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Family Talk: Dads can dare to be there

Sometimes fathers must reset their priorities to be more involved with their families. [Thinkstock image]
Sometimes fathers must reset their priorities to be more involved with their families. [Thinkstock image]

I heard a sad-turned-glad story of a dad named Don. When Don called home from the road one evening he spoke briefly to his 9-year-old daughter. 

“Honey, could you get your mommy on the phone?” As his daughter set down the receiver, Don heard her blurt out, “Hey Mom! The invisible man is on the phone!”

Don was, at first, dumbfounded. But then he became transformed by his daughter’s description. He responded to her indirect cry for him to be more involved in her life. Don decided to make his family a priority, changed his work habits and reconciled with his daughter.

How about you, dad? Are you the “invisible man” with your children? The lure of our jobs leads us to spend too much time at work. Our interest in sports takes us to the fairways while our kids crave our presence. I’m not saying dads (or moms) must be with their children 100 percent of the time. I’m not saying men can’t enjoy work or recreational activities on their own. What I am saying is, for some reason, dads find it much easier to drift out of the family orbit, and we need to make intentional choices to remain “visible” and involved.

Consider these stats compiled by Dr. Scott Behson, Professor of Management at Fairleigh Dickinson University and blogger at fathersworkandfamily.com:

1. Men face pressure to be income provider. Even with the rise of breadwinner moms and dual-income couples, fathers are the sole or primary providers for 85 percent of dual-parent households.

2. Today’s dad has tripled the time he spends caring for his children and does twice the housework, compared with fathers of a generation ago but is still lagging. While 85 percent of dads say they aspire to fully share parenting with their spouses, only about 30 percent report they actually do so.

3. Workplaces and corporate cultures have not kept up with these changes. Research shows that men who adjust their work for family are often seen as insufficiently committed to their work and face stigma and career consequences. Many employers expect men to be “all in” for work, even when they are sharing care of children at home.

4. Fifty percent of working dads say they find it very or somewhat difficult to balance work and family responsibilities. In fact, more fathers today (about two-thirds) report work-family conflict and stress.

So how do dads become “visible” to their families? Be present. Be engaged. Be purposeful. Establish your family as your priority, and then act like they are.

It hasn’t always been easy for me to keep those priorities. At times, my career demanded a lot of juggling. But I made the decision, early on, that no amount of success on the job would make up for failure at home. Dads, we have to live life according to our priorities. It might require sacrifices at work or on the golf course in order to spend quality and quantity time with our family. Don’t allow yourself to become the invisible man. Dare to be there.

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