Note: This is the fourth of a planned series of blogs on the family. Follow the Family Fridays tag in the future for more articles.
With the risk of offending a good portion of the audience, and even a larger portion of society, I’ll say that history has proven that a working dad and a stay-at-home mom is the best formula there is for raising healthy, happy kids.
In these recent days of government overreach, however, the lines between work and home have been blurred. Work is at home and home becomes work. This can be confusing for children and bring new struggles for husbands and wives.
As a pastor and self-employed businessman, I’ve long had the ability to work from home, and thus have seen some of the joys and pitfalls. My wife has been mostly a stay-at-home mom, while sometimes teaching in private education, enabling her to be home when the kids were home. My children have grown to be happy and healthy adults with marriages and children of their own. From this perspective, allow me to give a few insights about being a working dad, and how to do that while raising a family, carrying on a career, and being involved in community life.
Work is priority
As parents, we are building Western Civilization. That is, we want to pass our Judeo-Christian values to the next generation. One of the fundamentals of these values is the value of work. We work because it provides for our financial needs. We work because it provides for our emotional needs. We work because we are wired to work. We work because we want to eat!
In the last generation or so, a “family first” priority became popular among western-world Christians. I understand this, to a degree, but, like most things, it has become perverted in the minds of some to “family only.” The philosophy can (and has) become a philosophy which enables children to think that they are the center of the universe. In a healthy “work first” home, children know that breakfast has to be early, dad has to leave, they have to do chores and schoolwork, and mom has to manage the house. The desires of children become secondary, which is exactly where they should be (do I hear the audible gasp of family first advocates?)
Making work a priority teaches children the value (and necessity) of work.
Work boundaries are good boundaries
For a dad working at home, parents must find ways to ensure that the children know that “dad is at work.” A home office helps, but if that isn’t available, make sure there is a closed door that is off-limits during work hours. Personally, I think the best thing a dad can do is to be gone during work hours.
And, I might add, sometimes it is not so much the children, but the wife who makes working from home difficult. A wife who creates her husband into the household nanny is creating a mess. The children will not have anyone in the home modeling the Christian work-ethic. These children will assume that “money grows on trees,” and that “there is a free lunch.” In fact…dad cooks it. Wives, the best thing you can do for building a work ethic is make sure you recognize the work boundaries that he needs to be successful. These boundaries will also help disciplinary issues, believe it or not. A home in which dad does not have to continually serve the needs of the children becomes a healthy home.
Boundaries for work are as important as boundaries against work. When dad comes home from work (or gets off work, in the case of a home office), that is when it is time to put the work aside for family activities like a meal, a walk through the neighborhood, fixing a broken bike, or playing a game. If you find that dad is doing these things during work hours (and thus working at 2 AM to get the work done), then you’ve got a boundary problem. Children need to know that daddy is unavailable during work hours and totally available during non-working hours.
When you don’t have work, make some
If you are an unemployed or underemployed dad, or simply have a job that only requires a few hours of your day, or maybe even blessed to be financially secure as a young dad, you still need to be working. This is part of teaching your children the value of work.
And if dad doesn’t find work, he will end up finding himself in the nanny position, which is a bad model for children. A dad who sits at home with nothing to do will very quickly be given something to do, by his wife and his children. Soon he will be doing their bidding 24/7. He will soon be ragged, grumpy, and possibly poor.
So if you don’t have enough work, then make some. Get a side job (there are millions of them available). Start a small business (it isn’t hard, you can have it up and running this afternoon). Contract yourself out (delivery, lawn care, etc.). Do something to show your children that work takes at least eight hours each day.
The dad that works 2-4 hours a day may (in rare circumstances) be able to provide for his family. But the dad that works 2-4 hours a day is not providing what his family really needs, and that is a dad at work. By staying home, you are creating a monster that will have to be fed for the rest of your life, and the fruit of that monster will be an unhappy and demanding wife (demanding wives are always unhappy), unproductive children (in grades, in chores, and later in their life’s work), and wasted opportunities for personal and professional developement.
Hooray for working dads!
Most of us were raised by a working dad. We saw him leave in the morning. We anticipated his arrival home at supper time. After supper he helped us fix the car or do the homework or watch a ball game. We watched mom do the business of the home and dad do the business of making money, providing for the family, and modeling a healthy work/family balance.
To all the working dads out there, you are creating healthy and happy children. Keep at it. Now…get to work.