Are you an absent father (or mother)?
Yesterday, I was on the phone talking with an old friend. He was reminding me of a time over a decade ago that we had a very successful turnaround of a business. As my supervisor at the time, he always has spoken very highly of my contribution in leading the team in this turnaround. During the call, he once again reflected upon this time and remembered the same. While at one point in my life, this type of affirmation would have fed my ego majorly, yesterday, it really caused me to ponder more so. I asked the question to myself after getting off the phone, “really, was that truly a successful time in my life?”
Please don’t misunderstand me as you read on. Yes, we took a business that hadn’t made money in several years which was on the verge of shutdown and turned it around in 5 months which is quite the success story AND A TOTAL TEAM EFFORT TO ALL INVOLVED. It also likely saved multiple families in the area from job losses and suffering as a result. However, it didn’t come without sacrifices on Chris and Chris’ family. For 5 months, I walked out the door Monday morning and didn’t return until Friday evening. Unfortunately, while this particular example was a bit more intense, I continued this trend of being on the road for the next 5 years. In addition, during, and even before this 5 year period, when I was home, I wasn’t really “home” a lot. Some might have clinically diagnosed me as a “workaholic”; however, my family diagnoses me as “an absent father”.
You see, in 2008 with the economy tanking and what seems to be more normal than not in a corporate culture, myself and others on the team I was associated with had done so much to improve the bottomline of the company over the prior 5-10 years were severed. Yep, walked in one day and it was over. As I’ve shared in the past, that day I walked into my house and screamed at the top of my lungs, “I’m free” and Lisa and I truly felt that way.
With my new freedom, I found much joy in being around the family and reflecting on what would be the next season of our lives. While I was entertaining corporate positions, I was really starting to appreciate the freedom and flexibly I now had discovered to serve others AND be at home with family. Then, something happened that I filed away in the back of my mind saying, “uh oh!!!!”
One day, my 9 year old daughter, Kylie, arrived home from school. Lisa sat down with Kylie to ask how her day had been for which it had now become an opportunity for me to sit in. During the course of the dialog, I started to interject a comment. Prior to getting much at all out of my mouth, Kylie looks at me and says, “Why do you care? You haven’t been home the past 5 years!” Yes, these words were branded upon my heart and “uh oh” was my internal response, and has been, every time I thought of it for months and even years to follow.
In today’s post, I don’t even want to start to get into the social and psychological dynamics associated with a father/daughter or even father/son relationship between the ages of 4 yrs and 9 years (period of my absence); however, at the point of “uh oh” I suddenly recalled their importance. Now, nearly 7 years later, I’ve seen their importance.
While it’s not my story to tell and maybe she’ll share more later, Kylie has had some very difficult years. While not the entire reason, I’ve always felt that my absence as a father contributed to this. Kylie, ourselves, and the counselors have never really come out and said my absence was a major contributing factor; however, I will tell you it was definitely a factor.
A couple of nights ago Lisa and I sat with Kylie talking. Kylie’s comments about this period of absence in the past were, “yea, I didn’t really have a Dad back then and while you’ve been home in more recent years, I kinda wish you would have been home then instead.” Kylie continued to say, “I really just saw you as a man who would show up and spend the night on occasions. And, when you were here, you really were only barking orders like ‘clean your room’. So, at the time, I didn’t really care that you were gone.” Ouch!!!! Yep, finally, since that day I had said “uh oh”, I now had my daughter finally openly share how impactful my absence as a father was to her.
So, not everyone can go out and quit their present career to stay at home and spend more time with their family. Nor, as a coach, would I typically ever be pushing this as a strategy to improve your overall life balance. What I will do, and am intending to do with this post, is challenge you to evaluate what “true success” looks like in your life. As I’ve shared with my story, I now know at the time I was basing it on “corporate turnarounds, financials, and the likes” when I should have been more intentional on measuring it on my role as a father and spiritual leader of our household.
Finally, like most addicts, I didn’t know I had a problem at the time. Yes, there was something deep within that I was wrestling with; however, never looked at it through the lens I see it today. You owe it to your family, other loved ones, and yourself, to find someone in your life that will aid you in taking off your present “set of glasses” and allowing you to look through another “set of glasses” to gain perspective on whether or not your present course is toward the direction of “true success”. As always, I’m hear to serve you if that helps.