On Prioritizing Time and Money: “Ten years ago I turned my head for a moment and it became my life”

This article was republished at the Good Men Project online men’s magazine.  Follow this link to the article. It was also republished at the Dads Round Table.

Poet David Whyte wrote a great book, “The Heart Aroused: Poetry and the Preservation of the Soul in Corporate America” aimed at helping people find meaning and balance in their careers (and here I thought poets just lived in their mom’s basements while pulling a few shifts at a hipster coffee shop).  There is a one-line poem in his book that, 18 years ago, led me to reassess my professional goals:

“Ten years ago, I turned my head for a moment and it became my life.”

Today, this poem makes me think about our roles as fathers and providers, and the needs of those who depend on us.  Not what they want, but what they need.  Here’s my stab at a priority list (in order):

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On Work and Fatherhood Priorities (with Bill Bryson and Ferris Bueller)

How could I turn down a chance to play catch with him? Work can wait.

Bill Bryson is my favorite author, and puts my writing skills to shame.  His humorous travel writing (e.g., In a Sunburned Country, A Walk in the Woods, Bill Bryson’s African Diary, Neither Here Nor There), memoirs (e.g., The Life and Times of the Thunderbolt Kid, I’m a Stranger Here Myself), and science/history books (A Short History of Nearly Everything, At Home) are all fantastic.  He may have written the best passage about Fathers, Work and Family that I have ever read.   The following is excerpted from “On Losing a Son (to College)” from Bill Bryson’s book I’m a Stranger Here Myself, 1999:

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The Dangers of Over-Scheduling (or, relax, Scott, Nicky will almost certainly not be an Olympic gymnast)

The idea for this post came to me while sitting in traffic on the Tappan Zee Bridge taking my son Nick to gymnastics.

Nick at gymnastics

More than anything, our kids need time with their dads.  Even more than that, they need time with us when we are truly present- not surreptitiously texting, not stressing out about what we need to do at work tomorrow, but truly focused on our kids and making the time we have (limited as it sometimes is) really enjoyable.  We all know this, but it is often hard to carve out the time (see my previous post about family dinners for more on this topic). 

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In Defense of Those Who Miss Family Dinners (or, In Other News, Don’t Worry About Taking Vitamins)

Doctors and nutritionists have a saying, “it doesn’t really matter if you take vitamins, but it matters if you live your life like someone who takes vitamins”.  Basically, people who take vitamins also tend to eat better, exercise more and think about their health on a daily basis- and this is what leads to better health.  The research on the efficacy of vitamins is inconclusive at best, but the evidence for these other healthy practices is rock solid.

Family time is crucial. Does it have to take place at dinnertime?
Family time is crucial. Does it have to take place at dinnertime?

Similarly, there’s lots of advice and research from psychologists, especially those who study adolescent well-being, asserting that families who eat dinner together gain a wide variety of benefits from doing so.  From an excellent Time Magazine article by Nancy Gibbs:

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I Never Thought I’d Want to Hug Ben Roethlisberger…

Big Ben stated he would miss a game if it conflicted with the birth of his child. Why this is an important, visible step that can help dads in less glamorous professions.

Ben Roethlisberger says he'll miss a game for the birth of his child
Ben Roethlisberger says he’ll miss a game for the birth of his child

After all, the Pittsburgh Steelers star quarterback hasn’t always been the nicest of guys, especially to women.  And, of course I am still quite pissed about the 2010 AFC Championship Game (My wife’s quote after that crushing loss: “If I treated you as badly as the Jets treat you, you would have left me by now”).  (EDIT- I’m not so happy about this week’s game either!!!)

But, a few weeks ago, Big Ben made this statement:

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