I was watching Casino Jack this weekend, and a question came up in my head. The movie is a pretty good movie (my love for Kevin Spacey notwithstanding) and so I won’t insult it with an overly quick synopsis – just go watch it. The question is – How much is too much ‘for the good of the family’?
Part of the movie had Kevin Spacey’s character, Jack Abramoff, doing a lot of things that he said was for the good of his children. In the end, it turned out to be a bit too much for his family, and the backlash was what the movie was all about… But the question remains – does it make sense to travel all over the world, work long hours, and stay up late at night working to be able to ‘provide’ for your children? I don’t know that there is one answer to that, but I see a few compelling arguments.
Since the movie didn’t turn out too well for Mr. Abramoff, the first argument would go against the doing too much ‘for the kids’. All of the money Abramoff made, and the ventures he went into were apparently done so that he could provide the best for his children. On the other hand, it was very apparent that he enjoyed what he did, with all the power and prestige that came with it. Some could argue (quite convincingly) that he was acting self-indulgently, and that his actions really had very little to do with the kids.
On the other side of the spectrum, think about the parents who allow their families to go on welfare so that they can spend more time with their children without that pesky ‘work’ thing getting in the way of their time together. Is that teaching them anything better?
I’m not saying that parents should suffer for their children, but there is a line between self-indulgent ego-boosting activities, and working hard to provide food, clothing, and shelter for one’s family. For every moment that you are a parent, you are teaching your child. They are learning their work ethic, their relationships, and their sense of Self by watching you. If you are not there for them to watch, they see that too; and they learn that there are things out there more important than them. (Which isn’t necessarily a bad thing. Everyone has a place in this world, and it’s not always center-stage. I think it’s good for children to learn that early.)
Obviously, there is a balance. The question remains… what should be the priority? Is making sure the children can afford to go to a top college as important as being available to help them with their homework after school? Is it possible to do both? Is it more important to have food at the table, or is it more important to NOT have your smartphone at the table, even though that incessant beeping and typing is what paid for that dinner in the first place?
The rule of thumb that I try to live by (and I’m not saying I succeed) is that I try to picture how I would feel if my kids were living the exact life I am. Would I be sad that they were so beaten down by a horrible job, or would I be happy that they have found true love and a work-life balance, and understand what it means to be happy? As long as I strive to live the life I want my kids to enjoy, I think I’m doing my job as a (step) parent.
How do you find the balance? Tell us in the comments!
About the Author: Abby Dryer's goal in life is to bridge the communication gap between men and women. She finds herself giving lots of marital advice to her guy friends whose wives don’t want to have to explain *everything* to their husbands. “Women are hard to understand. I’m a woman, and *I* don’t even get us sometimes! Goodhusbanding is a great guide to help men understand their women, and hopefully communicate with a little more confidence, because that’s what works… communication!”