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Monday, March 14, 2005

 

Don't Confuse Your Role of Provider With Your Role as Dad

I’ve heard it. I’ve said it. You’ve heard it. You’ve said it. “I have to provide for my family. That’s what I’m supposed to do.” You have yourself convinced that your ability to excel at work is really the most important gift you can give to your family, right? If so, it’s time to change your thinking. Give yourself some credit here. You are more than a meal ticket. You are more than a mortgage payment. You are more than a college fund. You are also a person and, a very important one in from your family’s lifestandpoint, a priceless one. One of the our problems that we as guys have is that we is our tendency to think of ourselves more in terms of what we do than who we are. But when it comes to oOur children, however, they want nothing more (or less) than to just revel in our presence. They don’t care ifwhether we earn six figures with stock options; they like the way our eyebrows crinkle up when we try to think of a knock-knock joke. Being a good dad requires that we start thinking of ourselves as people rather than solely as providers.

I remember the day my wife told me she was pregnant with our first child. We weren’t “trying” to get pregnant. But you now how nature sometimes takes the course nature wants to take. It was September of 2001. and I was officiating a small college football game in Ohio. After the game, I got sat in the my car and received picked up a message left by my wife on my cell phone.: It was my wife. Her message was simple, but serious, “Come straight home please.” At first I thought this meant she’d be waiting for me naked with a ribbon around her neck when I got home! Well, maybe not. When I finally did get home and saw her faceknowing smile, I could tell immediately. She gave me a knowing smile and I asked the question, “Are you pregnant?” I asked. She shrugged her shoulders and started to happy-cry. I joined her for a half hour or so. Then the thoughts began to come. I guess the pre-historic part of my brain started to take controlover my thoughts:. “Ughhh… How we afford baby? Baby cost much money. Ughhh...”

Like many men, I had our life planned out through my funeral. Everything was to happen at the precise second I had planned--—especially the pregnancy part. I worked in a high- commission job, and our plan was to have for my wife to stay home with our children. I immediately began to think of strategies to supplement my income. “Okay, I’ll get a second job. We’ll sell the house. We’ll stop eating. I’ll sit at a freeway on-ramp with a sign: ‘Pregnant Wife: Please Help.’”

My thoughts of money at a time like this were not actually signs that I was unable to relate emotionally to my wife. No, my reaction was God-given and biological. I was simply feeling my provider instinct kick in. I was hearing the call to come out of my cave, club an animal over the head, and drag it back to the family.

This instinct happens to serve us very well. I do need to go out into the world and collect a paycheck and buy the Osh Kosh overalls and the diapers. But, my role has also advanced a little since the caveman days. I need to wrestle with my provider instinct and get it in line with some of the other ways of being human that are available to me through the miracles of human progress and civilization. The guy with the club is not the father I want to be. So, our job is to manage that provider instinct and not let it take over our lives. It’s That’s a tough job. It’s biological to oObsessing over the monetary aspect of parenthood is a biological instinct,. and Ddismissing that instinct is kind of like reading “Playboy” for the articles. It’s just not natural.

So, we have to continually work on this one. We have to listen to all that this instinct tells us to do. It tells us to work late, think obsessively about money, and to get upset with our wives when they buy three pairs of hundred- dollar black shoes that look exactly the same to us. It tells us to take our children’s six- month pictures at home to save the $150 sitting fee at the photography studio. In short, the provider instinct has the tendsency to cause us needless stress. And stress is the number one killer of a happy family life.

TO DO: Take a blank piece of paper and write down what about being a provider stresses you out the most. Write down where you feel your family spends the most money. Write down what makes you angry about how your family spends money. Take the paper to a safe place and set it on fire.
Comments:
What an awesome article!! It seems like you can just make minor adjustments that end up being even more fun for the family - like taking your own pictures at home rather than at a photographer. A friend of mine was a stay-at-home mom who did this and now she has a photography studio out of her home which she can do at her leisure and her children are her top models. Great article! Really gives you a lot to think about.
 
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