Eight years ago, I read a book that changed my career and my family. Successful Fathers is a short, simple read that provides profound thoughts to consider as a man and especially a father. One thing that Mr. Stenson focuses on is the home life and challenges we face today. He highlights four specific challenges related to the home and fatherhood.
1. Our children often do not see us work. The reality for most men is that we work away from the home in the factory, at the desk, or on the road, etc. When we work we exercise virtue, our character is tested, we interact with other adults on a professional level and we problem solve. At the end of the day, we are exhausted and often tempted to collapse in front of the TV or read the latest happenings on Facebook – where our virtues are idle. Today, even the work we do around the house is considered more leisure, as it is a break from our daily work. So the reality is children often see their father more in a state of rest.
2. The home is a place of consumption, not creation. For many – tools, plants and animals have been replaced with toys, TVs and computers. These leisure devices combined with the modern conveniences of comfortable furniture, heating/cooling and a refrigerator stock full of high sugar foods can give the perception to children that life is all about playing and comfort. A century ago, children often participated with the work of the home and family. This gave the children a proper understanding of the material world and the constraints of space and time. It also gave an appreciation for the things one does have.
3. Conversation with the father is minimal. Due to the sheer fact that we work 8-10hrs a day, often away from home, it is difficult to have conversation with our children because we are not with them for most of the work day. It is through conversation that our children learn about our convictions, religious and political beliefs and our values. I can remember as a boy if I had 30 minutes with my father before bedtime it made my day.
4. Increasing Isolation. We are more ‘connected’ than ever but we also have staggering rates of depression, divorce and suicide to name a few. Are they solely linked to isolation – no. But I would argue more time with people close to us would likely decrease the above symptoms and many others. Another challenge is that extended families are often separated and children rarely have interaction with other close adults friends or family who can affirm the parents beliefs or convictions.
So what is the solution? Unplug from the grid and move to the hills or return to the past ? Not necessarily. Taking an assessment of your situation is a good place to begin. What is your mission as a family and as a father? Are you accomplishing this currently? ‘The how’ will look somewhat different for everyone.
Personally, after my wife and I read and reflected on this – we felt somewhat inspired to create a little home-based business that we could all work on as a family. We had no intention of this becoming a source of income, but rather a project where we could be creative as a family. So we started. I had a friend who kept bees and it seemed interesting so I started with two hives and no previous experience. Later that summer thanks to his mentorship we extracted 150lbs of honey and in a matter of two weeks the honey was sold! That gave us reason to go ahead and make it a business, and so the East Hill Honey Co. was born. Fast-forward several years and we are now producing honey for a living. The romance of having a home-based business is not always there. Honestly, this new way of life and working at home with the family has been challenging for me. I am use to moving at my pace on my terms, but reflecting on what we are doing – it’s the simple things that make this worth it. Making deliveries with my daughter, bottling honey with my wife for the farmer’s market or taking time off in the middle of the day to be with the children. No we are not getting rich – but at the end of the day our family is being provided for and more importantly our family mission is being accomplishe.d.
Our path is one of many, but I believe it is about finding something that works for you and your family. Something that inspires creativity and engages the children. It could be a simple garden or building an epic tree fort. Maybe it is serving the poor or starting a little lemonade venture during the summer. The possibilities are almost endless, we just need to give it some time and thought and maybe spend a little less time on things that really can wait.