My friend Doug Thomas told me a story that I want to share with you. It’s about a young child who asks her father how much money he earns per hour. The father is startled and annoyed by the request and refuses to answer. The little girl persists in her questioning, and the father grows increasingly upset. Finally, the exasperated father yells to the girl that he earns $20.00 per hour, and now she better go to her room and get out of his sight. Before leaving, the girl asks her father for $5.00. Bewildered the father asks “why do you want $5.00?” to which the girl replies “I have $15.00 saved up. With $5.00 more I was hoping I could buy an hour of your time.” Ouch!
That reminds me of another story I heard many years ago about a father who asked his son which he wanted more from him – quality time or quantity time. The son thought for a moment and responded “dad, I want quality time – and lots of it!
Time is one of the great equalizers among us. We all have 24 hours each day to spend just about however we please. A good number of those hours I suggest should be spent in sleep. It’s not selfish to spend some of those 24 hours just on yourself. But if you are a spouse and/or parent, the remainder of those hours do not belong to you alone. I heard a statistic that fathers speak to their children, I believe it was an average of just 15-20 minutes per day. Or was that per week? Either way, it was a dismal statistic and a telling one when you look at the many poor decisions our youth are making today.
Please don’t get the idea that I am on a man-bashing tirade here. I am not. I fully realize and appreciate the significant role that a man plays in the overall wellness of his wife and children. I also realize, however, that many men have abandoned that role and are just not fulfilling it as they should. Again, I’m not saying that men are to blame for our depressing divorce rate or the myriad problems facing our youth. Research is pretty clear, however, that when fathers are actively involved in their marriage and parenting, they and their loved ones benefit tremendously.
In fairness, I must point out that men and women are dramatically different in so many ways. These differences become apparent early on in life. Typical little girls spend much of their play time imagining growing up to be wives and mothers. Little boys, on the other hand, see themselves as doctors or truck drivers or however they will one day earn a living to support their family. Notice I said “typical, ” and I certainly am not implying that women can’t or shouldn’t work or that men can’t be nurturers. It is true, however, that most men are programmed to some extent to be breadwinners. There’s nothing wrong with that as far as I can tell unless the emphasis on making a living gets out of balance and becomes the end-all and be-all. And, therein, lies much of the problem within marriages and families today.
Brian G. Dyson, then President and CEO of Coca-Cola Enterprises, in a 1991 commencement address at Georgia Tech University challenged the students to: “Imagine life as a game in which you are juggling some five balls in the air. You name them work, family, health, friends and spirit and you’re keeping all of these in the air. You will soon understand that work is a rubber ball. If you drop it, it will bounce back. But the other four balls – family, health, friends and spirit- are made of glass. If you drop one of these, they will be irrevocably scuffed, marked, nicked, damaged or even shattered. They will never be the same. You must understand this and strive for balance in your life.”
Wow, that sounds like sage advice to me. And I can’t think of a better time than right now to do a realistic appraisal of how you are spending your time. Are you giving of yourself to those who are most deserving? Has work and hobbies, activities, interests taken time away from your loved ones? It really does come down to where your priorities are. And this is not a challenge solely made to men. All of us run the risk of getting so caught up in the hectic pace of life that we can’t see the many time and relationship thieves that have crept into our lives.
So let me close with a poem by Natasha Josefowitz called Priorities. At least for marriage, it says what I’m trying to say far better than I can:
We’re working too hard accomplishing a lot but . . . the time to play is passing us by.
We’re in our separate worlds of creative concentration. It’s wonderful but. . . the time to be us is passing us by.
We meet for meals and speak of work. It’s helpful but . . . the time to know is passing us by.
We meet in bed and go to sleep. It’s restful but. . . the time to love is passing us by.”
Should you have a marriage question or comment please send it to me at ronp@FCCMF.org. FCCMF stands for Four Corners Coalition for Marriage & Family, a 501-c-3 organization I co-founded in 2003 and which I presently serve as executive director. You can also call me at 505 327-7870.