Absentee Fathers Counselling

Counseling Matters:
Miss Them & Mess Them!

Miss Them & Mess Them!

Our experienced family counselors answer your questions on relationships, marriage and family.

Q1 I’m a very busy working husband and father. My line of work often takes me away from home and even out of station at least twice a week. My wife is right in telling me that I need to spend more time with my kids (teens). I don’t want to ruin my relationship with my daughter and son. What can I do to balance things at work and home and make quality time for my teenagers?

The positive here is that you already recognize the need to spend more time with your kids and you are not in denial about that. Many fathers think they are doing ‘all that they can and more’ and pass off their lack of intimacy with their children as inevitable collateral damage in executing their duty to provide for their family. You need to decide how much you really need to provide for your family and at what cost. Paying for all those expensive hobbies and luxury will require you to bring in more money which means more time climbing the ladder at work and greater distance perhaps with your family. So be sure to assess and consider the cost, how much is needed and what you ultimately gain. This does not mean you have to quit a job that requires you to travel or settle for a lukewarm relationship with your kids. There are still small but effective things you can do to create a balance. 

  1. Email, text, chat, skype! Use all available online platforms to connect with your kids on the go. You do not need to stalk them which would chase them away. Just enough to pop in and ask about their day while you are traveling. Your efforts will be noticed and fruitful. 
  2. Schedule in quantity for quality time: If you long for those sweet and light father-child moments but spend bare minimum time with them, you’re setting yourself up to fail. Those rare quality moments come only after much quantity of time. So each week decide to set apart an allotted time to spend with each of your kids individually. It is important for both your kids to get one-on-one time with you. Taking the whole family out once in a while does not count.
  3. Quick conversations: Don’t shy away from having those quick conversations with your teens. They may not be life-transforming but can be the glue if done consistently enough. Allow them to come into your office even when you are working, or talk while shaving or packing for the next trip. These short conversations convey to them that they are still on your mind,taking priority over all what you do.  
  4. Vacations: Make sure you avail all of your allotted vacations from work over the year, to spend time with your family.
  5. Be real to your kids, even sharing your feelings about your day, your work, and just life in general.
  6. Be funny! Kids expect playfulness from their dads more than mothers so go ahead and be spontaneous, goofy, and tease them.
  7. Do the dishes or clean the house as a family. This not only helps your wife but can turn dull household duties into a much-needed family bonding time. Go ahead and splash some water on your kids while doing it!
  8. Plan ahead: Go through your kids’ school calendar, merge them with yours and plan out those long weekends well in advance. Keep your promises to your kids (like taking them out somewhere or attending their competitions, shows, movies, etc) and don’t hesitate to say ‘no’ at work.
  9. Pray with and for them: Family prayer is a given and it is extremely important that you lead from the front on this one. But also pray with your kids individually. Maybe right before they sleep or at the end of a long walk or before they head off to school. You can have them pray for you too. Never underestimate the power of praying with your kids. 

These tips are not exhaustive but are simple, creative ways for you to keep your work and your family life balanced. Don’t miss out on these crucial years in your teens’ life before they fly out of the nest. I wish you a blessed and fulfilling time with your children.

Q2 I’m a mother of three children and I’m writing to you completely frustrated at the lack of time me or my kids get with their father. I am doing my best to hold the fort at home but at times I feel I’m losing it and can’t do this on my own. My kids are also frustrated! Is there a way out?

Let’s look for a way ‘in’ instead. I can see that you seem to be stretched in all directions and even frustrated from attempting to fill in for your husband’s absence. You used the word ‘frustrated’ and rightly so. Here’s something that may cause you to have mixed feelings based on how you take it. The fact is, you cannot fully fit into a father-role! Our feet size does not change based on the shoe we want to fit into. You have nothing to feel guilty about in this situation. Knowing your limitations often helps in overcoming them. But the best thing you can do for yourself and for your family is to be the best mom you can be. Now that is something you can control! As a mother there are numerous creative ways to bond with your children. So be sure to check all those boxes instead of trying to check off daddy’s boxes too. It would be ideal to have each partner perform their own roles as parents to the fullest but there is much room to grow and explore within your own role as a mother. You may have talked to your husband already about him spending more time with the family, but have you communicated it in a manner that helps him accept what you are trying to convey? It takes great wisdom to communicate even our complaints in a positive, respectful, and loving manner.

Don’t give up your lines of communication with him no matter what, for this may make him more distant. Let him know you understand him but also help him understand what is happening to you and the kids. Let him know that more than providing, his presence is precious to your family. That more than money, moments matter. Figure out with him, the obstacles he has in spending enough time at home and avoid assuming the worst. Appreciate him in front of the kids and mean it! You do not have to justify things that you do not believe. Your kids will sniff out the contradiction soon enough. Understand your kids without being too overbearing or over-involved. Remember the key for you is to be a better mother and not a father as well. Talk to them openly about how they feel and how they can be part of the solution and make best use of their time with their father. Most importantly, relax. Give yourself some kids-free time. Make sure you are seeing a counselor. Spend time alone in prayer. Cultivate a hobby. Feel good. Neglect self-care and a break-down is inevitable. These are not selfish things to do but this helps you handle situations at home and to continue being there for the kids rather than piling up things within your heart and eventually sink the ship. Throw away all those unnecessary things you fret over and control only things within your sphere of control. I strongly urge you to see a family counselor along with your husband in order to make sure the marital bond between you two is robust. Just maintaining a positive outlook on situations at home and taking on only things within your control will make you feel less frustrated and enjoy a greater sense of freedom. 

Q3 My dad is always at work and my mom is always poking her nose into everything I do. My friends say I’m angry most of the time and once a counselor told me this could be because of my lack of father-son bonding. Since then I have tried to bond with my dad but it’s too awkward for me. I want to know if it is too late now, after a decade of silence, to make a bond with dad. 

I may have to agree with your counselor if there indeed has been a decade of silence between you and you father. There is obviously an inner struggle going on within you. On one hand you want to have that bond and on the other you feel too uncomfortable and even hopeless about initiating it. This can lead you to take out your frustration elsewhere. Ask yourself if you are angry at your father or blame yourself for the lack of an ideal father-son relationship. Home ShantiTalk to a counselor to find out exactly how you feel and share your findings with your dad in a respectful and loving manner. As awkward as it may seem, be the initiator of conversations. Find out what is important to your dad and ask lots of questions about it. Be curious about his work, his likes and even how he feels. Your father may not respond in a manner you want him to or come around as quickly as you would like. But do this without any expectations from his part. The key is not to build your own walls but to break his, if any. Help him as much as you can with his work and convey to him about what you admire in his character. Be quick to appreciate all that he has done for you. Let him know how important he is and has been in your life. Even if you think it is cheesy, go ahead and leave a note in his suitcase, text him or tell him that you love him. A father’s heart secretly melts at such things from their children. Turn off that radio in the car and talk instead. Do not hesitate to even ask about your dad’s relationship with his own father and listen carefully for the feelings behind the words.

The key is to do whatever it takes to help him connect and understand you. Give him the benefit of doubt. Don’t give up pursuing that special father-son relationship you have always wanted. Because there is always hope as long as your father is still around. It is a good sign that you were mature enough to seek out a counselor, to see how your anger could be connected to your relationship with your father and even give it a try to talk to him. The important thing now would be to keep at it,regardless of how new, uncomfortable or strange it may seem to both of you. Helping your father get involved in your life will also help your mother (who may be trying to fill in for your father) take a few steps back resulting in a better and balanced relationship with both of your parents. 

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