On a church youth trip young Sandra broke out in a song. It wasn’t a spiritual or praise song. It was a song she was listening to on her headphones. With the headphones on and the music blaring, Sandra become totally detached from the other youth and adults in the vehicle and began singing and ‘grooving’ to the music she was listening to. After a few moments Sandra became aware of staring eyes and uproarious laughter. She took off the headset, looked around the vehicle in embarrassment and asked, "What?" Sandra was totally detached from her surroundings.
This is a frequent challenge for adults, perhaps for dads in particular. It is not uncommon for a dad to be on vacation with his family, but never participate meaningfully in the vacation activities. He may have his computer, cell phone and contact list in the RV or the motel room, conducting business during the entire vacation. Scenic tours, trips to the zoo and dinner at a special restaurant can all be interrupted by dad’s apologetic, "Excuse me kids, this will just be a minute." Then dad separates himself from the family to conduct business by cell phone.
I understand why dads do this, especially if he is under pressure from his job, is paid by commission, or is self-employed. In these cases every opportunity to establish a contact or close a deal can be critically important to dad’s business success, and thus his ability to provide for his family. Three things are working on a man that come to bear on his drive for business success.
One, most men are naturally competitive and it is hard for them to relax even though they theoretically left the office behind.
Two, men want to provide well for their families. Their self-esteem is on the line, especially when they know that kids compare what their parents (dads) have bought for them. This means his sense of success in business is critical to having a positive image of himself.
Three, some men have never had a real, personal relationship with their own dads, so they don’t know the importance of establishing a personal relationship with their own kids or don’t know how to. Many dads want to be close to their kids but can seem to make it happen.
If you are a dad reading this, realize that business and financial success is not the sole determinant of a successful or meaningful life. Healthy relationships with God, our family and others ultimately trump anything we achieve of an earthly nature. We need to prioritize our relationships and activities, and make sure we are giving proper attention to what (and who!) matters most.
If you are a wife reading this, and your husband tends to fall in the excessively competitive group to the extent that he takes his office on vacation, gently and patiently work to help him see how much his family needs him. Truth is, you probably won’t accomplish this alone. Try to get other men from church to establish a mentoring-type relationship with him. Have meals with other families where the husband/father is more oriented to his family. Try to get him involved in a class or small group at church where these issues are discussed. Suggest he read this article. There is a good chance your husband simply doesn’t understand the negative impact his business drivenness is having on the family.
The teenage girl in the church van singing her own tune to the disregard of others in the van is humorous; a husband/dad who does the same thing with his business is not so funny. But with patience and love there is always the chance he can disengage himself from his work and get in tune with his family.