When I reach into my my childhood memories, I vividly remember a hard-working man who would leave home at 6:00AM and make it back to the house just in time for a 7:00 PM spaghetti and meatballs dinner. As we would all sit at the dinner table, I also recall how this same proud man would ask how our day went and how much I loved this, the only family time it seems we would ever spend together. Dinner would last about thirty minutes and my dad would “retire to his chambers” and not be seen again until 7:00 PM the following evening. The same sequence would repeat itself until Sunday morning, his only day off of the week.
As time went on I came to believe everybody’s dad worked long hours to earn enough money to put food on the table and a roof over our heads. This was perfectly normal as far as I was concerned. After all, my best friend Arnie’s father did the same thing. We just figured “that’s life” and appreciated our childhood even more because of it. We already had an idea about what the world had in store for us and it scared us half to death!
As time went on, my dad eventually made more time for us and he even took turns coaching his three boys’ little league baseball teams off and on for a 12 year stretch. My greatest memories of being a kid are firmly planted right there on that baseball diamond alongside my father.
My dad worked until he was 75 and passed away at the age of 81 with all of us at his bedside, thanking him for being the best father who ever lived. Throughout his life, he struggled hard to balance work with his home life; he was a true daily workhorse who would stop at nothing if it meant it would benefit his family. He was a loving person who took the time to instill values in his kids. He cherished my mother, and together, they exemplified what a marriage should be all about. I believe as he matured in life, he learned it was more important to spend time with us than to make a few extra bucks for us. And spend time with us, he did!
I followed directly in my father’s footsteps. I worked long hours and found it extremely hard to balance my work and home life in an effort to live the “American Dream.” For a few years, I voluntarily sacrificed spending time with my children and wife in order to work overtime hours to “get ahead” until the emptiness and guilt hit me in the head like a sack of potatoes!
I fell into the same trap most men fall into; I convinced myself there was no other way than to work long hours so we could have all the things we wanted. I forgot the most important thing; I wanted to bond with my children, I wanted to spend quality family time with them, and I wanted to lead a fulfilling life and simply be happy. More than anything else, I wanted to make my wife and kids happy. I was failing miserably. I was not seeing “the big picture.”
I was conveniently unable to attend my kids’ school functions. To me, it wasn’t as important as making an extra 200 dollars that night working an overtime shift to make more money for the family. Even though it stung hard when my wife would tell me later that night how my daughter asked, “Where’s daddy?” I kept convincing myself there was no other way.
I turned it around just in time! I stopped working those long hours and while we had to make do on less income, we gained a lot more happiness than I could have ever dreamed of. Both of my kids who live at home are, thankfully, well-adjusted and thriving in school. My oldest is making her way on her own and very happy in her life. We are very close and spend a great deal of time together, during the week and on weekends. To me, I have the happiest kids on the planet! There’s a reason for this; I have learned to work hard while balancing my home life with my job, and my kids and wife come way before any deal or money to be made. It isn’t easy but it’s as simple as that without any excuses!
Whether you are a male workhorse with an entry-level job, a corporate executive, or the CEO of your company, you can make more time for your family. You can sacrifice your workload for your family, not the other way around! We male workhorses miss out on so much happiness while we are enslaved to our professions, and for what? In the end, we leave this earth with nothing.
Sure, we want to leave that hefty trust fund for our kids but at what cost? Would you be more comfortable with leaving $250,000 to each of your kids who happen to be spoiled, miserable brats who didn’t appreciate you, or would you feel better if you worked a little less and left $100,000 to each of your wonderful, compassionate children who absolutely adored you because you raised them in a healthy, loving environment?
Work is important but not as important as leaving a legacy of love and happiness to be carried on and enjoyed by your family members for generations to come. Your kids will take after you and your children’s kids will, too!