Balancing career and family
Free Press Opinion Columnists
HE SAID: I don’t know about others, but in the last two months we have had an anniversary, Mother’s Day, Father’s Day and an engagement. Our lives seem filled up with events revolving around family and relationships. Our generation was the one that began to change the way the male/female relationships were defined. I looked on in awe at our children who had friends of both sexes and did things together in large groups of both boys and girls.
In our day, there were strict guidelines on how you treated the other sex; rules which were shrouded in mystery and prohibitions. Now, there are shows nightly on mainstream TV that would have been X-rated movies when we were teenagers. And who knows, besides the NSA, of course, what youngsters view on the internet or their smartphones.
An Associated Press poll this week indicated 91% of the under 35-years-old males who were questioned want to be fathers, but I wonder how they view the future of the family and what their roles would be.
SHE SAID: It probably depends on whether the men opt for fatherhood modeled on “Raising Hope,” “The Godfather,” or something in between. It has to be hard for young men contemplating marriage or fatherhood because roles and models have changed. Society’s expectations are no longer as rigid, and the options are endless.
Women face the same challenges, maybe even more so, since science has made it possible to eliminate consort with a male if a baby is wanted. Also, the woman’s physical role in bearing a child cannot be ignored, at least not yet. Who knows what kind of surrogates there could be in the future.
Two observations I have made in working with teens is that they are still attracted to each other based on looks, much like we were back in the day. Next, the difference is that women dress much more overtly sexual at a younger age and their sexual vocabulary by seventh grade is the equivalent to mine currently. Seldom discussed much by anyone is the difference between being a “baby daddy” and a father. We were lucky. Our fathers were atypical for their times. They knew how to be sensitive and supportive. They were not dogmatic and driven by a desire to be the boss of everything and everybody.
I think because your father died when you were a teen, you are a much better father than you might have been otherwise. You already had the confidence to empower your children, but at the same time, give them rules and boundaries. It is hard for a single parent to provide that well. What is hopeful is that there are so many more ways now for a child to experience a family than the traditional one of a biological father and mother. Providing a family’s love can be a burden though, as many our age now find themselves raising their grandchildren for various reasons.
HE SAID: It is the multitude of options that create some of the grief for families today. Women are torn between having any profession and having a family. Men, and professional women, have problems of reinforcement of behaviors. In the job world you are given strokes for completing a project, or earning a bonus, or getting through the week. Each of these small victories gives you the desire to obtain more such victories.
But, when you go home you have kids wanting to test you, the endless bills to pay, and the demands on private time which you need to recharge your batteries. As one business guru, Clayton Christiansen, points out, in our youth we all look for the family and love as goals, but because the strokes are few, it is easier to focus on the instant gratification and thrill of completion of a job task; therefore, the dream produces three divorces and kids without participating parents. The challenge for the next generation is creating ways to fulfill all these aspects of life well amid the diversity of family styles.
SHE SAID: I think you have hit on one way to help — more positive reinforcement. Come here and I will hug you again for being such a wonderful father because your children are not here to do it themselves.
The Skinners hope you know the feel of someone’s loving arms. They can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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