What is the #1 challenge facing fathers today? This is a difficult question to answer for many reasons, especially because all families are different with different issues and struggles. And yet, I think that some issues and struggles affect most, if not every father of this day and age in particular. Many challenges could possibly qualify including:
~ How does a father talk to his children about sex in a sex-saturated culture targeted more and more towards kids?
~ How much does a father censor what his children are exposed to online, on TV, and with their friends?
After careful consideration, I ended up choosing none of those issues. I instead think that a father’s tendency or inclination to lose his sense of self is the single greatest facing fathers today. Allow me to explain what I mean.
It is no great secret that the America’s workforce is overworked. We may have already known this, but perhaps not how high the percentage. According to many surveys, one third of the United States workforce is chronically overworked. To bring it even closer to home, consider this fact: Thirty-one percent of working fathers say they would leave their jobs if their spouse/partner could financially support the family, and another 30% would take a cut in pay to spend more time with their children. Or consider the following: More than three in ten (35 percent) reported they missed two or more significant events in their child’s life due to work in the last year. (Read these and other statistics here). Clearly, overworked fathers find that this impacts their relationship with their children and family.
What is not observed or studied nearly enough, in my opinion, is whether or not overworked fathers are getting enough “me” time or leisure time. As a father, we are responsible to provide for the family as much as is within our means, and to be a great husband and father—because this is what our loved ones deserve. That is what we are called to. But if we do not take time for ourselves, time to do those things that we enjoy, that de-stress us, to regain our sense of self (not selfishness), then we will quickly burn out. And in the words of Henry David Thoreau, we may begin to live lives of “quiet desperation”. Desperate for what? Desperate for leisure, for rest and re-composure.
If you’re thinking, “Man, I have no time apart from being a husband, worker, and father, what happened to the ‘me’ time I used to have?” Or, “I don’t remember the last time I had any leisure in my life”, Then I urge you to either schedule some down time in your life right away, or better yet, adopt some new leisurely habits you can enjoy. If you really enjoy fishing with friends, then schedule a fishing trip. Or if you really enjoy hiking, then schedule a time to go hiking by yourself or with some great friends. Or maybe you can develop a good habit which helps you de-stress daily while providing a little leisure as well. Perhaps you can work out, garden, read the Catholic Bible, or develop a deeper prayer life with the rosary or divine mercy chaplet. Whatever you choose, the important thing is simply to add this relaxing, de-stressing leisure time in your life, at little bit each day if at all possible, with longer chunks every now and then as is reasonable. It will give you the energy and strength of mind you need to be even better at what it is you already do.
Do you think the issue of burnt-out fathers with no time for themselves is as big of an issue as I think it is? What do you think the largest issue facing fathers today? How do you add leisure to your own life? Does praying the rosary or reading the Bible relax you?