Berkeley Hills Books, 2000). Bruce is a licensed Marriage and Family Therapists and received his doctorate for his research on men's development as fathers.
Copyright © Bruce Linton. Permission to republish granted to Pregnancy.org, LLC.