A Man and His Family
How Marriage and Fatherhood Play Out Through Family Routines
Throughout the videos of the dads in the study, there were several overall themes that encompassed the videos. The most prevalent theme throughout that was emphasized over and over and over again was how important family is. Each dad was very thankful for his wife, kids and even extended family. No matter how rough the day was or how long the dads were at work, there was an attitude of gratefulness through the videos. Many of the dad's commented in the final video how this study has made them appreciate their family so much more and that they are very thankful for being able to be a part of the study.
Another overall theme of the videos was the conclusion that dads don't get a break, or "sick days" as one of the dads commented. No matter what is going on, the dads are never off the clock. One of the dads was very sick with bronchitis, yet still had to continue with household duties and even work. One dad commented that he gets paid by the hour, so if he isn't at work, he isn't make money which can have an impact on his family.
Spending time as a family doesn't have to be an elaborate event. Just sitting on the couch as a family is good enough for some dads. One dad commented on how his favorite thing is having his daughter fall asleep on his chest each night. He says it doesn't get better than that. Also, the positive aspects in the day are often the small things. Having dinner together as a family, having the kids behave or seeing the kids smile are all positive things the dads commented on. Overall, it's not the big moments in life that have the biggest impact; rather it's the life in the little moments.
While some challenges are specific to certain families, the challenges of separating work from home life and dealing with kid's behavior are challenges that are consistent throughout all the participants in the study.
Tell us about the single biggest challenge you and your family faced today. Who was involved? What happened?
The challenges that the dads faced ranged from specific to very broad. One of the recurring challenges was the behavior of their kids. This challenge was spread out through all age groups, from a three year old pitching a fit, to a 14 year old having major attitude problems. Negative behavior was a common issue and something that every dad in the study dealt with. Morning tended to be a challenge and getting the family up and ready to go presented a challenge.
There is also the challenge or battle between work and family time. Work is extremely important to some of the dads and it was a challenge to make time for family with a demanding work schedule. Even when the dad's got home from work, there was still the battle to get household chores done, as well as give adequate time to the wife and kids. The challenge of finances was also mentioned often. Many dads worried about being able to keep a roof over their family's heads and putting kids in a better school. There were also unexpected financial difficulties such as having to buy a new car. Some of the unique challenges were having to get season sports tickets, buying/selling a house, being sick, religion differences between husband and wife and projects around the house.
What do you wish had gone differently about today? What would you have done differently to make today better?
Many dads didn't know what they would’ve done differently in the day. They mainly just wished that the day went smoother. A common request was that they wished they had more time in the day to spend with family and get everything done. Time management was a common response was to what they could've done differently. There was lots of regret if dads weren't able to make their children's events, as well as if they didn't spend a lot of time with their families. They also wished the kids had behaved better, they were able to have more patience and that the routine was more consistent. Work schedules were something they wished they could change so that they could spend more time with the family. Finding a better job with more money was an issue that many dads wish they could change. Things they could do differently consisted of talking with wife and/or kids to talk about the upcoming day-especially if the next day was out of the ordinary.
Tell us about a time today where part or all of the family was together and interacting. Who was involved? What happened? How does this make you feel?
From the videos, family time was centered on two main items: the TV and the table. The majority of the families spent a lot of time around the table eating meals together (mainly dinner) and interacting with each other while many families also spent time watching TV and movies together as a family. Many times, the families also spent time outside whether it was yard work, playing outside or at a park. The overall consensus on how spending time together as families made the dads feel was a positive one. They were excited and thankful to have time together as a family. Many of the families also went to school functions together as well as holiday events. One family plays board games at least a couple times a week together. Church also was a place where the family spent time together; whether it was attending the Sunday worship service or activities outside of Sunday service such as picnics.
Tell me about something positive that happened today. What made it so good?
There were lots of positives from the dads. A prevalent positive was the fact that the family had spent time together, whether it was over dinner or working in the yard and getting lots done. When the dad came home from work and the kids and wife were happy and dinner was on the table was also a positive. A unique positive was one father was able to be there for a friend in need and was able to share his faith with him. Just being there in a time of need made him feel good. One common positive from one dad was when his daughter was getting more consistent and successful with potty training. Also, when a father sees his child succeed at something or overcome issues is also a positive. Other positives consist of celebrating birthdays, spending one-on-one time with kids or wife and seeing resolutions to challenges. Lastly, a common positive was the great satisfaction that the dads saw when the family worked together and accomplished a task. When positive things happen, the dads have a sense of pride, joy and accomplishment.
After viewing the videos, there were several issues that became prevalent in the video journals that were not necessarily addressed in the questions that we asked the participants. There were three issues that were prevalent amongst the study, but were not addressed in the questions that were asked. The issues that stood out were the role of extended family in the lives of the family and the father, the role of legal issues and the unique challenges that adoptive fathers face.
From the videos, there was evidence that many of the families had extended family close by. Having extended family close by presented both some positive and negative aspects. Some families were quite involved and close with their extended families, but there were also examples of the family not being very close. One father, Cameron has a very close relationship with his father and grandmother. He talks on the phone several times to both of them and is willing to drop anything to help them out, and lives very close to both of them. After watching the videos, one has to wonder what his wife thinks of his dedication to his father and grandfather. While it is not addressed in any of the videos, you wonder if it takes away from Carl spending time with his wife and four kids. One example was that on Memorial Day, Carl spent the entire day with his grandmother. There are other examples of fathers wishing their extended families were closer to help out with the kids and be able to give the husband and his wife the occasional break or night out without having to pay a babysitter.
Another unique issue that was addressed in some videos was the issue of legal battles. Daniel's wife has a few children from her previous marriage. Throughout the course of the video journal time frame, Daniel and his wife were undergoing a custody battle with his wife's ex-husband for custody of the children. This placed an obvious stress on the family, especially Daniel's step-kids. Daniel gave several example of how the stress had an impact on his relationship with his wife and the rest of the family. While this issue may seem out of the ordinary for some of us, the issue of child custody is an issue that many fathers and families are facing. While there were videos of many stressed out dads, the stress that Daniel exhibited during the legal battle was especially noticeable and had a more encompassing feel.
Lastly, the issues that adoptive families face are also unique. Henry is the adoptive father of two boys from the foster care system. The day-to-day struggles that his family faced were also unique, as well as their daily routine. There are certain medications that his sons have to have at least once every day as well as visits from social workers and doctors. Schedule is also very important to this family as the schedule helps with the boys behavior and mood. Any deviation from their routine and the day can quickly go downhill and become much more stressful for the family.
Originally published August 2011