I meet with a group of men from the church every other week where we discuss topics that we face as husbands and fathers. It is really a great group where we try to support each other in living in a manner that is in line with God’s teaching. Currently, we are working our way through the book, “Resolution for Men“, which comes from the movie Courageous. A couple of months ago our discussion was on being a father to our kids. As we went around the room expressing what our biggest difficulties are at being a father to our kids, there immediately was one common theme among almost every man in the room. Every man felt guilty because finding time to spend with their kids with all of their other commitments was easier said than done. Each struggled in some way to have what they considered enough quality time to spend with their sons and daughters. I shared this same view but my eyes were really opened when I realized this was a universal theme in the room. Looking around that room these are some of the most family oriented, spirit-filled men in the church. If these men toil to find enough quality time with their kids I can’t help but think that this is an even greater issue for a father working crazy hours, a father in a visitation schedule from a divorce, or a father who has to be away from home each week for business.
This week we were discussing the resolutions that are listed in the front of the book and we were each trying to pick two that were hard for us to live out. As we were sharing one man shared that his two were “I will love them (wife and kids), protect them, serve them, and teach them the Word of God as the spiritual leader of my home” and “I will work diligently to provide for the needs of my family.” As he spoke tears started streaming down his eyes as he said “My job is not a 9 to 5 job in any way but how can I be the father that I need to be to my kids and still be the provider I need to be as well. I am going to resolve to make the time needed from work to be the father I need to be.” He went on to explain a recent phone conversation with his wife where she said, “Your son is dying for you to get home to throw the football with you. You know it is going to be too dark if you have that late meeting. What should I tell him?” He replied back, “I just do not have time today.” Tears continuing to flow, he expressed “I now realize that I only have 18 years to really be the Dad that I need to be and for my oldest I only have 7 years left. How can I justify the time I have already wasted?”
I think every man in the room felt the same way as the man that expressed this issue. With everything that we are expected to do at work and at home, how do we find the time to spend it in a meaningful way with our children? We all know that the time we spend with our kids is important. I think there is a study on every possible positive thing a kid can do and it can be related to the time their parents spent with them in some way. Dr. Anthony P Whitman would describe the parent-child relationship this way, “Children spell love, T-I-M-E.” I want to list some ways that we can find time to spend with our kids. Look at some ways to find more time to spend with your kids and understand that you can’t change everything. You are still going to have obligations that take you away from time to time. The key is to limit these occasions as much as possible and if you can keep from scheduling during time you need with your children, attempt to do so.
Limit Kids’ Activities
One problem today is that there are opportunities to schedule afterschool activities any day of the week. If we are not careful we can quickly fill up our child’s schedule with all sorts of sports, arts, or music. Remember that the activities are fine in and of themselves but somewhere in the process they may take some of the time you need to spend with them away. Some people say you should limit your kids to one afterschool activity. We work pretty hard to keep from over scheduling our children. If it takes away from time we can be together as a family then we do not do it. One organization we have had kids be a part of that we feel good about is Upward sports. The best part of their program we found was that they practiced for one hour during the week and had a one hour game on Saturdays. Our kids could get some exposure to the sport as well as being exposed to some Bible teaching as well. The league is not as competitive as some of the other leagues around but these were 5-8 year olds. We appreciated the manageable commitment of the activity.
Additionally, I read a great article titled The Joys of Doing Nothing that explains that “kids today have half as much free time as they did 30 years ago.” Sandra L Hofferth, from the Michigan Institute for Social Research goes on to say, “Children are affected by the same time crunch as their parents.” “As a society, we have talked ourselves into believing that we have to make every moment count, and that we have to fill our children as we would empty vessels,” says Kathy Hirsh-Pasek, Ph.D., co-author of Einstein Never Used Flashcards: How Our Children Really Learn and Why They Need to Play More and Memorize Less. Hirsh-Pasek, a professor at Temple University in Philadelphia, continues, “Parents feel compelled to give their kids every advantage they can afford. So they cram their days with art, music, sports, and even weekend enrichment programs.” Today’s kids are so prepped and prodded they have no idea what to do when they are alone.
If we are going to limit our kids’ activities, we need to be sure to limit our own activities that take us away from spending time with them. You can limit your after work schedule to make time for your kids. If you are away on business you can set aside a period of time to talk with them over the phone. We need to take into account the time we are taking away from the kids for church activities, social activities, and friends. Take time to evaluate where your most important priorities are in your schedule. It is important that you work on building boundaries to define your work time versus your family time and stick to them.
Eat Dinner Together
One thing we try to do each night is to eat dinner together if at all possible. This is a great time for us all to talk a little about our day and what is going on in our lives. We can have some fun and it is a great time to tap in to areas that your kids might be struggling with.
Play with your Kids
There is nothing that thrills a kid more than some time playing or doing an activity with their father. It can be as simple as rolling a ball back and forth or dropping bouncy balls down the stairs, but kids love that time with you. You could work on a puzzle together or even play a video game together. They just want to see that you want to be with them.
One on One Time
If you have more than one child, try to find time to spend that is special to each one. Some of the things that my kids talk about most are the times that I did with just one of them. That could be a special date to one of their favorite restaurants or even working together on a cool project. Work on finding activities that you both enjoy.
Sometimes it feels like the kids go to school, come home, do homework, eat, and go to bed. When the kids are bogged down with homework try to provide some short breaks from around 5-15 minutes that you can be with them and give them a break from their work. It shouldn’t be anything that is too distracting and hard for them to get back focused on their work, but something that will help them feel connected. I try to bring some humor around to break up the tension around my home. Over time my oldest has developed a pretty quick wit and can hold his own with me.
I know that this is just the tip of the iceberg in ways you can spend time with your kids. The important thing is to find the time to spend on your kids, keep the time you have from other obligations, and, most importantly, utilize the time in a meaningful way. I hope you will follow the resolution that the man in our men’s group made this week and make the commitment to say, “I am going to resolve to make the time needed from work to be the father I need to be.”