Men are making progress when it comes to the family dynamic. Dads are more sensitive, loving, nurturing, and involved than ever. Don’t believe me? Turn on the television and you’ll see less of the bumbling buffoon depictions of fathers and more of the dads that were featured in the recent Super Bowl ads.
But just like anything, there is a pocket of individuals (men, in this example) who choose to hold onto antiquated stereotypes of what a dad’s role is in a family. Their careers and job titles mean everything to them (Sr. Accountant, Partner, Vice President, CEO, Manager, Director, etc.) because it forms the almighty triumvirate of money, power, and respect.
In other words, that is the priority. Their kids and spouses may have all of the material items they could ever want, but they will always long for the intangibles that a loving daddy and partner can bring.
Here’s a story I like to share whenever men have their priorities out of order. Many years ago, a man, let’s call him “Larry” was in charge of the human resources department for a company I used to work for. I was single and in my mid-twenties, so I didn’t really have much of a frame of reference in regard to work-life balance, but even my clueless self knew that something didn’t seem right about this guy.
He was in the office all of the time, and by “all of the time,” I mean it wouldn’t be surprising to see him working 18-hour days. I knew this because the gym I went to was a block away from my office, and I’d see his car in the parking lot and a light on in his second floor office as early as 5:00 am and as late 11:00 pm whenever I drove by. Weekends included.
When I met him, his wife was a stay at home mom, and they had two young daughters, aged 4 and 1. After we got to know each other a bit, I finally decided to ask him a personal question:
“Not to pry, but I’m assuming your wife and kids are okay with you spending all of your time here at the office, right?”
He gave me a look as if I was a complete idiot. “Of course my wife is okay with it. I’m sure she wouldn’t be okay with living on the street without my salary. I’m also sure that my kids are happier being around their mom instead of at some daycare. It’s called being a good dad, my friend. You’ll figure it out soon enough.”
That was the end of our conversation, and I went home for the night. Like I said, I was single with no kids. I assumed that’s how all executives with wives and kids acted.
Then one day it happened.
On his way into the office on a regular Tuesday morning, he suffered a massive heart attack and died in the ambulance on the way to the hospital. His wife and kids were absolutely devastated. The guy was 39 years old. 39-year-olds shouldn’t die of massive heart attacks. He had children the same ages that mine are now.
But as shocking as his death was, I remember the reaction of his direct supervisor as being even more disturbing. By Thursday of that same week — less than two full days after his death — he was conducting interviews for Larry’s job, had his office cleaned out, and was acting like it never happened.
Remember, this is the guy who gave his entire adult life to this company. He broke his back for the company. He slept in his office to finish projects for the company. He sacrificed all of his time with his wife and kids for the company. Why? Because he was loyal to the company. How did that loyalty work out for him? 17 years on the job was forgotten in less than 48 hours.
Of course, many would argue that a large company cannot spend months mourning an employee’s passing, and I get that. But the way management just swept his death under the rug and kept moving was an eye-opener for me.
I’m not sure how Larry’s family is doing these days, but I know that his girls won’t remember much of him because he was never at home. Even today I think of him and wonder if he would choose to be more loyal to his job than to his wife and daughters if he had a second chance.
I wonder if his definition of being a “good dad” has changed now that he’s up in heaven.
One thing I can safely assume is men like Larry aren’t aware that the most valuable resource we have to give is time. As a matter of fact, it’s the only resource we can never get back once we give it.
Our babies will only be the age they are right now, right now. The days of teething, potty training, sleeplessness, nonstop Frozen viewings, and toddler tantrums will be traded in for college and dating before we can blink an eye.
I can’t speak for most men, but while I sure can’t remember what my first conference call or first performance review at work was like, I can absolutely remember my daughters’ first words and first steps as if they occurred yesterday.
Fortunately, many men reading this who work outside of the home don’t need a wake up call when it comes to fatherhood. They leave the office at a reasonable hour to be home with their families. They don’t check email during dinner or story-time. They don’t take out their frustrations at the office out on their kids and spouses. In a nutshell, they give time — quality time — to their families. The payment? Bear hugs, belly laughs, and a bond with their families that is impossible to break. And yes, that is truly priceless.
They do it because they know that their job is what they do, not who they are. Most importantly, they understand that the most important job title they’ll ever have is fatherhood.More On