According to a Pennsylvania State University study, when you combine a highly demanding job together with marital problems the result is a father who is out of the loop related to his school-age child’s daily life. There is no question that both mothers and fathers can face extremely challenging circumstances as they balance work life and home life, but today we will focus on the fathers.
Many men are deeply work-oriented – instinctively trying to conquer the two-headed beast of achievement and competition. In a job market that creates higher demands on each employee many dads are working longer hours and even bringing more work home, making them less available to their wives and children. This creates a great deal of strain on marriages. I hear in counseling from women who feel their husbands are “missing in action” and not tending to their emotional needs and leaving them to shoulder all of the physical and emotional responsibility for the children, and it may affect their sons even more profoundly than their daughters.
Researchers have found that pressure on the job and other stresses, especially marital stress, can significantly interfere with the communication between a father and his young son. According to Ann Crouter, Professor of Human Development, good parents try to stay informed about their children’s academic and social lives by keeping track of their behavior and monitoring their activities. The more busy and stressed a father is the less likely he is able to find time to initiate communication with his children, either because he isn’t home before bedtime or he’s too exhausted. This is especially important when you consider the fact that young boys, more so than girls, are less likely to initiate conversation about what’s happening in their daily lives.
In most cases, girls are more likely to volunteer information, whereas boys require a little “safe” conversation or activity before opening up about important or difficult subjects. That can take time that the father can’t provide if he is too overwhelmed with work.
The deficit in connection can be harmful beyond just feelings of sadness or longing for time together. There is lots of evidence to support the fact that when parents don’t know what’s going on, their children may be getting into trouble. Boys and girls alike need healthy father role models in order to grow up confident and secure. This greatly underscores the need for both moms and dads to pay attention to the nature of their work and stress and, if necessary…slow down.
Has your family felt the stress of an overworked dad? Have you been able to find ways to make more time for your family? We would like our readers to help each other bring life into balance for men and their families!
Live, Work and Relate Well!
Dr. Linaman is a psychologist and executive coach providing counseling and professional development services to individuals, couples, work teams and organizations.