Monday, January 4, 2010



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.

Warren Baldwin


Sonya Lee Thompson said...

Great post, WB!

My husband used to fall into this category. Thankfully, God has been showing him that relationships are more important and he has been listening! Baby steps lead to big changes.

We all need our husbands/dad's to be present in our lives. Slowing down is tough for all of us, but important.

Kelly Combs said...

Wow! What an awesome post Warren. I'm sure lots of wives will be emailing this link to their husband's at the office today. It is one most men should read! Thanks for your wise words.

The Old Geezer said...

Good Advice!
Thank you for a great post


Edie said...

Excellent writing Warren!

While I don't fit in either of your categories, I appreciate the insight into the male perspective and can apply that in other relationships.

Irritable Mother said...

This is good stuff, Warren. Thanks.
And you know? I can apply the same to myself - it is waaaay to easy to become distant and get preoccupied with my "stuff."
Be Present.


Stacy Wittkamp said...

Great post Warren, but I won't let you men take all the rap on this one. Women can struggle with "being present" too. I have been guilty myself from time to time! :)

Sharon@JoyInTheTruth said...

Thanks, Warren! And I second Stacy's comment. I am physically present, but I want to be present and available and approachable in all ways to our cherubs.

Warren Baldwin said...

Sonya Lee - I used to / still sometimes do fall into this category. I used to take books to ball games to read. Agghh!

Kelly Combs - Thanks. It is one I should have read a few years ago!

Ron - Thank you.

Edie - Thank you.

Karen, Stacy and Sharon - Thanks for shouldering the burden of this one with us men! I guess it can be a challenge for anyone.

My brother, a lawyer, met last year with an extremely successful businessman for about an hour. I forget the man's name and his job, but he is very busy and in great demand. Bob said two things about him stood out and shouted, "Success!" One, the man was impeccably dressed. Second, my brother said he was 'present' for the whole conversation. At one point his cellphone went off. The man answered it, responded briefly, then apologized to Bob and turned the phone off. Bob said for the next hour he had the undivided attention of this man, and it made a big impression on my brother.

If we are stressed for time with work, activities, etc., and we have limited time with our kids, I think the best thing we can do is use that time in concentrated engery and attention with them. It may not be lack of time that is as much of a problem as how we use the time we do have.

Thanks for the comments.