by Martin Forte
We can hear the car coming! Soon the car door is slammed shut and the foot steps can be heard coming toward the door. The door knob turns and slowly the door opens revealing the presence of the road warrior. Today has been an easy one, only 1-1/2 hours of round trip commute time and the boss was in a rather pleasant mood all day. He walks in and has one thing on his mind: a soft chair, his favorite beverage and some decompression time. This might even be a time for him to release his anxieties and frustrations through a monologue (not a dialoge) with his wife. He needs to get the day out of his system as he prepares to enter into the "evening zone".
At this precise moment the kids and mom are just plain excited that he is home. The kids really have had a full day of mom and are looking forward to a change. Mom on the other hand is finally seeing a real live adult for the first time in 10 hours and just wants to be able to communicate on a equal level for once. But her definition of communication generally involves conversation or being the person giving the monologue, not necessarily listening to a monologue.
If mom has had a difficult day with the kids, or if the "schooling at home" syndrome is alive and well at the house, there is a tendency for her to want to unload. Sometimes the tension is so high in the home our road warrior can walk into an unpleasant situation and his immediate thought becomes: why are we home schooling? "Is this really worth it" races through his mind.
Does this sound familiar? If it does you might not be alone. Over the years we have seen it all and this problem seems to come up over and over again. Now the good news is that this can be resolved and you can have a pleasant and productive home school environment. Let's look at some of the issues related to the above scenario.
Most homeschool families are single income families and the father has a tremendous financial responsibility to fulfill. This does not come easy for most families unless of course you are a highly paid professional approaching the $100,000 income bracket. Even these individuals work extremely hard; the only benefit they have over the $35,000 worker is that they can spend more money. In either case both these guys are putting in at least 40 hours a week and up to 60+ hours for some. In fact, the higher income earners generally put in more hours than the average worker. Where the problem comes in is that when these fathers come home from the work place they are ready to relax at least for a short time. This is not exactly what the rest of the family might have planned for him. The kids, especially the younger ones, are excited that he is home. This is a time for them to wrestle with him, tell about their fun day or go to sport activities. For mom, this becomes the first time she can have some time to herself. There is a tendency for the hard working father to not realize that his wife has also had a long and possibly difficult day. At the same time, the family really has no idea what kind of day the father has had. Unless you have been there, it is very difficult to comprehend what someone is really going through.
How can we solve this situation? First of all we need to determine how much decompression time a father might need. Some guys can come right home and jump right into the family dynamic at that point. Others might literally need to sit down and have a short time to themselves with the paper or a beverage. Only you can decide what is required. But once you determine what the best "coming home" process might be, you really need to work hard in insuring that it happens. Now to be fair, if it is determined that the mother is the one requiring decompression time, the family will need to work out that schedule as well. In our opinion, this decompression time should not last much more than 15 - 30 minutes. The main reason is that the kids really need to see dad and share their lives with him. This does not happen on 10 minutes of quality time with him.
Another frustrating situation is when dad comes home and watches TV from the moment he comes home to the time he goes to bed. If you fall into this category, let's look into this activity. Ask yourself these questions. Is it an activity that promotes family interaction? Does TV really relax me? What physical benefit do I really get from watching TV? What mental benefit do I really get from watching TV? Even though there is a place for TV in our lives, we feel that it must be moderated to the point where we control TV, not the other way around. The average person watches over 40 hours of TV per week which we feel takes away from true quality family time. During the process of watching TV very little family interaction can occur. In fact, the interaction tends to be more toward quieting the kids so the program can be heard instead of encouraging communication between family members. There is no reason to spend a lot of time on this matter since it has been discussed so frequently in the last several years. The only question that really needs to be considered is this: In 5 - 10 - 20 years from now, or when you are on your death bed, what will you be remembering? Will it be the last episode of ER, NYPD Blue or some other program or will it be the relationship you have cultivated over the years with your children? You might want to consider giving up"Home Improvement" for some great home improvement!
Another daddy oriented concern we have seen in the last several years is: "I thought that home schooling included the father in the teaching duties." Well, yes, ideally the father should spend some time with his children in the teacher mode. Practically speaking though, this can be limited at best. It is very important to remember that he is working 8 -12 hours a day (including commute time) 5 days a week. The weekends can be easily consumed with yard work, car repairs and other activities that just cannot be done during the week. If your family participates in sport and church activities during the weekend this free time is diminished even more. To be honest with you, the majority of the teaching is done by the stay at home spouse (mostly mom). Now we do know of some fortunate couples where the father works a four day workweek or has mid week hours off. In this case we highly recommend that the father assume some of the teaching duties. The important aspect here is to look at the teaching time as an important time with your children. There are also situations where the family owns their own business. Again this provides for some
exciting experiences for the older children. In our mind, there is nothing wrong with the children going to their parent's business place as long as it is not dangerous.
So you ask "What is the father's role?" We feel that the primary role of the father should be support of the wife in her home school duties. It will take a lot of faith and patience since the fathers are generally not there to see the day to day activities. A great benefit to mothers would be if the fathers really knew what home schooling was all about. Read some books on the subject, talk to other parents about home schooling, attend park days or other support group activities. Instead of watching TV, why not read a book to your children. Set up a game night once a week at least. Attend the home school conferences with your wife. Volunteer to watch the kids while she takes a break and regains her sanity. Try to set up a date night on a consistent basis where it is just the two of you. Take her out and always let her know how much you appreciate her. If she has had a bad day, do your best to make it better for her, do not start comparing your day to hers. Assume the role of the school principal which means you will support your teacher wife. Be sure that the kids respect your wife and the home school process.
If you can manage to do all this you will be rewarded with some really neat teenagers. Children need the love and attention of the father. In our opinion, most teenagers that get pregnant do it out of a search for love from a man in their lives. In most cases we find that the relationship between the daughter and the father is limited at best and somewhat hostile at worst. We encourage you to really get involved with your children and wife as much as possible. There really isn't anything more important than your family. The real benefit will be your individual happiness and the satisfaction that you did have a major role in the success of your marriage and the raising of wonderful children. Children that will eventually grow up and become wonderful parents as well because they had a tremendous role model.
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