Working at Home With Kids
By Mark Brandenburg MA, CPCC,
It was a Saturday afternoon, and I had work on my mind.
It didn't matter that it was a beautiful day or that I was currently "in charge"
of my two kids -- I had work to do. And as a male, I was asserting my right to
employ tunnel vision and to forget everything around me so that I might finish
"Dad, will you come and play with us?" my daughter asked. "Not now, honey," I
told her. A short while later, my son tried. "Dad, are you done yet?" "No,
please let me finish this," I said in a tone much sharper than I'd intended.
After a few more minutes of focused work, I heard my kids fighting in the other
room. While I usually let them work out their own fights, this one sounded like
it needed intervention. I broke things up and before long, I found myself in a
wrestling match with both of them.
Their plan had worked! While they may not have consciously planned it, I was now
firmly planted in their world. My tunnel vision had been shifted to a different
focus: who would win the wrestling match. And I must admit that this was a whole
lot more fun than the project I was working on.
Although I had been frustrated with my kids, it wasn't their fault. I had failed
to make proper boundaries with them. I hadn't made it clear to them that I'd
need a certain amount of time and space while I worked. And I hadn't told them
what I expected of them.
As fathers and mothers increase their workload in this country, work and home
obligations often come into conflict. We must often make the agonizing choice
between spending "quality time" with our kids versus getting caught up with
work. An excerpt from Robert Bly's book, "The Sibling Society" (1996) tells of
the problems that fathers have in finding the time to have more "complete"
"The patriarchal system's destruction of fatherhood continues in the United
States today: In 1935, the average workingman had forty hours a week free,
including Saturday and Sunday. By 1990, it was down to seventeen hours. The
twenty-three lost hours of free time a week since 1935 are the very hours in
which the father could be a nurturing father, and find some center in himself,
and the very hours in which the mother could feel she actually has a husband."
I wish that I could have more free time with my kids. I also wish that I could
spend more time with my wife.
And I know in the future I'll be faced with the choice between work time or
family time on many occasions. There's a lot of guilt on either side of this
decision. But ten years from now nobody will care much about the project that
I'm working on.
My kids, on the other hand, will grow up and think back on their childhood for
the rest of their lives. The memories that we create together are eternal.
Someday, these memories will pave the way for them to have memorable experiences
with their own children.
The truth is that I still haven't finished that project that I was so focused
on, and I can't say that it's too upsetting to me.
And I know my kids are just fine with it.
About the author: Author Mark Brandenburg, MA, CPCC, is a certified personal and
business coach, husband, and the father of two children. He is a coach to men
who want to have more effective, loving relationships with their family. He
conducts classes for fathers as well as providing individual coaching. Mark has
a Masters degree in counseling psychology and is a former world-ranked tennis
professional. For a twenty-minute complimentary session, e-mail him at firstname.lastname@example.org.