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Absentee Fathers

As we approach 2015, fathering seems to have become an “in” thing.

Have you seen the TV commercial which featured a father sharing a hotdog with daughter? It won accolades for the values it portrayed. The busy dad in that ad spent precious hours to run in the mother-daughter contest (because Mom was in absentia). He represents absentee fathers who try to play a greater role in their children's lives.

To sell products, advertisers are zeroing in on the warmth between dad and their little darlings. But this picture actually depicts what is not: many fathers are absent in the homes.

Absentee fathering is a reality creeping into every culture. As the extended family (composed of parents, children and relatives) becomes an “endangered species,” nuclear families (composed of parents and children) are slowly being replaced by single parents. This has created a longing for relationships - the father son/daughter bond, most especially – as mothers become circumstantial heads of these families.

Take for example the parenting lifestyle of a father who is an overseas contract worker - a steadily increasing breed. His two to three-year contract means that the children are left alone with the mother or a self-sacrificing aunt. Picture in urban poor areas, some fathers, who at the end of a day's work, rendezvous with his male friends for a time of “relaxation.”

In a middle-class home, we may find mixed-up kids struggling to understand why they are less desirable than the business pursuits of their parents. Many fathers of affluent families do not really neglect their children. In fact, they provide them with more than they want - that is, except their presence. Luncheon meetings, seminars, not to mention civic organizational dinners crowd the already filled-up schedule.

And the dinner table is hardly the place for eating and being together.

Children of fathers who do not fall in to any of these categories, however, also bear signs of paternal neglect. They compete for Daddy's attention with the newspaper, evening news and/or professional sports on the tube - even his early morning and after-office exercise regimen. No wonder daughter comforts her father when the duo lost in a foot race, “You know, Dad, we just need more practice”.

Then, when was the last time father sat with his child, talking freely on anything, and conveying the message: “You are important to me. I love you, and am here for you.”

This may sound insensitive to many fathers who have to grapple with real-life situations. They really have to work extended hours to keep the roof and the stomach from collapsing. Single-parenting anywhere in the world is really caused by economics. “Quality time” may have to be sacrificed for the much-needed extra hours at the workplace.

Many fathers, however, willfully and consciously pursue, among others, professional and career goals to the detriment of their family. They are usually the ones who:

  • hang around the office (after work) and chat with the group before going home.
  • bring the “homework.”
  • work more than 60,hours a week to make more money.
  • constantly look for moonlighting jobs or sidelines.
  • spend extra time thinking about work instead of their spouses or kids.
  • work even during lunch hours or breaks.
  • regularly miss children's school and sports events because of work.

“We have to work for a living,” says one salesman who puts in long hours.

“But we still have to build a future for our family.”

So if you're one who must work to keep the balance, here are ways you can spend a few more hours of quality time at home:

Daddy's home time

Make the most of your time at home after work. That's the period between 5-10 p.m., when you and your kids from school can be together again. Eat supper, listen to their day's experiences, work together on assignments, talk about anything. You could be losing this opportunity if at this time you're still trapped in traffic, or working extra to earn double.

Work smarter

Eat your lunch on the office table, and organize your work priorities. Find out what your body clock says about your most productive time. If your company has flexible time, start work early so you can get home early. If you can help it, try to relocate near your workplace.

Priorities or promotion?

Think through any promotion, basing on your priorities. Do you want to put your family second to the company? Will it mean longer travels and being away from the kids? Is the money worth it all?

But if you have to keep long working hours to keep your family adequately provided, compensate for your absence. One father in our church sits with her daughter in her cradle roll class. Another dad phones his daughter regularly; this may cost much, but it means something to kids. Still another Dad puts cards or letters even before he leaves, or mails them. The night before your departure, organize a treasure hunt or even just a letter to remind the kids you love them. Of course, presents can never replace your presence, so cut those trips if you can.

Maximize hours at home

A family counselor gave this daylight-saving tip: “Don't let the sun go down without doing something together.” Bike, play catch, read a book, or assist your son in his Science project.

Reserve weekends for family time

One of the luxuries (and temptations!) of business and self-employed persons is filling up their schedule with appointments even on weekends. But Saturdays and Sundays should be left in the calendar as they are, in red! It may be a time to lounge lazily on the floor watching TV, or an active “do day” for general cleaning of the house. Some members may choose to go his or her own way on other times of the day, but at least they should spend some moments together as a family.

And don't forget those Daddy dates!

Eating out, walking or shopping for a new pair of shoes for daughter or Junior creates a positive atmosphere for both. During these times, you are his or hers alone. You could listen fully to your child's conversation. Many situations in the house calls for “Thus says the boss” attitude. Going out with Dad means the communication climate says, “Let's talk.”

Contemporary life rushes by and fathers grow old so much faster these days. (Statistics also say, they die earlier.) Our kids grow into teens, and teens into adults who move out. I have yet to hear one who has reached the end of life, look back and say, “Oh, I wish I had spent more time at the office instead of with my kids.”

Children can live and grow normally with either mother or father only. But they feel more secure when both parents are complete and around.

You see, in many households, the best time is always when Daddy's home!

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