I had stolen away to my fly tying desk upstairs for a few minutes of uninterrupted tying time. I had just started the thread on my hook when I heard the door open at the bottom of the stairs. I smiled as I heard the thump of little feet making their way up steps to large for little legs. In a moment my youngest son, Cade, was standing next to me eyeing all of the materials and fascinating things on my tying desk. "Daddy I wanna sit in yo wap.", came a small voice. I heaved him into my lap abandoning any hope of completing any flies for my box. We began examining every material and letting him hold them one by one. I tickled his nose with some hackle and he laughed loudly crinkling his little face. My brief window to tie flies was gone and it was time to go downstairs and help get supper started.
As I stirred the spaghetti sauce and listened to my boys playing in the other room a feeling of guilt crept into my heart. Not because I hadn't taken the moment to spend with my three year old at my tying desk. Not because I don't get enough quality time with my children or my wife. I felt guilty because I was frustrated. I was frustrated that I hadn't gotten those flies tied. I was frustrated because while I spent time at soccer games and music programs, I rarely if ever had the time to spend fishing for myself. Truth be told, when I did I felt guilty about that as well. I felt like I was being selfish. I felt like there must be something wrong with me for feeling this way. I should enjoy every moment of those times and never wish them to end, right? Was I a bad person, father, husband for feeling this way?
The struggle is real. The truth is that most dads feel this way. Most dads manage a precarious balancing act whereby they struggle to make sure everyone gets the time they need. Often, however, this is done at the expense of the one who needs it most. Dad. Here are a few things to think about as you continue on your journey as a father, husband, or any other role you play in your family.
First, you aren't alone. All of us at one time or another get annoyed with life's busy hectic pace. We work long hours. Some of us commute. There are a million things to go to and or get done and there is never enough time, and when there is time you feel like you owe it your family and or children. Dads wear a lot of hats. We have a lot of responsibilities. Its easy to get mired down in that and allow yourself to become isolated from everything else. Don't. Reach out to some other guys you know. Talk to them about how you feel. Better yet, grab a corner at a fly shop or in someones garage one night of the month for fly tying and beers. It's a great opportunity to be intentional about getting your box filled, meet some new friends, and share your experiences. It'll give you a support group of sorts thats will remind you there is life outside of the grind.
Second, quality beats quantity. Your kids and spouse would much rather have your undivided attention for an hour, than half of your attention for a day. Be intentional about spending time with them. A good friend of mine told me that he tries to do something with his wife and each of his kids each week that will allow them to feel like he's engaged in their lives. Whether you take your wife for coffee, or sit at the table and color with your child, make sure that time is focused on them. Not answering your phone, not scrolling through social media, not texting your buddies. Give them the time they need. Give them the time the deserve.
Finally, its ok to take time for yourself. If you don't take time out for yourself to keep your head straight, you won't be any good to your spouse or children. Sometimes your focus needs to be on you. This may not mean a week in the everglades. Often for me it means a few afternoon or evening hours spent standing in my local creek. I go down there and stand in the water and wave a stick and string around. The fish aren't huge but they make up of their size with their vicious takes. For just a few hours I leave all of the other stuff behind and I focus on me. When I return home there's usually a smile on my face, my head is clear, and Im ready to be engaged once again. One note here. Keep in mind that you aren't the only one who struggles to keep their wits during the weekly rat race. I promise you that your spouse gets tired of it too. Give her the same opportunity for a break you give yourself. Let her go shop by herself. Let her go to the gym if thats her thing. Let her go to the movies with some friends ( remember that tying night?). Odds are if you take an interest in helping her help herself, she will do the same for you.
You might notice that what I haven't said in this article is that any of this will be easy. It takes planning and preparation. It takes everyone working together. I can't stress how important it is to be as intentional about spending time for yourself as you are about spending it with your family. Life these days is so incredibly busy. With information technology at our finger tips, our pace seems to only get faster and faster. Instead of focusing on trying to get everything accomplished, try focusing on what is most important. Try focusing on finding balance, and that balance must include finding time for yourself.