Monday, September 13, 2010

day 239: dad’s role in the evenings

“All too often we are giving young people cut flowers when we should be teaching them to grow their own plants.” John W. Gardner

Yesterday I described what I would consider the ideal scenario for setting children up for a successful evening in terms of homework, free time, family time, etc. With after school activities, etc., children often do not come straight home from school on the bus. With working parents, children often do not come home to a mom or dad waiting with a snack, either. I am not so naïve as to believe that the “perfect” scenario always happens.

My sister and brother-in-law are such excellent examples of two working parents being sure that their kids do what they need to do in the evenings—in spite of two parents working full time and after school activities. Can you guess why they are successful in this from the title of today’s blog post?

Tami and Leonard are successful with their two girls’ homework management (and evening schedule) for one very good reason: they do not see evening parenting (and evening housekeeping) as Mom’s responsibility only. While we have chosen to have less money than two income families (by my not working during my kids’ early years) and more time than more activity-driven families (by limiting our kids’ activities to one choice activity per semester), Tami and Leonard make their busy circumstances work for their family. Putting aside whatever you might believe about women working full time or not, we can surely all agree that if a woman does work full time, just like her husband, she is no more responsible for the house getting cleaned or dinner being on the table than he is.

Ray and I have always felt that if a husband and wife chose to have both of them work outside jobs, they also chose to give up a homemaker. There is nobody there cooking and cleaning—and it all must be done when Mr. and Mrs. are home from work—and by both of them. (And even when a woman is a homemaker, the husband and wife are still co-parents. Homemaking duties should never include parenting by oneself (if two parents are in the home).)

Now I know that this wife-working-husband-carrying-household-duties-too concept is often not the case. Statistics prove this at consistent rates. (See “A Housekeeper Is Cheaper Than a Divorce”  and “Who Says It’s a Woman’s Job to Clean?”  ) We cannot figure out how Christian men could even begin to expect their wives to work full time and do all the housework and parenting. Somehow that does not seem like the “love your wife as Christ loved the church and gave himself for it” mandate to us.

But I digress into a sermonette here, so I will get back to the topic at hand: evening schedules for Mom and Dad. Tami and Leonard’s evening schedule for homework is a good one for busy two-career homes. Leonard cooks dinner while Tami sits down with the girls and does homework. (It could also work the other way, but Tami is a teacher and Leonard likes to cook, so this arrangement works well for them.) In the thirty to sixty minutes that Tami is working with the girls (elementary school age), Leonard has the meal ready, and they eat. Then, when the girls were younger, one cleaned the kitchen and the other did baths. I mean, they are both going to work a full day tomorrow, so sharing in the evening tasks just makes sense.

Regardless of whether all of your kids are in activities after school or not, there HAS to be a connecting point. Make it right after school, right before dinner, right after dinner, at eight p.m., or whatever. But do make it. And make sure it includes Dad—because Mom and Dad’s attitudes and emphasis on learning (and working) sets the stage for the kids attitudes and enjoyment of learning (and working).

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