Growing up, I wanted to be like my parents. I can’t say that I ever sat down as a ten year old boy and had this thought, exactly. Probably there were a few things I said I would never do if I were a dad. But subconsciously, I knew my marriage would be much like the marriage my parents had. I would relate to my wife the same way dad related to mom. And I would be pretty much the same kind of father with my kids that my dad was to me. And I think this is true of most people. Now if your mom and dad were great parents and had a strong marriage, this is a wonderful thing. If your parents didn’t get along, or got divorced, this may cause some fear to come into your life. At least I know it did for me.
When my parents got divorced, I remember one comment that was made about my dad working late at night. He was a truck driver and I’m told he couldn’t always be there for dinner when I was growing up (although I don’t really remember a time when he wasn’t there for dinner) For some reason, this comment really stuck with me. Among other things, I think I have developed a hyper-sensitivity to certain issues within my own marriage as a result. One of those is that I hate to leave my wife at home with the kids in the evening. Any time I need to leave, I feel a tinge of guilt and worry. This has nothing to do with her, I know she loves me and I know she is a great mother to our children and she’s fine at home without me. It has everything to do with my perception of things.
Instead, I just want to stay home, spend time with the kids, help clean up the house and just be there for my wife. I wanted to be that kind of example to my children, to my son. But yesterday, I had a mini breakthrough, I realized sometimes, I can be a better example by not being home.
Yesterday, as I was putting my shoes on and getting ready to head out in the rain to go move a bed for someone in our church, I started to feel the tinges of guilt. After all, I had just spent about an hour playing with Ella and Pax in her pop up castle/tent in her room, and we were having a great time! Standing by the back door, my daughter came to walk toward me with only the beginning of tears in her eyes. My wife had to explain to her that just daddy was going bye bye, and that Ella had to stay here. She explained where I was going. “Daddy is going to help people,” she said. The look on my daughter’s face told me she didn’t understand just yet. But at that moment I realized I was being a good father by leaving. I was setting an example that it is important to sacrifice sometimes, to help others in need.
That doesn’t mean that I now feel free to never be home, I have heard many stories of people who kill themselves in the name of “ministry” only to lose their family in the long run. But it does mean that I realize I can’t always be selfish and I don’t want to set a selfish example for my kids either. I realized that demonstrating to my kids the sacrifice needed to help others will teach them to be the kind of people they need to be. And if that’s why I’m leaving for the night every now and then, it’s O.K.. My absence is still setting an example for them to follow.