One of the priorities for us as a family in our move from the Philadelphia area to the Phoenix area was to get out of the “normal” work week system. After doing the numbers, it turned out that I only got to see my kids 4 hours a day. We just weren’t okay with that. So, after accepting much less pay than before, I am now home twice as much as before. There are some Dads who would love to be home more with their family. But I have to admit that being home more has been an incredible challenge for me. It has revealed things about me that I wish were not true. Here are the top 5 things being home more is teaching me, in no particular order:
1. I Don’t Know How to be Home: I have never viewed my physical house as a place to just be. My house wasn’t a place to hang out or be with my family, it was just home base; where you kept your stuff and your food. In fact, being home always meant that you were missing out on something “out there.” Now that I am home in the middle of the day I am forced to make my house a place to be, not just a place of transition. And if I am honest with myself, it’s incredibly hard. And I think I knew that it would be, which is why I often used work as an escape.
2. I Find Too Much of My Value in Accomplishment: I often find myself getting impatient with my kids. And I often discover that my impatience is because I have things in the back of my mind that I want to get done . . . and they are keeping me from it. Spending more time with my kids has revealed that I am steeped in the American idea that I am only valuable insofar as I am accomplishing things. And when I cling to this view of my identity I can’t help but see “being with” my kids and my wife, at home, as “getting in the way” of my accomplishments. They are teaching me to find my value and identity in something other than my public positions and accomplishments.
3. I Have a Need to Be in Control: I am appalled at how often I get frustrated, impatient, and flat-out angry at my three kids. When I was only home for a few hours a day, it was easy to ignore those ugly parts of me. Now that I am home more, I am confronted with my self-absorption, unrealistic expectations, and impatience. And at the root of it all is my need to control things. As much as I hate it, I am learning that there are a lot of things in my life outside my control *gasp*.
4. I am Practically Useless: I have learned that I have almost no skill that involves more than my brain. If ever there was an apocalyptic event that left us in primitive survival mode, I would immediately fall to the bottom of the evolutionary chain and be completely dependent on my wife.
5. I Don’t Look for God in the Everyday: Being home has humbled me. Before, I looked for God primarily in theological debate and argument, in reading textbooks and writing treatises. I saw him in the complexity. But now I am beginning to see him in the very simple. I am beginning to see God in everyday relationships, a smile from my daughter and a laugh from my sons. I am starting to see glimpses of God in doing the incredibly difficult work of teaching my kids to do the right thing and not just punishing them for doing the wrong. I find him in an episode of Shaun the Sheep and doing shadow puppets before bed. It has humbled me to realize that I do not have privileged access to God because of my education. Instead, perhaps my education has hindered me from seeing him in it all.
13Then people brought little children to Jesus for him to place his hands on them and pray for them. But the disciples rebuked them. 14 Jesus said, “Let the little children come to me, and do not hinder them, for the kingdom of heaven belongs to such as these.” 15 When he had placed his hands on them, he went on from there.
-Jesus in Matthew 19:13–15