When Work Conflicts with Family: Tips for Traveling Dads
- Friday, February 17, 2006
For many dads, fathering is made more difficult by travel for work. If you’re like me, there are times when your job demands that you be in Chicago tomorrow, then out on the west coast by Friday. I’m not here to tell you to quit your job and find one that allows you to be at home more — though some may want to consider that option. You can be a good father even when you do have to be away for a few days.
A great basic idea is to be sensitive to your children’s emotional bank accounts. When you’re involved in their lives — available to meet their needs and connected with them emotionally — you’re making deposits. When work keeps you at the office late, when you’ve been taking a big project home at night, or when you have to leave town, those are withdrawals from your children’s accounts. If you know that a big withdrawal is coming up — say, a week-long business trip — then plan in advance to make plenty of deposits in the days leading up to it.
Here are some more specific ways to apply this principle:
Many deposits can take place before you leave. Tell your kids where you’re going — with a map and itinerary, if you can. Come up with ways they can "participate" in your trip, such as having them give you the weather forecast where you are when you call home each evening.
Then discuss why you’re going. Your kids need to know that you’ll be doing a necessary task: delivering supplies, selling computers, or whatever. It’s all part of how you pay the mortgage, save for vacations, and meet other needs.
If you have to miss one of your child’s big events, tell him how disappointed you are and how much you wanted to see him play or hear his concert. It won’t take away your child’s disappointment, but at least he’ll know that you share it with him. It’s much more difficult if the disappointment is his alone.
While you’re away, you can make small but important deposits by sending e-mails, letters and postcards. Find creative ways to let your children know they are on your mind. A phone call at least once a day is probably still the best way to stay in touch. Even if you don’t get to talk very long, hearing your voice will be reassuring, and you can stay current on events in their lives and reinforce your wife’s handling of any issues that have come up.
When you return home, be ready to talk first about your family’s activities, not your own. Catch up on book reports, basketball tryouts, and drama rehearsal, then share something interesting about the places you visited. Save disciplinary matters, bills, and other family issues until later.
One final recommendation: use business trips as a natural time to engage in prayer. Tell your children you’re praying for them throughout the day, and ask them to pray for your safety, strength, and productivity. Then thank God together as you celebrate your coming home.
Ideas for Guarding Against Temptations on the Road
• All hotel rooms have a TV and a Bible. Spend your time with the latter.
• Be accountable to other Christian men. Encourage them to be ready to ask you pointed questions when you return about what you did while alone in that hotel room.
• Anticipate the temptations. Make plans for how you’ll spend any free time. Ask the hotel clerk to block cable movie channels from your room.
• Call your wife and children upon arrival and before you go to bed as a reminder about your priorities and a hedge against impurity.
The National Center for Fathering was founded in 1990 by Dr. Ken Canfield because every child needs a dad they can count on -- someone who loves them, knows them, guides them and helps them achieve their destiny. Visit www.fathers.com for more articles and resources to assist dads in nearly every fathering situation.
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