This is a special sharing by Bruce Sallan, the host of every Thursday ET 9-10pm Twitter #DadChat. I’m super privileged to have Bruce share his tips on Being a Better Dad, something I feel is so important particularly after I’ve evaluated my own Parenting Incompetency. Furthermore, parents of eczema children often spend so much time and energy on managing eczema that we forget to do the real parenting. Husbands are expected to take a leadership role in the family (biblically), sons are expected to take care of aged parents, men are expected to excel in their career – leaving our dads’ today treading a difficult line to balance all that are expected of them.
Bruce had been in a similar situation (though his family did not have eczema) – on his website BruceSallan.com, he shared about being a single dad, taking care of his sons after his wife left, and leaving showbiz to take care of his ailing parents. Bruce writes a weekly column from a Dad’s Point of View, has his own comic strip Because I Said So, radio show and wrote two books.
Marcie Mom: Hi Bruce, thanks again for being my guest! I love your #DadChat on twitter and it really got me thinking about the roles Dad play in today’s parenting. Let’s do a reality check – What do you think is the Top Parenting Activity/Task/Role that Dads are doing today and what do you think is the one that is most important, yet overlooked?
Bruce: First, thank you MarcieMom for being such a great new friend. I love your coming to #DadChat every Thursday while commuting to work. I love that the Internet allows us to “connect” with people we might not otherwise ever meet. You’re a great example of that and a blessing.
As to your question, it’s ironic that my answer comes back to something very simple. It also really applies to both dads and moms. One of my first columns was about this, There’s No Such Thing as Quality Time.
In our very busy world – busy lives – it is a myth to think that parents can schedule “Quality Time” with their children. Quantity Time is what works. It’s simple. Kids open up on their schedule, NOT on yours. The more time you spend with them, the better you will know them, and the better chance they’ll open up and hopefully reveal things you need and want to know.
Marcie Mom: There are a lot of tasks that dads have to do, take for instance a dad of eczema child (ahem.. without naming who!):
- Work – 9am to 9pm
- Visit parents, if they are ill (which is highly probable given our generation’s parents are close to their eighties) – an hour per day or 8 hours per week
- Do housework – either one or more, but hopefully not none! Washing dishes, laundry, ironing, sweeping, mopping, cleaning toilet – 4 hours per week
- Spend time with child – two hours per day
- Spend time with wife – probably only in the car! Commuting time, 1.5 hours per day
- Spend time managing eczema – skincare, bath and sleep routine, likely 2 hours per night
All in, that’s 19 hours, leaving 5 hours for sleep! What would be your take on how to be a Dad for our child despite the demands of the day?
Bruce: It’s funny that, so far, each of your questions really don’t inspire a dad-specific answer. I believe my answer to this will equally apply to moms.
Your husband’s situation is perhaps a bit more extreme than many overwhelmed and busy dads or moms. When there’s a sick parent to add to the mix of a full-time job, life is hard and time is precious. There is no simple answer for those situations except to remember the old biblical saying that “This Too Shall Pass.” Therefore, for someone like your husband, all I can suggest is to endure, do the best you can, and be patient for easier and better times. I also would urge your husband to get more sleep. It will do NO ONE any good if he gets sick.
But, most people choose to be busy. It really is all about time management and so many people waste so much time. Once you’re married, working full-time, and then have kids, your life is going to be hectic. The challenge is to be smart with your time. Efficient. And prioritize.
Before I was married or had kids, when all I had to worry about was ME, I took a Time Management class. It was invaluable. When you really analyze how you spend your day, there are almost always many ways you can make better use of your time.
With parenting, it’s about priorities. For instance, maybe during some of the parenting years – when the kids may need you most – you don’t put your work ahead of everything else. Maybe you don’t choose to take on that extra assignment that might get you points with your boss. Yes, you still do a good job, but maybe you just have to wait a few years before accelerating your career. Will you go to your deathbed saying you wished you’d worked more or wish you’d spent more time with your family?
Marcie Mom: I always ask myself how I’m worshipping the Lord with my heart, my mind, my body and soul. With that in mind, I find that I’m grossly overlooking growing my child’s heart and soul. What do you suppose to be a baby step that Dads can step in/ step up to groom our child’s heart?
Bruce: Ahhh, such a complicated question and, maybe, one that would only be asked by a woman? I do think – generally – that women look at the soul of their children’s lives with concern and that this is so important, too.
Religion has been marginalized by contemporary society but organized mainstream religions, in which G*d is the centerpiece and, at least for me The Ten Commandments have meaning, is one of the only ways we can teach our children true values and to care of others. Otherwise, it’s just opinion and about what feels good. Feelings have replaced values far too much in our world.
Marcie Mom: One final question – what do you suppose a wife can help her spouse to Be a Better Dad?
Bruce: This question made me smile. I will first answer simply of my wife and myself. Personally, I need validation. When my wife praises me, it reinforces my good behavior. When I’m doing a good job, I want to know that those around me – especially my wife – not only notice, but appreciate it. So, verbal affirmation is very important for me.
That said, just as we often say that what we parents “model” is what our kids will learn, I think a wife modeling good parenting will rub off on her husband. But, men tend to be dense and sometimes we men need to be hit over the head to get a point. So, this is where communication comes to bear. Sit down with your husband and talk. Never assume he will simply know what to do – or what YOU want him to do.
If there’s tension in your household, seek others for counsel. Even other couples friends can be of great support, as can clergy or a good therapist.
Men need to feel they are contributing to the world and doing a good job – both at work and at home. Let him know that. My wife bakes me pies when she either wants to praise me or as a sign of apology. She’s Chinese so verbal affirmation comes hard for her. But, she shows it in other ways.
Marcie Mom: Thank you so much Bruce, I love hearing from a dad’s point of view because it just reminded me that dads have different thoughts, responsibilities and pressure and I’ve to be mindful of these and work with my husband for the family to thrive!