Do fathers spend quality time with their children?


  • Business
  • Monday, 20 Jun 2011

YESTERDAY was Father's Day. Those seduced by the advertising promotions in the past two weeks would probably have coughed up a tidy sum for a nice present for dad.

We fathers love surprises, so what could it be this year for the man of the house? A tie, a power drill, any gadget that starts with the letter “i”, a massage chair we are spoilt for choice.

It would probably also have meant a nice dinner out with the family, never mind that father probably gets to pay the bill.

Scenarios like this can be played out, however, only when your children are young and still well within your control. When they are in their teens or after they have left the nest, it may take a lot of convincing to get them to come along.

I was having tea with a dear friend the other day and we agreed that the concept of “quality time” is something cooked up by people who simply do not have time for the things that matter in life.

Busy fathers, and mothers as well, often justify their lack of time with their children by pointing to those special “quality time moments” that have been carefully marked into their diaries.

There is the assumption that what is marked will be fulfilled but in reality, such moments are often the first casualties when something else comes along.

There was a time when off-work hours were considered sacrosanct and strictly reserved for family, but in our very highly-connected world, I doubt if anyone would be so brave as to ignore a call from a superior in the office.

A just published survey by the Pew Research Centre entitled, A Tale of Two Fathers: More Are Active, but More Are Absent, revealed that “the role of fathers in the modern American family is changing in important and countervailing ways.”

The good news is that almost all fathers who live with their children take an active role in their day-to-day lives through activities such as sharing meals, helping with homework, and playing.

Fathers who live apart from their children are much less likely to be involved in these types of activities. According to Pew, the number of absentee fathers is on the rise. Roughly one out of every four fathers lives separately from a child, meaning 20.3 million children in the United States do not have a dad in their house.

Here in Malaysia, we can probably say our statistics are not so alarming, but what if we redefine the concept of absentee fathers?

What if these fathers are not just those who stay in separate homes because of divorce or other family issues?

What if these fathers include those so busy making money that they cannot appreciate that the real balance sheet of life goes way beyond profit and loss?

What if these fathers are the ones who leave home before their children wake up and come home after they are asleep?

And how many of us dads, even when we are present for our children, really listen to them?

Statistics may tell us those moments are becoming a rare thing, but I would like to suggest that it is within the hands of fathers to invest in our most precious assets our children. Then Father's Day will truly be a meaningful day.

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