It’s a reality for many- you just don’t seem able to be as available or present as you wish you were in your children’s lives. There just isn’t time…
Generally, dads spend far less time with their families and children than moms do, simply because of life circumstances. Many dads I work with just can’t be there- some feel the job is better left to the maternal genes in the household, some work away from home, some work late hours, or leave home early mornings, some are scared to parent, some live in a different household. This leaves little time to interact and connect.
Even if you are around, perhaps you feel like a secondary parent, like the one who doesn’t matter quite as much, like the one who stands on the periphery because time is just not on your side and because there’s a part of you that believes that moms just do it better and will take care of that department.
Today I want to tell you, your role is no less important or valuable. Your child needs you, Dad.
A dad’s job is irreplaceable, and try as much as us moms may at times, we just can’t quite fill both roles. Dad, your child needs you to focus on more than earning an income, on more than doing business, on more than keeping a roof over their heads and food on the table. As much as children need all of these, what they need more than anything is for you, with your limited time, to focus on connecting.
Your involvement in your child’s life, whether it’s engaged or disengaged, has far reaching consequences. So many more than you may ever imagine…
Research tells us that dads are critical in the development of a child’s emotional well-being. Dads influence all the types of relationships we have- from friends to spouses. You, dad, are your son’s most significant role model. Who your daughter chooses to be in a relationship with and how much she values herself in that relationship is largely impacted upon by… her relationship with you, Dad.
On Friday I collected my son from school, and along with him, his father’s day gift for my husband. One of the items was a laminated page of things he said about Dad, and alongside “I love it when my dad…” he had responded “plays cricket with me”. A small afternoon activity where fun, laughter and real meaningful interaction had taken place became my son’s memory of a most treasured time with his dad. My husband can’t always be the present dad I know he longs to be- but in the relatively short periods of time he has with Christian and Rachel, he makes these moments count, he makes them matter, and in those, my children build memories which keep them feeling rooted, valued, cemented in a sense of family, and embraced in love.
My father was a church minister, which meant he was always busy with other people, in church meetings, bible studies, prayer meetings, or traveling to speak at international conferences. But even when he was ‘there’, he wasn’t… He was never available…My mother used to often try and console us from our absent father by joking that ‘his mind is on higher things’. It became the standard family comment when referring to how ‘far away’ he always was from us, but it didn’t matter to us children where his mind was, what mattered was that it wasn’t with us. He was so preoccupied with what was justified to be more important matters, that he never stopped to connect, to understand, to really spend time with his family. He never really got to know his children, and the impact thereof was far reaching for us all.
When you are with your children, even for a few precious moments, where are you? Where are your thoughts really? Are they on work or things you need to be doing, places you need to be going, emails you need to send or messages you need to reply to? If they are, you are missing out on the most incredible gift that life has given you- an opportunity to really connect and get to know the people who love you most, the children who will rein act what you do, the children who will become you.
Whether you are a dad, a surrogate dad, uncle, family friend or a grandfather- if you have potential to impact a child’s life, know your role is a great one, which no one can come close to replacing. Dad, be confident that you are the father your child needs, and what they desire most is a relationship with you. Small moments count. Switch off, redirect, and nurture that relationship.
Too soon, your children will have left home, and it will be too late then to begin to get to know them. It happens in the small everyday moments- all they need is full engagement, to feel heard, to feel understood and to feel loved.
So stop feeling guilty about the time you don’t have. The question is, what are you doing with the time you do have? How are you ensuring that you are getting to know your children, connecting with them and building your relationship with them in the limited time you may spend together?
What matters to your children is not the business empire you may be building to leave behind or the inheritance you so dutifully place your investments in monthly- the most important aspect your children want to be left with is not your legacy, it’s the memories created by the moments spent with them. It’s in the small interactions in which they learn values from you, they learn how to solve problems, they learn how to treat others, and they learn how to love and accept themselves for who they are. In THAT they define who they are, and who they will become. You choose through your involvement exactly what that’s going to be.
These short moments of time you have to be a present dad, boundary them fiercely, let these moments be uncontaminated, let these create a space and an experience which leaves your child, no matter their age, feeling loved, feeling understood. It’s in the small things Dad- make them count. Your greatest opportunity to effect change in this world is through what you mean to your children.
Happy Father Day,
With love from