Next month, I will celebrate 14 years of marriage. In this time, I’ve managed to learn three things. Well, kind of. In writing this post I’ve considered the mistakes that damage my marriage and role as a father, and know that when I avoid them, I feel like I’m winning. If I get these things right, I’m enjoying life instead of feeling like life is happening to me.
Let’s talk about three mistakes that are sabotaging your evening, and ultimately, could your marriage and role as a father.
As you read, hear one thing: I’m in the trenches with you. My kids may be different ages than yours, but the struggles are the same. These are the three mistakes that damage my marriage and role as a father:
#1 > Not creating a buffer between work and home.
#2 > Not unplugging and living in the moment.
#3 > Not closing the night strong.
Mistake #1 > Not creating a buffer between work and home.
Whether you work from home or have a long commute, the idea here is to disconnect from work and prepare your mind—not for being finished with work—but to start your next job—as a husband and father.
If you work from home, try taking a quick walk outside. Anything that can turn off your work to-do list is good. The intentional dad knows this.
Otherwise, you could sit at home, be home with your family, but never actually stop working.
If you work outside of the home, learn to use your commute as time to reflect and decompress. Most days, I’ve worked from Starbucks all day, so I’ll run an errand as my buffer between work and home. I’ve learned to treat this time not as a chore, but as a tool.
I’ve had guys tell me they pull their car over at a certain spot for a few minutes or say a quick prayer before they enter their home. The important thing is to enter your home prepared mentally for your wife and kids.
Protip: before you walk into your home, spend two minutes on these verses:
Search me, God, and know my heart; test me and know my concerns. See if there is any offensive way in me; lead me in the everlasting way. —Psalm 139:23-24
Imagine the difference between the guy who walks in his house excited to be home, kisses his wife and hug his kids versus the guy who walks in his home with defeated—seeking to avoid contact with humans. The difference in these two guys isn’t always his day job. One guy decided to create a buffer and one didn’t.
Mistake #2 > Not unplugging and living in the moment.
When I wrote the five vital principles for intentionally discipling your son, I forgot the sixth vital principle—to unplug. My point here is to be mentally present, not just physically in the room.
I’m terrible at unplugging. I write this not as a badge of honor—but as a confession. If I’m not unplugged from my iPhone, I’m probably checking it. Therefore, my family doesn’t have my attention.
When I’m at my best, I understand I’m being self-centered and I click the “Do Not Disturb” button. One scripture that helps my focus is Philippians 2:3-5:
Do nothing out of selfish ambition or conceit, but in humility consider others as more important than yourselves. Everyone should look out not only for his own interests, but also for the interests of others.
Here’s the deal. Our kids need our attention. Do whatever you can to unplug. Let’s signal who’s important by where our attention is focused once we’re home.
Mistake #3 > Not closing the night strong.
You’ve done well all day. You’ve worked hard, created that buffer between work and home and you’ve unplugged for the evening. Guess what? You aren’t finished yet! Spending the last moments of the evening on purpose is vital.
As crazy as it sounds, with a 10 year old, 8 year old and 16-month old, some nights my older kids don’t get tucked in. I don’t always make time to fold covers over them and have a 30-minute story and prayer session. With a son under age two, some nights I do well to say, “Hey, your brother’s asleep. Y’all be quiet and lay down. Sleep tight. Love y’all!” Am I horrible?
If I consider James 1:22, “But be doers of the word and not hearers only, deceiving yourselves“, I’ll approach the busy evenings with my wife and kids differently. Imagine a more deliberate evening routine that isn’t rushed or frazzled. What if most nights you created a buffer between work and home, you unplugged and you closed the night intentionally? I’d venture to say this resembles biblical fatherhood.
Heck, while we’re dreaming, what if we did all of this at a decent hour so we had some quiet time for ourselves and our spouse? That sounds like a great evening to me.
Ryan Sanders is the Director of Outreach at Manhood Journey. Ryan is married to Tonia and they have two daughters and one son. He lives in Reston, Virginia, serves at McLean Bible Church in Washington, DC and is a diehard Redskins fan. Learn more about Ryan here and follow him on Twitter @RyanSanders.
Manhood Journey originally partnered with The Old Schoolhouse Magazine for The Ultimate Homeschool Dad blog post series (login required). Portions of this post came from that cool partnership.