Finding Time for Fathering

STEVE WOOD

You will never hear a man towards the end of his life voicing regrets about spending too little time at the office. You will often hear regrets about too little time spent with family. How can we learn wisdom about prioritizing our time before we have spent it? The secret to time management is remembering to observe the Third Commandment.

An advertisement for an upgraded computerized organizer arrived in my mailbox last week promising to provide a hundred ways to get more things done in less time and to simplify my life. The ad even had a picture of a highway billboard that said I could be home by now if I was using this program.

I really do not think faster computers or upgraded software programs are capable of getting us home sooner. Even though our society travels in the technological fast lane, we often seem unable to make time breakthroughs in the one area where it really matters: in the family.

Parents in the 90's are spending 40% less time with their children than parents did in the 60's. By the time the average American child finishes first grade, he will have spent more time watching television than he will spend talking with his father in a lifetime!

In past generations, the chief challenge to fathering was being able to provide enough daily bread. Most of us fathering in the 90's continue to find providing for our families a formidable task. Yet a greater challenge is finding adequate daily time for our families.

Managing time in a godly fashion is similar to managing money. We either make them our servants, or we become their slaves. The primary way to escape bondage to both time and money is to give the first portion to God in recognition of his Lordship over both. Those men who serve God with their time and money become free men.

Tithing is giving God the first 10% of our financial increase in recognition that all we have comes from His hand. Tithing is the way we can get a handle on materialism before materialism gets its claws in us. The love of money captures those who fail to tithe. The consequences to marriages and families are often fatal. If the love of money has first place, then God is displaced in our hearts. If we fail to keep God at the center of our hearts, we will subsequently fail to love our family. Tithing is God's antidote for the financial bondage that dries up charity. It is a vital way to keep our hearts loving God and our families.

Why don't most Catholic men tithe? A chief reason is that it takes considerable faith to tithe. God promises to supply in abundance those who honor him with the first part of their income. Although God's accounting methods seem starkly at odds with common sense, they work. Ask anyone who has practiced tithing for more than a 12-month period. Honoring God with the first part of our finances turns our economic shortages into abundance.

An even greater challenge to our faith can be learning how to "tithe our time"; that is, giving God the first part of our time each week in the same way we give him the first part of our financial increase. Our society says, "time is money." For families, time is more valuable than money. Time is essential for a strong family life.

Anyone interested in finding family time needs to rediscover God's ancient principle of time management found in one of the Ten Commandments. It is the only commandment that God says to "remember." Amazingly, it is the very commandment we are prone to forget.

Remember the sabbath day, to keep it holy. Six days you shall labor, and do all your work; but the seventh day is a sabbath to the LORD your God; in it you shall not do any work, you, or your son, or your daughter, your manservant, or your maidservant, or your cattle, or the sojourner who is within your gates. . . (Ex. 20:8-10).

By "giving up" our valuable work time to God at the beginning of every week, we gain a sense of proper priorities, lasting values, and life purpose. By ordering our week according to the third commandment we gain God's perspective on our time. On the other hand, by never getting off the workday treadmill, we set ourselves up for things like: misplaced priorities, neglect of family, premature health problems, and a mid-life crisis.

You will never hear a man towards the end of his life voicing regrets about spending too little time at the office. You will often hear regrets about too little time spent with family. How can we learn wisdom about prioritizing our time before we have spent it? The secret to time management is remembering to observe the Third Commandment. Those who make time for God on Sunday and take a day off from daily work will find the proper amount of time for their families all week long.

Samuel Dresner, Jewish theologian and author of Can Families Survive in Pagan America?, believes that there is a strong connection between the Third and Fourth Commandments:

As truly as the Sabbath is a day for the renewal of the individual, it is equally and uniquely a day for the family. No matter how exhausting and frantic the workaday week has been - often pulling family members into different and distant directions . . . the arrival of the Sabbath . . . sweeps all before it, closing the mind to work-day worries, collecting the scattered family. . . . It is no accident that in the Ten Commandments the commandment to "honor thy father and they mother" follows the Sabbath commandment ("The Jewish Family: Ancient Covenants, Modern Challenges," published in The Family in America, September 1995).

In Eph. 5 and 6, St. Paul discusses marriage and family relationships, but only after he talks about the wise use of time. He advises:

Look carefully then how you walk, not as unwise men but as wise, making the most of the time, because the days are evil. Therefore do not be foolish, but understand what the will of the Lord is (Eph. 5:15-17).

The Catechism also connects family life with observance of the Third Commandment, providing that "Christians will also sanctify Sunday by devoting time and care to their families and relatives, often difficult to do on other days of the week" (no. Section 2186).

Here are six practical ways to observe the Third Commandment and to make time for your family.

1. ATTEND MASS EVERY WEEK WITH YOUR FAMILY.

St. Paul in Eph. 5:14 says, "Awake, O sleeper, and arise from the dead, and Christ shall give you light." Get out of bed on Sunday morning! Don't let your wife take your children to Mass alone. Also, never drop off your children for CCD while you go home to read the Sunday newspaper without having attended Mass.

2. TAKE A DAY OFF FROM WORK.

Men who do not take a day off each week become slaves to their work, lose a sense of priorities, and inevitably spend inadequate time with their families. Get off the treadmill one day a week and touch the eternal. It is the only way to keep your time and priorities in balance. Fathers cannot afford to neglect the Third Commandment.

3. ARRANGE YOUR SHOPPING AND BUSINESS AFFAIRS SO THAT OTHERS CAN TAKE A DAY OFF FROM WORK ALSO.

A few years ago my wife, Karen, had the opportunity to be a sponsor in a RCIA program for a single-mother with two young children who was entering the Church. Karen and I were upset when the woman's employer required her to work Sundays in the supermarket deli. If more Christians did their shopping on Saturday instead of Sunday, then people like this single mother might enjoy Sundays at church and at home with their children. In Ex. 20, God told the Israelites not even to make their cattle work on the Sabbath. Shouldn't we do at least the same for our neighbor, particularly those in service-oriented jobs having little opportunity for alternative employment? The Catechism provides, "Every Christian should avoid making unnecessary demands on others that would hinder them from observing the Lord's Day" (no. 2195).

(On a personal note, I would like to express my appreciation for the organizers of conferences in the eastern half of the United States who fly me home Saturday night.)

4. MAKE YOUR ENTIRE SUNDAY A FAMILY DAY.

After attending Mass, try to spend the remainder of the day together. Sunday is not the best time for solo hunting and fishing trips away from the family. It is wiser to spend the day in family recreational activities.

5. DAILY HAVE AT LEAST ONE MEAL TOGETHER AS A FAMILY. (THE EVENING MEAL IS BEST.)

A recent survey of high-achieving teens revealed that only 53% regularly share the evening meal with their family. The survey also showed that high school students who seldom (or never) eat dinner together with their families are almost four times as likely to engage in premarital intercourse and half as likely to spend time studying than those teens who regularly eat dinner with their families (The Washington Times, Nov. 27, 1995, reporting on a survey published by Who's Who Among American High School Students).

Turn off the television during your family meal. There is no such thing as a family meal with the television on. With the television on, you are having a TV dinner instead of a family meal.

6. WRITE DOWN YOUR PRIMARY LIFE GOAL ON A PIECE OF PAPER.

Write down that one thing you want to accomplish in life. May I suggest the goal of having your family spend eternity together in heaven? The Sabbath in the Old Testament and Sundays in the New Testament are foretastes of the eternal glory we will enjoy with Christ. The family who worships, prays, and plays together on Sunday stays together not just for a lifetime, but also for eternity. The father who spends time with God and his family on Sunday is helping his family prepare for eternity. Make your time count for eternity by offering Christ the first day of your week. God will return to you a life lived wisely on earth along with eternal life to enjoy with your family.

ACKNOWLEDGEMENT

Wood, Steve. "Finding Time for Fathering." Lay Witness (October, 1996).

Reprinted with permission of Lay Witness magazine. Lay Witness is a publication of Catholic United for the Faith, Inc., an international lay apostolate founded in 1968 to support, defend, and advance the efforts of the teaching Church.

THE AUTHOR

Steve Wood is the founder of St. Joseph's Covenant Keepers (SJCK), a dynamic apostolate for Catholic men. For more information on SJCK, or to find out about men's conferences in your area, please call 1-800-705-6131 or (941) 764-7725.

Copyright 2001 LayWitness


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Not all articles published on CERC are the objects of official Church teaching, but these are supplied to provide supplementary information.