Guest Post: A big thank you to Ben Pratt for helping out this week and sharing his wisdom to inspire and encourage Dads. Ben is a father of four and a devoted husband who hails from Armidale in rural NSW. He is currently studying ministry and is a keen advocate for men’s issues at a local, national, and international level.
I have a confession to make: I find it really easy to be addicted to my work. I also know that I’m not the only man who struggles with this. It doesn’t matter what you do for a crust, whether you’re a brickie or a boardroom warrior, we men are all-too often caught in the trap of finding our identity in our job.
I also have a second confession to make: I want to give my kids all the good things that I never had. Which dad doesn’t? I want to be able to take them out for a restaurant meal every night, to pay for them to do every sport and activity that they could desire, and put every toy in their room so that they never have to get bored.
You can see how this works, can’t you? If I want to give them everything, then I need to work more and more. As I work more and more, they can do more and more… and as a family we get busier and busier. Our lives fill up with things, whether those things are activities like work, swimming, piano lessons, or goods like toys, cars, big houses, flat screen TVs and iPhones.
As this process continues, we get more and more isolated from one another within the family, and from those in the community around us. A study from 2010 showed that nearly 60% of Australians don’t speak with their neighbours, and nearly 40% don’t even know their neighbour’s first name. The song “Cat’s in the Cradle” talks about the cost to the family when Dad is too busy working, and it’s been an ever popular if haunting song since it was first released in the 1970s… most men can either relate to it with their own father, or as a father to their children.
There is an alternative though, as shown by a recent ABC show called “Frantic Family Rescue”. The big idea of this show, and of the Slow Movement is that as we fill our lives with activities and goods, we actually make ourselves less happy, not more; that there is wisdom in slowing down and taking time to smell the roses.
The message here is that less can actually be more.
Carl Honoré has been talking about this for over a decade now, but it’s still not something that has taken root in our dissatisfied culture. This very week, comments by a big wig at Ikea that “we’ve hit peak stuff” shows that the majority of people in the world today are still focussed on filling their lives with things, even though those things are not providing the satisfaction that we seek.
Living life in the slow lane is not about opting out of society. It’s about finding contentment in a modest life through relationship and valuing what we have, rather than longing for what we do not have. One of the greatest things we can value is our relationships with our family. My children do not need a TV in their room and an iPhone in their hand, but they do need a father who is at home at bedtime to read them a story and kiss them goodnight.
As a father and as a son, the one thing I wish I had more of is not money, but time.
Money cannot buy time, but if we stop chasing money so hard, then perhaps we’ll find that time that we all so desperately desire.
Life in the slow lane means that you actually have time to enjoy the journey, and that when you get to the destination, you’ll do so with those you love by your side.
Love doesn’t always mean saying yes, it can often mean saying no. This week for your lovework, consider where saying no to activities (whether for work or play, whether for yourself or your children) could actually result in better relationships and a happier life in the long run, and begin to say no where it will make that difference.
Yours for living life in the slow lane,