We were sitting in the conference room halfway through a meeting at about 4:45pm. A colleague across the table is nervously glancing at his watch. The boss, noticing his growing anxiety, interrupts the flow of conversation to say, “Hey guys, let’s try to wrap this up, Jim has his kids today and he has to leave at five sharp.” The priorities shift for all in the room. Banished is the small talk. Less important items can wait until tomorrow, let’s just tackle the big things. We need to be finished by five because Jim, divorced father of two, has his kids on Wednesdays and Thursdays, and family comes first.
We all recognize that divorce is hard, especially when kids are involved. In situations like the one above most people realize that family comes first and make the needed accommodations. This is the right thing to do and usually nobody thinks twice about it. Let’s just wrap it up, Jim has to see his kids.
Now picture another scenario.
We were sitting in the conference room halfway through a meeting at about 4:45pm. A colleague across the table is nervously glancing at his watch. The boss, noticing his growing anxiety, interrupts the flow of conversation to say, “Got some place to be Jim?”
Jim answers, “Well, I was just hoping we could wrap this up by five, my son has a little league game and I want to catch the end of it.”
“Didn’t you have a little league game yesterday?”, ask the boss.
“Yeah. But that was another son. I have two playing little league now and I need to take my daughter to her dance recital rehearsal after the game and my wife can’t take her because the baby is sick and she is taking her to the doctor with the others.”, says Jim.
Jim, you see, is a father of six. He stays late at work at least a couple of times a week but sometimes he has to go because the kids or his wife need him. After all, family comes first.
At five, Jim excuses himself and asks a colleague to fill him in tomorrow on anything he missed. After he leaves, the boss mumbles to himself, “Maybe if Jim got a TV or a hobby, he could finish meetings.” A few others hear his comment and laugh.
The above is a fictionalized compilation of situations and attitudes that I have witnessed myself over years. Of course, this is not the rule, but I have noticed that these attitudes exist and they are not isolated.
These days it seems that when it comes to family values, people can more readily relate to the divorced Dad who sees his kids twice a week than to the father of six who scrambles to get to two little games or dance practices a week.
I am not trying to generalize too much here and I certainly admire any man who puts his kids first no matter what the situation. But it seems to me that today, the divorced dad rushing to pickup his kids is generally seen as a family man but the father of six is often seen as someone who needs to get his priorities straight. It seems upside down. I suppose that people today can more easily relate to the divorced dad than the haggard but happily married father of six. I guess they just see a lot more of the former than the latter.
As many of you have heard, Jon and Kate (of Jon and Kate plus eight) are getting a divorce. It is a sad situation. On the bright side, in light of the things I have seen over the years I wouldn’t be surprised if, in the view of the general public, Jon get upgraded from freak to family man once he has visitation only twice a week.
Me, I prefer to be a freaky father of five who needs to get his priorities straight.