Family Matters More
many men prefer the workplace to home
– and feel bad about it.
Frank used to spend Thursday and Friday evenings with his friends from work. As soon as he clocked out he would head down to the watering hole and
spend a couple of hours kibitzing. Frank is missing those
times. These days he goes straight home because his wife
needs relief from the demands of looking after two preschool children.
Something about Frank makes him believe going home
is the right thing to do. But he envies his buddies and is
beginning to resent the expectations of his family. He feels
he’s been snagged like a trout on a fishhook, dragged away
from fun and plunged into work without a paycheque.
Even if he couldn’t hang out with his pals, he could
have put in a couple of extra hours. They could use the
extra money too.
Steve’s kids are older and he works in mid-management
for a major corporation. The 45-minute commute is driving
him nuts. He wonders if he’ll be home in time for a quick
bite before he needs to be at the soccer field. Or is it baseball
today? Piano lessons? He can hardly keep it straight.
Meanwhile, they’ve been cutting back in his department. His workload is growing and he’s beginning to be
concerned his job might be on the chopping block. There’s
so much to be done. It’s hard to do it well. He needs to produce more. And yet he finds himself running kids around
in a minivan and discussing the weather with soccer parents. There has to be a better use of time.
Frank and Steve are typical Canadian men. For some reason they believe their relationships matter more than their
occupations. But their feelings belie the belief. Both are
torn between their longing to be at work and domestic
duties. Even when their bodies are at home, their minds
are preoccupied with workplace issues.
Let’s face it. Children are inconvenient and demanding.
They’re even likely to interfere with a man’s relationship
with their mother. It’s hard to keep loving. Work is more
predictable. Work can seem more satisfying. Frank and
Steve are feeling bad that they’d rather be busy with their
jobs than hanging out with their families.
But neither shuts off his BlackBerry.
Promise Keepers Canada president Kirk Giles says this
tension is not unusual. “One of the most common prayer
requests I hear from men is that God would help them turn
off their work when they are at home with family,” he says.
Is this all-too-common discomfort the product of good
guilt, the well-applied pressure of a healthy conscience?
Can God help men like Frank and Steve get their actions
more in line with their beliefs? Can they learn to be properly present with their loved ones instead of longing to
distance themselves from household demands?
The men who ask for prayer are on the right track, and
church isn’t the only place that tells them fathers make
important contributions to their children’s cognitive and
Sociological evidence shows a father’s ability to set
appropriate limits and structure children’s behaviour
positively influences problem solving and decreased
emotional problems, such as sadness, social withdrawal
and anxiety. In other words, active fathering makes for
Being there matters. No man on his deathbed regrets
that he spent too much time with his family and not
enough at work.
But how do we turn what we know to be healthy into
something we truly desire? Acknowledging a problem and
seeking help are excellent first steps. Learning to depend on
a higher power is an important move towards overcoming
any addiction, including workaholism. Prayer can help.
Perhaps those men who ask for prayer to help them
bridge the divide between work and home should be the
first to practise that kind of prayer – alone and with friends.
Begin alone. If you have a commute, use the time to ask
God to help you switch off work and turn your heart towards home. Pray for your spouse and children by name.
Speak to God about their issues. Look for ways in which
you could be helpfully involved. Nurture the desire to be
present to home and family.
And if you have friends with similar concerns, try praying aloud with them. The encouragement of “brothers” will
strengthen your ability to cultivate enduring relationships.
Duty can become desire. The satisfaction of spouse and
children is a greater reward than workplace success. Ft
DOug KOOP of winnipeg is a freelance writer and
spiritual care provider. Find more of these columns
at www.theEFC.ca/BlessedIs Theman.
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