The Role of a Father
====================
JA
Just recently I have been considering the way fathers are relating to
their families in western societies these days and i would like your
imput on the subject. I believe it is a relevant topic for the list
simply because relationship, both with God and will others is important
to home church people.  Also, it is a question relating to our real life
and no doubt has an impact on the health of our churches.
When I was a kid, growing up in Australia, it was very common for
families to have 'absent fathers'.  This didn't necessarily mean that
the Dad's were physically away all the time (though this sometimes
happened).  What is meant was that Dad was responsible for working away
from home, earning the money and doing a few handiman's tasks around the
house and he left the responsibility for bringing up kids mostly to his
wife.  Even if the Dad was 'around' he was often emotionally distant
from the rest of  the family.
In Austaralia, now, the philosophy of childrearing has changed but I am
not sure if the practice has moved much.  Guys know that they are
appreciated for the time they can spend being a companion for their
wives and a model for their kids but they don't seem to be spending as
much time on this as you would expect.  Longer working hours are one
reason for this, I suppose, but guys also seem to be spending a lot of
time watching TV or on the computer so that even when they are at home
they aren't really 'there' for people.
I am begining to suspect that old habits die hard and the ways of our
fathers and mothers are proving much harder to change than we expected.
We think  that we are rational human beings who can change the way we
act on the basis of logical decisions but changing the way whole
families act in the space of one generation is a difficult thing.  I say
'we' in this because I don't think it is just a blokes problem but
requires both husbands and wives to change.  I think that women can keep
home and kids a women's domain and not really leave a space for guys to
do things.  They can be so good at understanding how everyone is feeling
and helping them with what they are doing, that the blokes feel clueless
and at sea in the home domain.
I am wondering if anyone else understands a bit about what I am
discussing here.  I know it is a very general thing and there are bound
to be lots of exceptions.  It is just that I see this trend, to a larger
or smaller extent all around me, locally and I am wondering if it
happens other places and what are the ways through it.  How do fathers
move from being emotionally absent to being emotionally present?
Another aspect to this relates to something that people say on line here
from time to time.  Just recently, Tracy Amino and someone else (I can't
remember who) were talking about their understanding that Christian men
are the ones who are personally responsible for their families.  This is
not a view that is very common in Australia, even in Christian
families.  The joint responsibility model is much more prevalent, here.
I am wondering how the 'father responsible' model works out in
practice.  Does this mean that the father spends lots of time serving
the family, like a christian 'servant leader'.  Does he help a lot with
kids homework,  get upin the night fortheir illnesses, go and see their
teachers, discuss their journey through adolescence with them of does he
kind of deligate this to thier Mum?
I would be so thankful for some ideas on the way forward, in this
situation - ideas on the way hc families can have 'present fathers' in
their midst.  I don't so much want the theory, but some ideas on how it
work can work well in practice.  I think this is a hard question, so it
is fine if you think for a day or two before responding.
Looking forward to your answers.
regards
JA
********
MB
Hey JA and HDCLers,
I would love to 'think' about this for a while and then respond but,
unfortunately, I can't guarantee whats going to be 'on' for work this week.
So, excuse the quick 'knee jerk response you might be getting from me.   I
have brooded over this for about six months now.  (My wife is six months
pregnant with our first child.)   As a  result my thoughts on this subject
are only theory... I recognize that.
So, without too much ado.... I'm going to ramble ok.....   It helps me think
and brood on things.
My father was there physically but not emotionally.  I don't remember any
affirmations from my father.   If they were there they were there in the
form of teasing, especially about my 'liking girls etc......   This did not
help me in my bonding with my masculine side and getting in touch with the
feminine....   In many ways it alienated both, but especially the Masculine.
I now see that its a fathers role to affirm the sexuality  of his sons and
daughters.  (OK ok its a Leanne Payne idea).   You see, the mother has been
'one' physically with the child and, as they grow up, is still very much at
one with them.  How many times do you see a mother siding with the kids
against the father. Its a because she sees them as part of her flesh.....
More so than the father does.   Yeh????  lets see were we go from here.
Its a fathers role, IMHO, to draw out those characteristic he sees in his
children , name them and set them up as something good and whole.  For
example if my father had told me it was good to like girls when I was young
I wouldn't have had half the sexual identity problems I  have today.  But,
instead of that, he teased me about them.   I became shy and withdrawn.
 I was sexually abused too at a young age so that would not have helped....
I am not blaming all my problems on my father.
I hope to cut the umbilical cord when my child is born.  This will be a
small thing but a very symbolic thing.  This is why God desribes himself as
God the father.    Because he his constantly wanting to cut the umbilical
cord of our earthly deisres a fleshly lusts. He's active and present in our
lives and constantly afirm all that he created in us.
 IN me he is afirming and building up me sexuality the evil one robbed me
of.    He tells me constantly that he  loves to do boy things with me,
swiming golf thinking and doing.   But he wants me also to recognise that
out of Man came women hence when I relate to women I get in touch with
something inside me that I coulden't otherwise get-intouch-with.
Oh JA, of a practical matter Lynette and I have done two very practical
things in the last year to make us more 'homely' people. I've taken a Job
that has practically no travel involved and is pretty much a 9:00 to 5:00
job.  ( IN the computer industry this is not the norm. )  And we've given
away our television.  Now we read or talk at night.   Its a real bonus!!!!
 Sooo much time on our hands.
We do less too.   Now that I seen the errors in the IC.   I'm not at all
interested in the IC meetings and worship committee and the rosters and the
Sunday school thingys etc etc etc.... Lynette has not quite seen these
errors but that ok.
I'll ramble 'over and out' for now.....
Good topic JA.
********
DC
Dear JA and all,
What an important and relevant topic, JA.  There are many things to talk
about in your post, and I think about this stuff a lot.  I will try to
choose just one or two points to focus on here.
The main issue that presents itself to me as I read your post is the way
our social and economic systems make it so difficult for dads to be as
present as they'd like to be in their families.  You emphasized how
difficult it is for us to change at the level of our own families in this
paragraph:
>We think  that we are rational human beings who can change the way we
>act on the basis of logical decisions but changing the way whole
>families act in the space of one generation is a difficult thing.  I say
>'we' in this because I don't think it is just a blokes problem but
>requires both husbands and wives to change.  I think that women can keep
>home and kids a women's domain and not really leave a space for guys to
>do things.  They can be so good at understanding how everyone is feeling
>and helping them with what they are doing, that the blokes feel clueless
>and at sea in the home domain.
You are right about the ways that women can sometimes be short-sighted
about this and exclude the men from the home domain.  But I can't think
about this issue without thinking about the pressures put on home life by
the demands and expectations of our work culture.  It's getting so that if
you don't put in 60+ hours a week in many jobs, your employers won't think
you're serious enough and your employment will be in jeopardy.  I think
we're all familiar with this escalation of demand, at least here in the
U.S., even if we're not directly affected by it.
Many men (and women, but we're talking about dads now) would love to be at
home more, but they're in a real bind.  This is something CR and I are
struggling with right now.  He's been at his job for a year now (in the
computer industry, MB, and *right you are* that 9-5 jobs there are
rare), and we don't know what to do in the near future.  He's lucky if he
gets off work after only 10 hours in a day.  11- or 12-hour days are
common.  He actually got called in at 1:30 on a recent Sunday *morning*,
after putting in 8 or 9 hours on Saturday!
CR is *not* a workaholic.  He doesn't want to work so much.  And he's not
uncomfortable on the home front; he's a perfectly loving and involved dad.
But here we are, with this job.  We agonize endlessly about other ways to
organize our life, but the problem there is that all the things CR really
likes to do are things that are difficult or nearly impossible to get
employed doing, or employed at a salary that a family can live on.  He sort
of landed in this software job after we scraped along for years trying to
do what he liked, not making any money.  It's a "well, I'd better just get
a real job" kind of job.  And, sure, it's more money than we've made
before, but he sacrifices so much of his time.  (Ask me sometime about my
"Just Say NO! to Real Jobs" coffee mug.  :-)  )
This problem, to tell the truth, is as old as the industrial revolution.
Many people think that women staying home and men going out to work is the
God-given order of things, but it's actually pretty recent in our history
that it's been so.  When some people complain about women working outside
of the home, I think they're missing the more fundamental fact that *men*
used to work at home, too, before being forced into urban factory jobs.
(Note:  I'm not trying to switch to the issue of women's place in the home
and workplace.  I'm just referring to this because it's intrinsically
related to why dads are in the position they're in now.)   Dads shouldn't
be banished from their homes by the demands of an economic system that's
hostile to human community.
Sure, I'm an at-home mom and I believe it's important for my kids to have
their mom full-time, but I think they should have their *dad* as much, too.
 And it's not just our own personal family decision to arrange our life as
it's arranged.  Our range of choices is severely limited by the way our
economy is arranged.
So, I must point to the big-picture, systemic, cultural nature of this
issue to understand it.  (JA did, too, but I'm running with it.)  I hope
there'll be lots of discussion on this thread about what we can do in our
own private homes to improve the situation, but I have to start here to
make sense of it.
What about our fellowship groups?  How can our home churches relieve the
stresses put on families by workplace demands?  How can our hc's help dads
find ways of working that allow them more time at home?  For the really
radically-minded:  How can Christians help to influence society so that our
economy makes room for more humane ways of working?  These seem to be very
relevant challenges for hc's, and possibly areas in which hc can really
shine in showing what true community can do.
I hope I haven't gone too far afield from JA's intended topic, but that's
the angle I see it from in my own little corner of the world.  Looking
forward to more talk about this!
DC
Madison, WI  USA
********
HD
Dear HCDL,
I, too, have benefited greatly from all the discussion along this thread.
This is clearly an issue many of us struggle with and -- God be praised!
-- have found some health about.
***
For my part, I don't really like to see work blamed for sad fact that so
many fathers are absent fathers. I certainly believe many fathers use
work as an excuse for avoiding the relationships in their lives, but even
where that is _not_ true, work eats up an enormous chunk of our
waking lives.
Fortunately for our sanity, we almost never do the calculation. So don't
read the next paragraph if you want to stay glued together.
We each have about 110 waking hours per week. If you have a full-time
job, the usually _minimum_ commitment that imposes is:
8 hours labor
+ the hour you spend for lunch (since nobody I know pays for it and you
can't usually go home to do it)
+ the hour or two (minimum) you spend ramping up for work (dressing,
etc.), commuting there and back (who _really_ spends 1/2 hour each
way from the time they put on their hat until the time they take it off?),
and ramping down from work (putting stuff away, etc.).
That's 10-11 hours x 5 days = 50-55 hours. Roughly 50% of your waking
life. If you're another geek in the American computer industry (like I am),
or if you have a brutal commute, this figure can _easily_ reach 70-75%.
We can play with these numbers along the margins by getting jobs closer
to home (if possible) and some other tactics. But really, we're pretty
much stuck with spending half our lives at work and should make the
best of it. Pity those who are physicians or in the merchant marine or the
Navy. They don't even have the leisure to fool around on the Internet and
give us their opinions.
***
Because so much of our waking time gets chewed up by working,
we've invented the concept of "quality time." The notion is that because
we don't have any _quantity_ of time to spend with our children, we'll
make up for it in the quality of the tiny slices we have for them.
I happen to think this is rationalization. "Quality" time simply cannot be had
on demand. It comes because you are spending enough _quantity_ time
together with someone that the quality time can emerge. If you don't
spend the quantity, the quality will never happen.
One sobering statistic -- though I read this some time ago and cannot tell
you the survey source -- American fathers spend an average of less
than 2 minutes a day talking to their daughters. What happened to their
"quality" time? It got sucked into the great vortex along with all the
quantity time.
***
This has become my oversimplified measure of whether I'm being
present or not as a father. Am I talking a lot with my kids? Most of these
conversations are hardly "meaningful" ones in the exalted sense of the
word. Most are quite mundane: "What did you do today?" "Why did you
like that story?" and everyone's favorite "Stop arguing with your brother!"
Still, I've become convinced that if I can do something as simple as keep
talking with my children we'll find a way to muddle through together. As a
family, we've adopted two basic tactics to facilitate talking a lot with our
kids.
The first is: we "always" have dinner together. If I'm not traveling for
work, we "always" sit down and eat together at a table with no
distractions. And we "always" stay there until everyone is finished
eating and the conversations have wound down.
This has been a great struggle. The tendency in our hurried lives is to
just feed like animals rather than dine like humans. It takes work to
prepare to dine, and dining itself is an acquired skill. Yet we decided that
we wouldn't give up on this one, no matter how hard circumstances
pressed against us, and I'm really glad. The result is that I talk more to my
daughter between slurps of milk than the average American father does
all day.
The second tactic we've adopted is liberating ourselves from TV. MB,
Earl, and others have also used this tactic to great effect. And I'm a big
believer in it (my sister-in-law has one bumper sticker on her van -- "Kill
Your TV" -- this from an avowed pacifist!). We haven't had to trash the
box ourselves, but we have cut consumption to 1 evening hour a week
(plus Bill Nye the Science Guy during the day).
Like others who have killed the TV, we have discovered the great joys
of games (like checkers) and reading aloud. Unlike TV, which isolates
people from each other, even when they are in the same room, games
and stories help connect us to each other.
***
One thing that I have appreciated about this thread is the notion that has
run in and through many posts that being a present father is a
commitment first. The book _Babe_ (the story behind the greatest pig
movie of all time) has as its subtitle: "You are what you pretend to be."
What a fascinating motto!
And not unlike what I've heard from many on this thread. In various
ways, we've decided that we want our kids to have present fathers.
And that commitment has allowed us to discover various ways to help
that happen. People have changed jobs, shared chores, and killed TVs
so they could become more and more what they wanted to be.
My hat's off to you all; and thanks again for the great insights.
Regards,
HD
********
EE
(MB) writes:
<< I have done two very practical
 things in the last year to make us more 'homely' people. I've taken a Job
 that has practically no travel involved and is pretty much a 9:00 to 5:00
 job.  ( IN the computer industry this is not the norm. )  And we've given
 away our television.  Now we read or talk at night.   Its a real bonus!!!!
  >>
Ditto, Peter is a computer programmer.  We used to live in Silicon Valley,
and he would spend two hours commuting and bosses would expect him to work
all hours.  When we moved we purposely chose a house less than a mile from
work, and he can come home for lunch -- what a blessing!.  Giving up TV has
been difficult, and we still watch videos.  He reads to Andrew every night.
 We have all sorts of discussions, from boogars to the Bible.  We design
products together, even if they never become 'real'.  One of our favorites is
'Fart Guards' - like Odor Eaters for your underwear.  The best thing for me
is seeing each others' faces and watching each other laugh.  When you make
people a priority, it's a plus.
I'm so glad Our Father is ever present with us.  I'm sure we've made Him
guffaw a few times.
EE
********
SF
JA wrote:
(snip)
> I say
> 'we' in this because I don't think it is just a blokes problem but
> requires both husbands and wives to change.  I think that women can keep
> home and kids a women's domain and not really leave a space for guys to
> do things.  They can be so good at understanding how everyone is feeling
> and helping them with what they are doing, that the blokes feel clueless
> and at sea in the home domain.
> (snip)
> How do fathers
> move from being emotionally absent to being emotionally present?
JA, DC, MB, EE and all:
What a *wonderful* topic, JA!  And one that's very close to my heart
for two reasons: my husband (hereabouts known as the World's Greatest
Papa) and I are actively raising two little ones (3 1/2 and 5 mos.), and
I am a professional child care provider.  In my work, I have seen all
manner of fathering -- good, bad, responsible, negligent, abusive,
selfish, intentional, accidental, etc.  One of the best dads I know
became a father because the woman he married ultimately ended up
adopting her own *granddaughter* to protect her (the child) from the
woman's mentally-ill daughter (the child's mother, not a blood relative
for the husband, though); the woman later developed cancer of the liver
and died, leaving the adoptive father to raise the girl alone.  He once
said that it takes a lot of love to make a parent . . . all it takes to
make a father is a bottle of Jack Daniels!
JA, you've brought up some really good points, but I'll try to stick
to just the practical question of helping men become more a part of
their children's lives.  My husband (Pat) and I have had some reasonable
success in this, so I'll share from our experience.
First of all, we have been really blessed (and extremely determined) in
our employment situations.  Pat has managed to arrange for some
flexibility in his work hours (and he's a computer geek now, too!),
doing quite a bit of telecommuting in the evenings after the kids are
down, etc.  I've changed from teaching school full-time to working
part-time (afternoons only) running a school-age child care program.
When I'm at work, Pat is at home with our kids, and vice versa.  I say
we are blessed because, certainly, not all employers or positions can be
made this flexible; but I also add "determined," because we have not
caved in when there *was* pressure to work on-site more, be at home
less, put our kids in daycare, etc.  Even while Pat was teaching
university full-time, he simply refused to attend faculty meetings when
they conflicted with his time at home with our daughter.  I must give
him full credit here; he made it a priority to be at home while I was at
work.
Secondly, I have learned to get out of the way of Pat's relationship
with our kids.  When our daughter was a baby, it seemed (to him, anyway)
that I was more capable of meeting her needs.  He was content to play
with her and change the occasional diaper, but when she was upset or
hurt, I was the rescue team.  And due to simple repetition, I had gotten
"good" at diagnosing her needs and meeting them.  When he did try to
calm her, his early attempts were so wrong (read: different from mine)
that I felt compelled to "teach" him the "right" way to handle her. :)
Before long, we were stuck in that all-too-familiar, self-perpetuating
stereotype.
Then, I went back to work.  All of a sudden, I wasn't there when she got
hurt or upset.  He had to learn to comfort and care for her, and she had
to learn to accept his style of comfort and nurture.  And I had to learn
not to play "inquisition" every evening when I got home!  (You know,
When did she sleep?  What did she eat?  How did she get that enormous
bruise?)  Let me tell you, the first time that she fell down and cried
for "Papa!" my heart soared.  I no longer had the pressure of being her
"be all and end all."  Finally, she knew she had *two* parents.
They now have a relationship all their own.  They play their own games,
share their own jokes, fight their own battles.  This is, I believe, a
very healthy basis for her as she begins to understand her Heavenly
Father.  And over the long term, I believe that the self-worth she gains
because her Papa *chooses* to spend his time with her will protect her
from the possible predatory relationships we hear about all too
frequently.
Of course, not everyone can rearrange work schedules.  But every family
can make it a priority for dad to spend time with his children *without*
mom there as a buffer/facilitator/rescuer.  Sure, it's difficult.  But
it's easier to create a relationship with a six-month-old than a
sixteen-year-old stranger.
One last comment.  This is not the way my husband was raised/fathered.
His dad, with four divorces and countless other non-matrimonial
liaisons, epitomizes the self-absorbed, emotionally-absent father.
However, just as we are "inventing" what a Christian home looks like for
us (neither of us was raised by believers), he is "inventing" what
Christian fathering looks like for him and our children.  We may not be
changing the economic structure of our country, but we are effecting a
role-model change that will impact a new generation.  Sort of like the
marching of Tolkein's trees, eh?
Thanks again, JA, for opening up such an interesting can of worms!
Best,
SF
Santa Barbara, California, USA
********
TG
Ihave thought a lot about this question during our 14 years of parenthood. My
father was very much present in the nuturing parts of our lives. All the men
in the community were. Sometimes they were absent physically but in
relationship they were present. My husband has trouble being there when he is
there sometimes. I have come to the conclusion that our definition of
manliness gets inthe way. A man is judged by what he does or produces, not by
the process of getting there. Does that make sense? We tend to honor those
people who take short cuts and still get there.  The "American Dream" is to
get rich without earning it.  This we honor. We honor the guy who works
himself to death so he can have a pile of things to prove his worth.  Heck my
husband can't sit by the edge of a strream and just be there, he has to fish
(produce) in order to stand in a stream without a guilt trip. Being a present
father takes time with no visual produce at that very minute. Even later as
the child grows to be a healthy person can a man say "I did that"?  I don't
think we have unloving fathers I think we have too many crossing cultural
roles. Some times I look at my husband and wonder how he intends to play all
of these roles that contradict each other. He of course must make a choice. I
of course must watch what I ask of him.
TG
********
TH
Hi all!  I have really enjoyed this thread as well.  My husband
and I were also raised in non-Christian homes, so we really didn't
have much of an idea of Christian parenting.  My family was much
closer than his was -- so my husband really didn't have any idea
of what was expected of him as a parent.  I think it really helped
when we sat down while I was pregnant and discussed our roles
as parents.  I explained to him that "I" wasn't having a baby, but that
"we" were having a baby.  I also told him that if he took care of
the baby, not to consider that he was doing me a favor, but that he
would be investing in his own relationship with his child.  He told
me that I needed to respect his judgement as a parent, and not correct
him or rebuke him when I felt he was doing things "wrong."  My point
is that we discussed what our expectations were before our child was
born.  I think that most men embarking on fatherhood don't really have
any clearcut ideas of what that exactly means to them.  I think we can
easily set ourselves up for resentment if we don't discuss what we
expect from the other parent.
I think some men want to be more involved, but their wives make them
feel inadequate.  I really related to Sandy's story of when she had
to leave her child with her husband alone.  I went through some anxiety
over how Marc would do with our son.  However, my fears were totally
unfounded and he did a great job.  Marc is not a substitute when I
am away, he and our son, Nicholas, have also developed their own unique
relationship.
In Christ,
TH
Lancaster, CA
********
PI
JA wrote:
>I am wondering how the 'father responsible' model works out in
>practice.  Does this mean that the father spends lots of time serving
>the family, like a christian 'servant leader'.  Does he help a lot with
>kids homework,  get upin the night fortheir illnesses, go and see their
>teachers, discuss their journey through adolescence with them of does he
>kind of deligate this to thier Mum?
Depends on how redeemed the father is. I've always done some of these -- I
get up with the kids at night if they're sick, I visit the teachers as much
as Lori does, and I discuss with the kids as much of their journey as
they'll discuss. Some things Mom is better at just by virtue of the fact
that she's softer. However, lately I've had to be both Mom and Dad to my
kids, and it's been a healthy learning experience. I'll be much more
available to my kids in the future, even when Lori returns to health.
I can't imagine that the family model affects this much. Any man who
accepts the challenge to be like Christ will serve his family, whether he
sees himself as a peer-participant or primarily responsible. It's the
unredeemed part of the man, not the model, which causes a father to retreat
into himself.
********
JA
Thanks DC, SF, EE and MB for your responses on this topic.
They have been so good!  I lived in USA for 1 year 1985-6 so I am aware
of the long hours Americans are expected to put into their jobs.  But
from what DC says, it sounds like things have become worse since
then.  60 hour weeks sound terrible!
I was impressed to hear of MB giving his TV away and Eve's family
limiting their viewing - I wish our family could do that.  One thing our
family *has* been able to do is build up a repetoire of games that we
all enjoy playing , so family leisure time together is not just TV or
going out buying things.  We know now that we are capable of making our
own (free) fun.  Home church has helped us a bit with this because we
have been able to swap game ideas and encourage each other to do more
family relating.
SF said a few really interesting things for me.  She said that her
husband and daughter needed her to let them relate all on their own.  I
don't think we have got to that much in our family.  It is a good idea!
MB said a few interseting things too:
>
> Its a fathers role, IMHO, to draw out those characteristic he sees in his
> children , name them and set them up as something good and whole.
MB, do you mean that it is a father's role to draw out all sorts of
new characteristics that he sees in his kids and affirm them or just to
affirm their sexuality (the topic of your previous paragraph)?
 For
> I hope to cut the umbilical cord when my child is born.  This will be a
> small thing but a very symbolic thing.  This is why God desribes himself as
> God the father.    Because he his constantly wanting to cut the umbilical
> cord of our earthly deisres a fleshly lusts. He's active and present in our
> lives and constantly afirm all that he created in us.
I kind of agree and disagree with this paragraph.  I have recently been
looking at some of the ideas of Von Rad and Moltmann about the Old
Testament.  Moltamnn, using Von Rad's ideas, says that God , in the Old
Testament is a God of 'promise'.  Most of God's revelations come with a
promise to change things for the better.  God promises to give Abraham
his own land and many descendants; deliver Israel's enemies into the
hands of Saul or David; free the Israelites from slavery in Egypt.  And
he enlists people's help in this good work.  So to Moses he says 'come I
will send you to Pharoah'.  Now I am pretty keen on see the female side
of God (as i have mentioned before in one post).  But to me this
atribute of God - to fight against the status quo and change things and
encourage others to do so - seems to me to be a pretty masculine one.
It is analogous to those quests that knights would undertake in the
middle ages to establish justice and freedom for people.
Perhaps this explains why my family of origin which had an 'absent
father' most of the time gave me a lot of affirmations but not many
challenges to do brave things.  Perhaps a 'present father' could have
done this, or a mother who had a well developed masculine side.  MB,
I think your image of fathers cutting the umbalical chord of their kids
speaks to me about fathers encouraging their kids let go of the
comfortable connections of the past, to be brave and do new things and
also model this attitude for thier kids.
if anyone else has some ideas on the 'present fahter' issue I would love
to hear them.  I really need to know about this issue, in more detail.
Also if single people have some ideas please tell us about them.
Sometimes singles have learnt really valuable things about family
dynamics from hc and their family of origin and have a distance that
Mums like me lack.
love JA
********
JJ
HD wrote:
>
> Dear HCDL,
>
> I, too, have benefited greatly from all the discussion along this thread.
> This is clearly an issue many of us struggle with and -- God be praised!
> -- have found some health about.
Dear Friends,
HD's post prompts me to share with you how my father spent time with
us. We did the dishes together after the evening meal.
When the meal (enjoyed as HD described was over) Dad would declare,
'You kids pack up and I'll wash.' That was the signal that Mum was
off-duty. She usually retired to the living room and read the newspaper
or listened to a favourite serial on the radio--pre TV!
Then when the dishes were stacked, Dad would roll up his sleeves, my
sister and I would take up the tea-towels and off we'd go. Now, like all
kids we sometimes would rather not have had to do the dishes but I look
back on those times as my very special, favourite times with Dad. We
talked about anything and everything. And on many occasions sang our way
through some Hollywood musical like 'Oklahoma', or 'The King and I'. A
gift to be treasured. It brings tears to my eyes and a lump in my throat
to remember......
Maybe we also need to realise that all time with the family doesn't have
to be games and stories though these are wonderful. We can spend time
together working--tidying up, cleaning, gardening, washing up, making
the beds etc. etc.
JJ, Pasadena.
********
HK
Hi hcdl,
I like this thread.  We too have virtually cut back TV to nil.  Amazing how
much reading
our girls (ages 7 and 9) will do when the tube is not on.  And I say a big
AMEN to Hal's
suggestion about everyone eating together.  When I grew up my family ate
with the TV on.
No one said a word to each other during this time :(  .  Meal time now is a
time to build
up our relationships within our family.
Another suggestion for fathers is to date your daughters.  These are great
times to talk
one on one with them without distractions from siblings.  It's fun.  The
biggest problem
I have had with this is letting other activities take priority and then the
dates get farther
and farther apart.  Of course one-on-one time between father/son would work
too.  There was
a book promoted on Focus on the Family dealing with things to talk about
with your daughters on
these dates (for those like me who aren't the best conversationalists); if
I can find out
the title I'll post it.  (And don't forget to date your wives too!)
Blessings,
HK

********
JL
Well, since JA asked those of us without children to add our two cents
to this thread, I'll mention something that hasn't been brought up in
the prior discussion.  In my observation, a big part of being a good
father is caring for your children's mother.  And vice versa.
I think that it is very important for fathers (and mothers, of course)
to be present in their children's lives, to spend time together eating
and reading and playing games and doing projects.  I also agree with
those who have talked about the importance of a parent spending
one-on-one time with each child, and I've noticed that all of my
"favorite" parents do this.
But I also think it is maybe more important for children to watch their
parents get dressed up and go out to spend time alone together, or to go
out for a walk, or whatever.  Again, all of my "favorite" parents do
this, and it shows in the quality of their family lives together.  I
think there's little that makes a child feel so secure and loved than
being able to see how much his or her parents love one another, even
though that takes away from the pool of time available for the parents
to spend with their children.
When I think about the subject of fatherhood, I'm always reminded of the
father of one of my childhood friends, Nadine.  Nadine had a *wonderful*
father (and a *wonderful* mother, for that matter).  You could always
feel how much the members of their family (which included three
daughters) loved and respected one another, and I know that Nadine loved
spending time with her dad.
Yet, I remember their routine at night, when her father came home from
work.  Her father would greet the family, go to his room to change
clothes -- and then come and spend the next half hour talking to her
mother.  Alone.  This was always "mom's and dad's time," and the kids
knew they weren't allowed to interrupt.  Afterwards, of course, they
spent time together as a family.  My family was, to put it mildly, not
like this, and I always thought it would be so wonderful to know that
your parents really enjoyed being around each other.
I realize that not all parents *do* like being around one another, and
not all parents even live with one another, and I would never presume to
say that these parents can't be good parents, who are present in their
children's lives.  But I've always noticed a wonderfully special bond
between parents and children in families where the parents regularly go
to their room and close the door and tell the kids to leave them alone.
  .. JL
     Salem, Massachusetts (USA)
********
TH
I raise my glass (of grape juice...naturally) and say a
big "here, here" to Joann's beautiful post.  My parents
were like that and it created a sense of security in
my family (even though we didn't know the Lord then) that
I remember to this day.
Thanks for sharing your insight JL.
In Christ,
TH
Lancaster, California (USA)
********
CM
Hello dear friends,
Great thread!  Thanks for initiating it JA, and all who have
contributed thus far.
First off let me proclaim loudly that parenting, as everything in
churchlife, is a team effort!  Just as Jesus is the ONLY Head of the
Church.  Jesus is also the ONLY head of our families.  Jesus is the Head
of our household and my wife and I function together as servant peers
to His glory.
If there is not a heirarchy in the church, there certainly can't be one
in the family either.  Time we all let that male supremacy heresy die.
("Husbands being the head over/under their wives simply means source;
not commander/leader.  Besides, submit to EACH OTHER out of reverance for
Christ precedes and supercedes this verse don't it?)
Lori and I are always trying to surrender to better ways of increasing
familytime and familylife.  Hal's comment about always sharing a dinner
table, we have found to be most crucial and beneficial to our efforts.
The shared meal is central to fellowship and relationships of any kind
in the church.  This is a time of communion and communication.
Remember, Jesus didn't have alot of meetings - HE had alot of meals.
Joann's point about wives/husbands spending intimate time together
is something Lori and I practice too.  Instead of this stealing time
from the rest of the family it most definiately enriches it.  Our time
together allows for us to be in one accord and aware of all the ins and
outs of our whirling dervish world.  A big help in assuring that we are
pulling in the same direction and not in adverse ways.
DaddyDates for the daughters and DaddyDays for my son are big pluses too.
They not only allow my mutual relationships with my children to grow, but
also give Lori the breather she needs so she can stay Spiritually and
emotionally centered.
It is important to have individual time with all the members of ones
family, but also corporate time too and every possible family member
combination inbetween.
Remember - listen much, talk some, listen much, talk some, listen much.
Be attentive and invest all your hearts.
Some practical things we have done:
5 years ago I took a 4 dollar and hour cut in pay so I didn't have to
commute and could free up more time for the family.  That was great until
just recently when my employment moved from 6 blocks away to 47 miles.
Now we are looking and praying for something closer again.  Please pray
about this my friends.
I chose to work nights so I could be involved in Amanda and Becca's
school activities.  One a month we eat lunch at the school.  I make all
the plays and special events.  I love helping out on field trips, the
teachers love it too because this 6 foot 300 pound loud man can get those
kids to settle down.  I feel my greatest acolade in life is being named
most valuable parent at the school last year.
Lori is the Girl Scout "leader" of both our girls troops and I am the
assitant.  This is time for me and Lori to work together and relate to
our girls at the same time.  As it turns out it has also given us
the ministry of being "parents" to many other children.  Believe me,
in todays society this is sorely needed.  In fact the mother of one
young woman who has been in the troop for 6 years just recently asked me
to act as Stacey's father in regards to any relationships she may enter
into with a boy.  The poor guy has to face me before he even gets to
blink at the girl.  Ha, Ha!
There is so much more, and there should be.  Relationships is what
it is all about after all.  We all need, and we all need each other!
And the overflow of love from our families is really the only basin
from which we can effectively draw a cup of cold water to give to
another; in the church or out.
I'll shut up now by exclaiming - THE CHURCH SHOULD BE JUST AS MUCH
A FAMILY AS THIS OR MORE !!!!!!!!!!!!!
Love,
CM
********
DC
Dear HCDL,
I've enjoyed reading everything on this thread (though, HD, I don't want
to let our work culture/economy off the hook quite so easily for its
unhealthy demands, but that's probably not a direction for this thread to
take).
At our house, we're still in the midst, anyway, of struggle with making
CR's desire to be present more of a reality.  Or, more accurately, to find
out how to bring some kind of order, calm, balance, joy, to the whole
picture.  CR is present to the kids--and he's good at it--as much as he can
be when he's home, but how does he find the time for anything else?
Anything for himself?  His days look like this:  "ramping up" to work,
working like crazy, "ramping down" (thanks, HD, for yet another useful
image), getting home:  "Daddy!  Daddy!  Daddy!"--barely time to read the
mail, grab a bite to eat (sometimes dining with the family, sometimes
grazing on leftovers because the kids and I ate earlier), then play with &
read to the kids until he goes to bed.  Our kids, our daughter especially,
tend to be nightowls, so sometimes CR is in bed before they are.
(Enforcing an earlier bedtime on them just doesn't work well in our family
for many reasons, and besides, if Daddy gets home at 7:30 and they're in
bed by 8:30, what kind of time do they get together?)
I think JP really nailed it when she wrote about her husband wearing
himself out because he gives and gives all the time, with no time for
himself.  She said:
> Dan never expresses his needs, he is strong
>and places them last, and me and the kids easily fell into that dynamic
>because it was so easy for us.  But this man has needs that are going
>unmet for years, and years, and not expressing them or even knowing how
>to say that, all he knows is to  be tired and cranky because nobody
>gives a rip that he is trashed.
Boy, I've fallen into that dynamic more than I care to admit, JP.  When
CR doesn't complain, but just steps in and gives all his time to us, it's
reeeeeeeeaal easy to take advantage of that.  After all, I've spent 12
hours "on duty" with the kids all day; I need a break, so why not let him
do all the kid stuff all evening? . . . but when I let it go that way for
too long, I feel the tension, the stress and frustration.  We easily slip
into a kind of tag-team parenting that doesn't make time for us to really
connect, and we get into just sort of passing the kids back and forth, and
we both end up feeling overworked and underappreciated.
On the other hand, I *have* just spent all day on duty with the kids.  If
I've managed to put together a minimally coherent dinner (more on that
below), someone has to clean up, and if CR is playing outside with the
kids, I think that's a good thing and don't want to stop them, and so I'm
cleaning up after dinner, and more than likely trying to make headway on
dishes from throughout the day that piled up *before* the dinner ones
joined the mess, as well.  The house is trashed from the usual normal
routine of kids going about their day.  I sure don't feel like diving into
yet more housework, but who's going to do it?
Yadda yadda yadda.  There are variations on this scenario, of course, but
the main theme is, CR and I struggle constantly with giving our kids the
time and attention we think they deserve (which we do indeed want to give
them--and, in agreement with HD, we've always recognized that "quality
time" is a hoax; they need "quantity time"), and balancing that with having
time for ourselves, individually and as a couple.
A practical question for HD & DC M. and others who've managed to
institute dining together daily:  Can you do it if you don't know from day
to day when Dad is getting home?  It's crazy enough trying to make dinner
at all with kids ages 3 &5 running about.  How do you keep the practice of
sitting down to dinner together when Dad might come home anywhere between
6:00 and 8:30?
HD, other computer geeks, and anyone else whose job eats up more than 40
hrs. a week:  How do you make time for yourself?  How do you make time to
do whatever you like to do by yourself--read a book, take a walk, pursue a
hobby, go fishing, whatever?  Not to even mention having a prayer life and
spending time being alone with God.
DC M., Lori, JP, other wives/moms:  how do you allow for and help to
guard that time that your husbands need for themselves?  How do you avoid
feeling bitter when he takes a couple hours or a weekend afternoon to do
something for himself, when you are looking for a break from the
full-time/overtime you've already put in during the day or week tending to
the kids and the house and whatnot?  (I manage to feel bitter about this
sometimes even when I do get a break, because I feel like I'm not getting
*enough* of a break.  I'm not proud of this, but it's a real feeling to be
dealt with.  How do you deal with it?)
By the way, we haven't killed our T.V., but we've beaten it into
submission.  We don't get cable, there's only an hour a week that CR
watches regularly and he usually tapes it and watches it after the kids
crash, and the kids watch some PBS and videos sometimes.  Having the TV on
pointlessly as background noise, or vegging out in front of it "just to see
what's on," just doesn't happen here.  It's not a temptation at all for the
adults, and is a fairly manageable one for the kids.  We do play games
together; for example, Katie has recently gotten really interested in
playing cards, and rounds us up at least once a night for Crazy 8's or
Slapjack or something like that.  CR does not spend time doing any of the
"guy stuff" that many wives complain about:  not a sports fan; doesn't
golf, hunt, fish, or otherwise take off to the wilderness for male bonding
rituals, etc.  His desires for time for himself are pretty modest, but
still so hard to meet, and he feels frazzled.
(Come to think of it, he's not here on HCDL, though he's the one who
originally introduced me to it, because he's decided he has no time for
email lists and has unsubbed from them all.)
I've rambled a lot here and will sign off now, hoping I haven't been too
incoherent.  I've appreciated what's been shared on this thread so far, and
will continue ever-so-gratefully to receive any more brilliant insights, or
tiny little mundane insights (which are usually the most useful ones),
anyone has to contribute.
DC
********
PI
Thanks, HD, for useful comments.
Your two suggestions -- meals together and no TV -- are good ones, but
they're not enough. I think we need to pray for ways to free ourselves from
the craziness of America's systems.
Seeing the damage being done by the Commuter Dad syndrome, I prayed and
thought long and hard to find a job where I could work from my house. Lo
and behold, God moved and I've got one. It took about two years to get here.
On that note, let's commit to praying for CM, ok? Forty-seven miles is
too far to commute.
It was DC who pointed out that until the industrial revolution, the
father's place was in the home. Kids worked beside their fathers and
mothers. Even in the 1940s, a huge percentage of the population of the US
was small farmers and home businesses, in which the kids worked beside the
parents. Even the mines and factories were part of the community, and it
was common for the sons to climb down the mine shafts next to their
fathers. The automobile and the social climbing of the 1950s changed all
that. Today, most parents work outside the home, and most workplaces won't
even allow children to visit for more than a minute or two. (DC, are
you sitting down? WE AGREE.)
We ought to consider making life choices which free us from the traps of
the modern world. I recall reading about the Communists and Socialists in
the early part of the 20th century. They chose their careers -- their
life's work -- on the basis of how they would advance the cause for future
generations. Instead of seeking their own area of gifting and fulfillment,
they chose to become lawyers, judges, educators, writers, priests, any
position of influence from which the (false) doctrine of socialism could be
proclaimed with greater than average influence. It's one of the reasons
that Christians in the 1990s dare not send their children to secular
universities; the influence of Marxism was so strong in those places during
the 50s, 60s and 70s that most of these formerly righteous and prestigious
institutions have become intellectual sewers.
If the pagans can sacrifice their self-interest to spread nonsense like
Marxism, how much more should we sacrifice ourselves for the benefit of our
own children? Or should we cooperate with the devil in allowing him to
speak to our kids more than we do ourselves?
On a happier note, let me add my voice to the chorus of praise to God for
liberty from the TV.
As part of my recent attitude adjustment, I shot my TV. Well, no literal
holes, but we did place its sorry carcase on the curb, and a friend hauled
it away. We haven't seen that friend since. Perhaps the dangerous beast
turned on her. Friends don't let friends...
It was the best thing I ever did for my family. Before the tube murder, I
used to come through the door after erranding and find four vegetables on
my living room carpet, either watching something about which the best which
could be said was, "Weeeellllll, it's not TOOOOO bad...," or paying rapt
attention while one or another of my youngsters exercised their thumbs
before the Nintendo. After the murder, the kids (and Lori) complained for
about 2 months, and then learned to read. Really. My kids have taken an
interest in books. And in puzzles. And in games. And in friends. And in
music. And in each other. I actually have kids who are beginning to enjoy
their time with each other. They're starting to ask me questions about
things they're reading. They're helping around the house. Just because the
toob isn't sucking the life out of them. (Sure, I miss my Mystery time, and
withdrawal from Star Trek clones was a bit painful, but I've been sober 3
months...)
A friend with whom I discussed the TV exodus gave me what he considered a
word from God to him concerning TV. He claimed that Lord had called the TV
the most devious idol ever devised by hell: "This idol actually talks to
you." Can't say I disagree.
I am intensely pleased with the results of murdering the TV.
Regards,
PI
********
DC and HCDL,
>>> DC wrote:
A practical question for HD and others who've managed to
institute dining together daily:  Can you do it if you don't know from day
to day when Dad is getting home?  It's crazy enough trying to make
dinner at all with kids ages 3 &5 running about.  How do you keep the
practice of sitting down to dinner together when Dad might come home
anywhere between 6:00 and 8:30?
>>>
It's easy to lapse into pat answers in things like this. I'm explaining what
has worked for us; your mileage may vary.
To my mind, you have to choose where you will exert the energy to get
some control. In our case, we have chosen to control _both_ when I get
home and when the kids get hungry.
In my job, my work is never really "done" (it gets taken away from me at
various points). This means that I don't usually have things "done" when I
go home . . . they just go on and on. I have just decided that I will pull up
stakes at the office at a certain time and go home.
NOTE! This does not mean I stop "working" when I leave the office!
Rather, I keep my vigil with dinner and bedtime and then dive in again if
need be. (My job almost always has tasks that are portable -- I take them
home or telecommute to them in the evenings.)
Naturally, this varies somewhat, especially when deadlines loom. And it
does not happen "naturally" even in the best cases -- I find it is a
discipline that I must submit myself to. But it has happened to work out
for me within the confines of my job.
The other side is that we have chosen to control our appetites so that
we can make dining together work. This involves preemptive attacks on
the imminent death from hunger that our kids complain about. A well
placed snack here and there, a compassionate and sympathetic "Come
on, you'll live until HD gets home," and so on do seem to work for us.
As I said, we chose to put energy into these two struggles so that we
could dine together. They definitely take energy, and we experience all
the predictable ups and downs. But this is one place where we've just
set our faces "like flint."
Sorry I can't be more helpful.
>>> and:
HD, other computer geeks, and anyone else whose job eats up more
than 40 hrs. a week:  How do you make time for yourself?
>>>
What's "time for yourself"? I'm hoping to have a bit in about 15 years.
Seriously, I regret to say I can't fit it into the equation just now. Most of
what I consider "fun" or recreation I've managed to build into the other
things I "have to" do. Maybe that's a cheap cop-out, but it's where I am at
the moment.
You out there who have managed to pull this one off, I'd love to hear
about it, too.
Regards,
HD
********
SN
Hi Friends,
The "present fathers" thread has been very cool.  Much needed, and good
insight. Needless to say both moms and dads must be present and we moms
(especially when we work outside the home too) have much to learn about being
fully present to our children... at least I know I do!
A couple of months ago the pace of life began swallowing me up and out of the
pressure cooker burst a little bit of venting.... some may call it poetry.
 I'll just call it my random thoughts that I scribbled down in my journal.
 God often uses that mode  to call me back to the simplicity of enjoying life
and enjoying my children.
For me, mothering starts with being fully present to them... looking into
their eyes when they speak, stopping them in mid-track and touching
them..."Hey, how ya doing today bud?".... and keeping my heart quiet enough
and uncluttered enough to take advantage of those precious unscheduled times
to just "be" with them.
Now that we're past the baby stage (children are 17, 13, and 10) they have
lives of their own and their lives keep me even busier!  Even when everything
I do all day is about them, sometimes I get caught up in "doing" to the point
of forgeting the reason, and I whisk through the day without being fully
present to them.  God is helping me to learn, and it always starts with being
fully present to Him.
Thanks for listening.
SN
Brick, NJ

Pace
By SN
Bike wheels rumble against lavender gravel
--peel out of the driveway in hopes of finding
utopia.
Sharp purple stones becoming asphalt,
as the parking lot widens
to contain
ten little indians pushing pedals with reflectors
CD players
and high hopes
of finding buried treasure
in suburbia.
Do you recognize the restless ones,
mesmerised and blinded
by hours of after-school time doing nothing
but watching the tube?
They clamor
for some good childhood fun,
a drink of lemonade
a day of kicking rocks
an unscheduled moment to lie down in the grass in May,
and in spite of the bugs, watch clouds glide across the
winsome blue.
We were them,
we are them,
the grown-ups who forgot what it means to be
so uncomplicated,
passionate, unfettered and free.
We need them,
we are them..... but it doesn't have to be;
Just refuse to give up.
Let a no-reason smile bring you back--
back to reality.
Watch your world light up, as you purposefully reclaim
what is worthy, unbridled,
so simple and free...
the time
to be.
###
********
CO
DC wrote:
>
DC, and others,
One factor for me as a husband/Daddy (5 children) is that I went back to
school at 31 for a career as a Mechanic/pilot. I thought that it was
going to be immediately for Missionary Aviation in the boonies but
instead I am head of a shop where I have been able to hire those needing
experience before they go to the Mission field in the capacity I thought
we were.  A Job is a job but my life long interest in aviation is quite
a bit my pleasure as well.  I do love my work... most of the time. cbt
********
SN
DC writes:
<<
 Boy, I've fallen into that dynamic more than I care to admit, JP.  When
 CR doesn't complain, but just steps in and gives all his time to us, it's
 reeeeeeeeaal easy to take advantage of that.  After all, I've spent 12
 hours "on duty" with the kids all day; I need a break, so why not let him
 do all the kid stuff all evening? . . . but when I let it go that way for
 too long, I feel the tension, the stress and frustration.  We easily slip
 into a kind of tag-team parenting that doesn't make time for us to really
 connect, and we get into just sort of passing the kids back and forth, and
 we both end up feeling overworked and underappreciated.>
HI DC, JP, brothers, all--
    If this isn't a picture that sparkles with crystal clear clarity I don't
know what is! As I'm reading I'm nodding my head up and down the whole way
through.  Though we still go through this BIG TIME, something Earl and I
instated into our marriage 11 years ago has stuck, and been a life saver.
 On the other hand, I *have* just spent all day on duty with the kids.  If
 I've managed to put together a minimally coherent dinner (more on that
 below), someone has to clean up, and if CR is playing outside with the
 kids, I think that's a good thing and don't want to stop them, and so I'm
 cleaning up after dinner, and more than likely trying to make headway on
 dishes from throughout the day that piled up *before* the dinner ones
 joined the mess, as well.  The house is trashed from the usual normal
 routine of kids going about their day.  I sure don't feel like diving into
 yet more housework, but who's going to do it?
 Yadda yadda yadda.  There are variations on this scenario, of course, but
 the main theme is, CR and I struggle constantly with giving our kids the
 time and attention we think they deserve (which we do indeed want to give
 them--and, in agreement with HD, we've always recognized that "quality
 time" is a hoax; they need "quantity time"), and balancing that with having
 time for ourselves, individually and as a couple.
 A practical question for HD & DC M. and others who've managed to
 institute dining together daily:  Can you do it if you don't know from day
 to day when Dad is getting home?  It's crazy enough trying to make dinner
 at all with kids ages 3 &5 running about.  How do you keep the practice of
 sitting down to dinner together when Dad might come home anywhere between
 6:00 and 8:30?
 HD, other computer geeks, and anyone else whose job eats up more than 40
 hrs. a week:  How do you make time for yourself?  How do you make time to
 do whatever you like to do by yourself--read a book, take a walk, pursue a
 hobby, go fishing, whatever?  Not to even mention having a prayer life and
 spending time being alone with God.
 DC M., Lori, JP, other wives/moms:  how do you allow for and help to
 guard that time that your husbands need for themselves?  How do you avoid
 feeling bitter when he takes a couple hours or a weekend afternoon to do
 something for himself, when you are looking for a break from the
 full-time/overtime you've already put in during the day or week tending to
 the kids and the house and whatnot?  (I manage to feel bitter about this
 sometimes even when I do get a break, because I feel like I'm not getting
 *enough* of a break.  I'm not proud of this, but it's a real feeling to be
 dealt with.  How do you deal with it?)
 By the way, we haven't killed our T.V., but we've beaten it into
 submission.  We don't get cable, there's only an hour a week that CR
 watches regularly and he usually tapes it and watches it after the kids
 crash, and the kids watch some PBS and videos sometimes.  Having the TV on
 pointlessly as background noise, or vegging out in front of it "just to see
 what's on," just doesn't happen here.  It's not a temptation at all for the
 adults, and is a fairly manageable one for the kids.  We do play games
 together; for example, Katie has recently gotten really interested in
 playing cards, and rounds us up at least once a night for Crazy 8's or
 Slapjack or something like that.  CR does not spend time doing any of the
 "guy stuff" that many wives complain about:  not a sports fan; doesn't
 golf, hunt, fish, or otherwise take off to the wilderness for male bonding
 rituals, etc.  His desires for time for himself are pretty modest, but
 still so hard to meet, and he feels frazzled.
 (Come to think of it, he's not here on HCDL, though he's the one who
 originally introduced me to it, because he's decided he has no time for
 email lists and has unsubbed from them all.)
 I've rambled a lot here and will sign off now, hoping I haven't been too
 incoherent.  I've appreciated what's been shared on this thread so far, and
 will continue ever-so-gratefully to receive any more brilliant insights, or
 tiny little mundane insights (which are usually the most useful ones),
 anyone has to contribute.
 DC >>
********
SN
DC writes:
<< DC M., Lori, JP, other wives/moms:  how do you allow for and help
to
 guard that time that your husbands need for themselves?  How do you avoid
 feeling bitter when he takes a couple hours or a weekend afternoon to do
 something for himself, when you are looking for a break from the
 full-time/overtime you've already put in during the day or week tending to
 the kids and the house and whatnot?  (I manage to feel bitter about this
 sometimes even when I do get a break, because I feel like I'm not getting
 *enough* of a break.  I'm not proud of this, but it's a real feeling to be
 dealt with.  How do you deal with it?)
  >>
Hi Gang, I'll try it again.   I left off wanting to tell you about something
that Earl and I do that works well for us in dealing with these important
marriage/family issues, but the computer (maybe it was a slip of my
pinkie???) got crazy and sent off an incomplete e-mail.  So sorry.
Our efforts at a weekly date always seemed to be thwarted and we realized it
was mostly because we were putting so much expectation on that precious time
together.  Our need for adult conversation, keeping up with what's going on
with the kids, the church, our feelings, etc... was much greater than what
once a week could provide. So, we decided to get together for a daily date,
but evenings we were too fried and he always got home so late (8:30-9:00 PM,
and worked 6 days a week back then). To compensate, we began spending 15
minutes together over a cup of java every morning.  This was early (6-6:30?),
before he left for work. We ended up calling it "Coffee Time." This time
proved so valuable and refreshing for us that it soon began to spill into a
half hour and then 45 minutes.
Great, you say, but how does it work when kids are little? Well, that's when
it began, that's when the need was greatest....about 11 years ago.  They were
7 and 3.  Sondra wasn't even born yet. We let them know that this was mommy
and daddy's time and that they could watch Mr. Rogers or Winnie the Pooh, or
read or play quietly.  As we began getting up earlier to accommodate our
lengthy coffee time, they were often still asleep (YEAH!).  To this day it
has been part of the practical glue that has kept Earl and I not just
married, but close, and the kids totally understand.
This way, when Daddy comes home at night I'm not feeling so terribly needy.
 He and I already feel very connected because we started out our day
together.  On my part it took a willingness to part with the few extra
minutes of sleep.  On his, it took giving up his morning coffee ritual at
7/11.  Neither one a big deal.
Anyway, this is the way I deal with the weekend stuff that he sometimes wants
to do.  Because I don't feel secondary in his life, and he is verbalizing (or
I am intuitating) his needs during our daily "meeting," I am free (usually)
from the bitterness/sense of rejection that I often felt in my twenties when
he would zoom out to play music.  Sure, Earl needed to go bang on those
drums, but why did I always get stuck with the diapers and runny noses?
 Since then we've both grown up alot, and there's alot more give and take.
Additionally, as the kids are growing and more able to enjoy some of the
stuff he does, Earl often incorporates his (teeny bit) of leisure time into
time with one of the children.  Matt's now 13 and playing the guitar, so
they'll often go for an outing to the music store together or a music
clinic/etc.
DC, you also asked:
<How do you avoid
 feeling bitter when he takes a couple hours or a weekend afternoon to do
 something for himself, when you are looking for a break from the
 full-time/overtime you've already put in during the day or week tending to
 the kids and the house and whatnot? >
Honestly?  Sometimes I just say, "GO,"  "Will you please get out of here and
mellow out!"  Man, when he is stressed or on overload, he's not a happy
camper and I not only want him to be de-stressed because I love him, I just
sometimes I want him out of my hair!  (Earl's gonna read that and he knows
I'm saying it with a smile, don't ya dear?.....)  :-)
We have so much need in our marriage to grow... to express love more to each
other and to the children, but I just wanted to share something that works,
and continues to bless our household.  Coffee Time ,-- The Daily Date.  :-)
Love, in Christ,
SN
********
SN
CM writes: (I think this was you PI, no?  BTW, do you both have wives
named LORI?  :-)
<< or paying rapt
 attention while one or another of my youngsters exercised their thumbs
 before the Nintendo. After the murder, the kids (and Lori) complained for
 about 2 months, and then learned to read. Really. My kids have taken an
 interest in books. And in puzzles. And in games. And in friends. And in
 music. And in each other. I actually have kids who are beginning to enjoy
 their time with each other. They're starting to ask me questions about
 things they're reading. They're helping around the house. Just because the
 toob isn't sucking the life out of them. >>
This is absolutely glorious!  Isn't it wonderful to see couch potatos no
more??? I thank God for Earl's decision (yeah, we both had a part....) to nix
the tube back in the early 90's because while some of you out there in
Cybercity have the discipline to turn it on for just an hour a week, I (we)
certainly do not. It was just tooooo easy to let the kids watch (good stuff)
for many more hours than that, and I did not like it. I did not like where it
was going...  It was like I saw the writing on the wall... if my propensity
to allow them 2 or 3 hours at pop in front of a highly controlled schedule of
shows continued, they would be zombies by now.  Kudos to all of you who are
able to successfully limit!
Blessings,
SN
(do you know where I'm from yet? :-)
********
SN
HD writes:
<< What's "time for yourself"? I'm hoping to have a bit in about 15 years.
 Seriously, I regret to say I can't fit it into the equation just now. Most
of
 what I consider "fun" or recreation I've managed to build into the other
 things I "have to" do. Maybe that's a cheap cop-out, but it's where I am at
 the moment.
 You out there who have managed to pull this one off, I'd love to hear
 about it, too.
 Regards,
 HD >>
Hi HD and all,
The concept of "time for myself" has been like an elusive butterfly ever
since I began having children 18 years ago.  Now, however, that they are a
bit older, I force myself to periodically find time "for myself," but it
usually only happens during the school year.  One of the ways I accomplish
this feat is to gather up my beach chair (which Earl and Matt just demolished
last weekend because they were horsing around on it.......... ahem.) the
scriptures, a journal, a good book, my sweater and flip flops and head down
to the beach.  As I am a mere five minutes away from the blessed sandy shore,
it is the easiest alone place (no phone, door bell, computer, work, people,
etc)  to go.  This is fun for me.  I like being alone. . . most moms need a
little alone time because we're so totally never alone.... any amens?
Any way, although I know we are basically talking about the need for Dads to
have some space I truly believe that they will be more comfortable taking
that space as they see less overwhelming need at home.  One of my biggest
problems with the Earl man over the years used to be his feeling guilt about
going out to do something fun, or merely "for himself." How could he?   He
would see me with cabin fever in the middle of the winter, diapers
everywhere, deadlines to meet, papers flying out of the typewriter
(pre-computer days), dishes backed up in the sink, and he couldn't even dream
of taking any space. Since I have begun to carve out some semi-regular space
for myself he gets a more "together" me (at least part of the time....:-) and
doesn't feel the unspoken pressure to spend every non-working moment home.
This is a good thing.  We are still working on it.  I would like to share
another thing that's been working, and that's with church life.
For each of the sisters birthdays we have decided to hold back whatever gift
we might have given and treat that sister to something special collectively.
 Some months have been humdingers as far as expense, others have been more
simple, but the trick is to do something together, specifically geared to
that particular woman, .... something we wouldn't normally do, and to do it
in honor of the birthday girls' life.  Besides blessing the socks off each
recipient, we've all had fun, and space!
Last month we took Linda out horseback riding for an hour and then to lunch.
 In May we took Julie out to New York (we're just 60 minutes away) to see a
show and dinner.  That was fun.  We saw a musical called "Dream" and then
treked down the street to the Motown Cafe, singing "just my imagination" in
four part harmony.  Fun girl stuff.  The guys blest us by making space to
care for the children guilt-free, and we came home happy campers.  Every
husband knows that if their wife is happy.... they're happy, eh?  Plus, it
sort of nudges them in a positive direction to begin taking time out for fun
and recreation too. We're learning that fun and recreation are God-given
necessities... didn't the Israelites set aside an additional 10% of their
earnings for celebration and feast days?  If my memory serves me correctly,
they definately practiced this regularly.
Fun is a very new concept for us, BTW, but it's not taking long to get used
to. :-) Before HC our entire lives were taken up with parenting/work/church
meetings.... the thought of "time for ourselves," wasn't really even in our
mindsets... in fact, it was laughable.  Now we are gloriously FREE, and
finally learning that it doesn't especially please God to see His children
ground into fine powder in the name of serving Him.
Just some thoughts...
Blessings to ya'll
SN
********
EE
 >>> DC wrote:
 A practical question for HD and others who've managed to
 institute dining together daily:  Can you do it if you don't know from day
 to day when Dad is getting home?  It's crazy enough trying to make
 dinner at all with kids ages 3 &5 running about.  How do you keep the
 practice of sitting down to dinner together when Dad might come home
 anywhere between 6:00 and 8:30?
  >>> and:
 HD, other computer geeks, and anyone else whose job eats up more
 than 40 hrs. a week:  How do you make time for yourself? >>>
 HD wrote,
<<<Naturally, this varies somewhat, especially when deadlines loom.  >>>
Hi DC and others,
Situations in life change, and those who can easily flex with the changes
while maintaining what is important to them incur less stress.  Peter is a
blessed computer programmer who gets to work on projects he truly believes
in, and (though I don't program) I've shared the same experience.  Peter
often puts in more than eight hours a day and goes in on Saturday.  I teach
Andrew in the morning and work on the computer in the afternoon. Peter and I
have worked on several projects together, and he values my opinions on
projects in which I'm not involved; so even when he's home, we may continue
to discuss work.  Especially for a month before a deadline we expect to eat a
lot of fast food and frozen food.  We often choose to eat lunch together as a
family, since the early mornings or evenings are the only time he can work
without distraction from co-workers.  Living close to work has been the
biggest boon.
For "alone" time, Peter will often go out to watch a movie I would not enjoy.
If you seek a biblical pattern for work and rest, you could use the one given
to the Jews:  work six days a week and rest on the seventh, schedule several
parties (festivals, some of which last a week) during the year, have an
extended vacation every seventh and fiftieth year.
According to Ryken's book Work & Leisure, it appears Jesus took three week
long vacations during his ministry:  one to the mountains, one to the sea,
one with friends.
Or you could be one who "values every day the same".
It's wonderful to have an unchanging God to give wisdom in the midst of
ever-changing times.
EE