Sunday, September 9, 2007

The American Daddy Crises and the Search For Happville, USA

CNN featured an interesting story today regarding a survey on dads wanting to have more family time. The survey found that a whopping 37% would leave their job if their spouse made enough money to support the family and 38% would take a pay cut to spend more time with their kids. It seems that 24% said that their job is negatively effecting their relationship with their children, while 48% admitted to missing at least one important event in their child’s life this year and 18% even admitted to having missed four or more. If this survey is representative at all of the sentiment of the fathers throughout the nation (64+million men), we are looking at an estimated 16 million families where the dads are clearly aware that their families are struggling with some serious quality of life issues.

This was an interesting statistic to stumble on, as I was just discussing with my husband how insanely expensive it is where we live (in North Shore Long Island,NY). The prices are justified by some, as it is located one hour outside of Manhattan, and folks escape here to get “better priced housing,” while commuting into the city. But the reality is, that the affordable houses are some of the least affordable homes in the country. It is nearly impossible to find anything for less than $700,000 anywhere remotely in the area, that would offer good school, a comfortable size home for two kids, a little yard, and a quiet street. When comparing this to the rest of the country, this is astronomical and ludicrous, especially as outside of working in the city, we never take advantage of it. It got me thinking, why are we even living here?

Quickly daydreams filled my head - ones of large sprawls of farmland and days spent hiking in mountains and fishing at little creeks, and small town shops with homemade cookies. I know that there are places where one can actually have a quality of life, without having to hemorrhage the rest of your existence to make it happen.

We are a product of the choices we make. And for each choice we make we make a sacrifice – we have to empty a space of something to make room for something else. I believe that the choice for big careers, and big bucks, leaves many with small lives and scarce time. I think our men spend so much time running to make our ends meet that they lose themselves in the race. Then we wonder why so many of them have middle age crises or die early of heart attacks. We wonder why our divorce rates are so high – it is for many reasons I am sure, but one certainly might be that our male partners lose their sense of selves in the mad rush of their life – how the hell are relationships suppose to resonate in their lives, if their own identity barely resonates to them? So what is the answer?

One good place to start might be to choose careers out of what we hold dear in our life, outside of work – and add work that will fit into that life. I think most of us have been raised to believe that you choose a job and then fit your life around that, and this simply fails you in reality. We believe that the cost of life is so high and so we need to make loads of money to subsidize it, but this is also a lie. In reality, the only thing we get with all that money is a place to live (maybe a bit bigger), food to eat (maybe more fancy), a little bit of travel (maybe to more exotic locations) and sense of accomplishments (materialistically). You do not buy more years on your life, you do not buy less stress, you do not buy undying love, you do not buy the unwavering respect of your children, and you do not buy peace of mind. In other words you do not buy anything that we all ultimately want. So why are our men paying such a high price then?

I am so ready to move to that small town in the middle of Happyville USA, where Grandma Moses is making fresh fudge for the corner store, that I can smell it. But the desire to get to that simpler place (geographically or spiritually) is no small feat – but I suppose the desire for that change is the starting point. Stay tuned…

See this link for details on survey discussed above at ( ).

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