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Today’s Family Man - Where’s My Security Blanket?


By Gregory Keer

In the not so distant past, most fathers worried little about their role in the world. They went to work at a steady job, brought home the bacon, and saw the kids at night and on weekends. Some dads did get home in time for dinner and got an extra hour or two with the children, but that was not always the norm. And the most help a mom could hope to get from her spouse was summed up in the words of that short-lived ‘70s cartoon, "Wait till your father gets home!"

Today’s Family Man worries a lot more about his role. The job market has changed so much that few people stay with one company for long. Many people have to change job directions – some estimates say up to seven times (!) – during their lives just to make ends meet. What used to be a secure place where a man could labor, earn a paycheck, and get raises and benefits no longer exists. They used to call insurance companies "Mother (insert name of company here)" because they took care of their employees, usually men. Not any more.

On the family side, guys have been going through a slow evolution. As women have wanted to or (in many cases) been required to join the workforce to meet financial needs, they have encouraged their men to become more involved in the child-rearing. Still, the transition to putting more time in at home has been slow if not small in the grand face of changing times. How much should men give to their family? How much should they give at work? What defines a man more, these days, work or family? A growing number of men are staying at home to care for the kids. But the vast majority are still putting in major hours, even if they’d rather be home more with the children.

Given that job security no longer resembles what it used to, where is the security? Children are so unpredictable. Work problems can be anticipated more easily, so why not focus on what helps a man’s esteem most – the ability to make a good living. But a good living isn’t as readily available as it used to be. Just look at the economic indicators. We work more hours for less pay.

What remains is family. The rewards are less predictable but far greater than men were willing to see in generations past. Now is the time to see it because, while family has always offered immense validation, it has a greater level of importance in uncertain times.

Our children have security blankets, physical manifestations of their need for something to hold onto. Dads need something to hold onto and family fits the bill. So, if you’re teetering on making some changes to bolster your foundation in the world, here are three benefits that spending more time with our children offers for our sense of security.

1. Children Can Cuddle

I have had my share of bad days at work. Some days, I’ve actually wanted to hit somebody or, God forbid, cry. There was one day when I had busted my hump creating an ad for a new product only to have another department change it completely at the last minute without ever consulting me? Did my supervisor offer me a hug? Did I want a hug from him? I got the affection at home. My wife was very supportive, but it was my eldest son running up to me when I walked in the door that soothed my ego.

The fact is, you can’t hug your co-workers (there’s also a harassment issue that may even crop up). Your kids can cuddle and their unconditional love is constant, even when they’re being bratty. If they see you’re down, they will come through, especially if you are there when they are down.

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2. Children Care About the Big Picture, Not the Details

I once was asked to leave a one-day temp job after one hour in this nutcase’s office. He told me I punched the keys of his calculator too hard. In another scenario, a co-worker told me my writing was too enthusiastic for a marketing campaign. He had somebody else rewrite it, then had yet another person write it again – to add more enthusiasm.

At work, people often freak out over details. It has to do with the tension involved with performing well enough to keep the revenue flowing. With kids, they want there to be enough cash to maintain food, shelter, and entertainment. They may also gripe that, "You put too much cream cheese on my bagel!"

However, they won’t send you a pink slip. They love you and, frankly, depend on you for more than revenue. You’re indispensable to them, so your minor mistakes are always forgiven. Knowing you can be imperfect and still be a big fish in the pond is pretty liberating -- and darn comforting too.

3. Children Will Be There When You’re Old

I’ve changed jobs so many times my resume is as long as my kids’ birthday wish lists. Since I became a family man, I was downsized twice. Both times put me in a panic about finances and we dipped into credit card debt like we swore we never would.

But you know what? Most of that debt is gone and my ego survived the blows of being "cut from the team." I give credit to my wife (gotta get back those brownie points) and my children. They loved me despite the money issues and even appreciated me being around more. I realized that they are the people who will be around in my old age, not co-workers from the distant past.

Truth be told, your children will see you through the rest of your life. You will share birthdays, major letdowns and big achievements. They’re the ones who will toast you at their weddings and, when all is said and done, remember you best when you are gone. Now that’s security.

Yes, children will drive us crazy at times. They may disown us or we may wish to disown them for one thing or another. But, usually, we all come back together to love and share our lives. Work may help pay for the wool to make a blanket, but a family is what gives it the threads of security.

© Gregory Keer
Gregory Keer is a syndicated columnist, teacher, and on-air expert on fatherhood. His Family Man column appears in publications across the country, including L.A. Parent, Boston Parents' Paper, Bay Area Parent, Long Island Parenting News, Metro Augusta Parent, and Sydney's Child in Australia. Keer's concurrent column, Today's Family Man, is found at his online fatherhood magazine, www.FamilyManOnline.com. He also writes for Parenting magazine, the Parents' Choice Foundation, and Parenthood.com. On television, Keer has appeared on morning shows and cable specials.

 

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