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The Addiction that Slowly Kills Families

The Addiction that Slowly Kills Families

Boys whose fathers are addicted are more likely to display aggressive behavior than fathers who are not addicted. There is a hidden addiction in many of our families that come with too-familiar symptoms:

Conversation tends toward one topic.

Inability to give up control.

Never sick.

Broken sleep.

Spouse is like a roommate.

“Why’d we have to have so many kids?”

What on earth could any of this be related to? Seems grim to think that fathers of seemingly healthy homes could face addiction that leads to their boys displaying more aggressive behavior than fathers who are not…

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Workaholics.

Yep. I said it. Typically framed in positive light, workaholism usually refers to a good energy that someone brings to their job. But too much of a good thing can still have negative consequences.

If you or your spouse have faced ongoing long days, a focus that eats up weekends (i.e., family time in our house), and you struggle to put up firm boundaries–particularly if you work out of the home–maybe you are who I am writing about.

This is not intended to be about working parents vs. stay-at-home parents. Do not, I repeat DO NOT read that into this. What I am calling attention to are patterns of behavior that disrupt and damage the family. And even stay-at-home parents can fall prey to this behavior. Often it’s under the guise of doing something equally good, like volunteering or following personal goals and pursuits (raising hand ?). Work, which is a good that existed in the Garden even before the fall, can in our broken world become another idol, as we root our identity in it and not in Christ. 

I want to create an awareness of this issue and then convert it to something more utilitarian, such as a positive change in self or family dynamic.

So what’s the difference between a hard-working father and a workaholic, especially if workaholism is often seen in a positive light? For many, the difference can be found in the inability to create boundaries between work and home. This can be especially challenging if the father works from home, but boundaries are an effective and healthy-minded way to respect yourself and keep work at, well, work. When work spills into family time – be it mindlessly checking emails after business hours or separating yourself from the family to perform work that can be done another time, especially when it compromises family time – it can be problematic and create a dysfunction within the family that promotes work over the culture and beauty of the domestic Church.

You can even fall prey to this when you are disconnected from your family because your thoughts are bombarded or disordered toward work, even if your mobile devices are safely tucked away. So what can you do? Let’s first run through a simple checklist that will help you discover if you are, indeed, headed toward workaholism or are already there.

Remember, work can wait.


INVENTORY

  1. When you first wake up in the morning, does your mind turn to prayer or do you immediately grab your phone to check your email?
  2. Do you feel like you get a decent night’s rest or do you often wake you up in the middle of the night filled with anxiety about work related things?
  3. Do you feel like your identity is first wrapped up in your job/career/title?
  4. Do you work too much? Could you work just as effectively with 10 fewer hours? 15 fewer hours?
  5. Can you see the negative effects of placing work ahead of your spiritual life, marriage, or family? How is your relationship with God? Your spouse? Your children?
  6. Have you missed important family obligations due to work that could have been done at another time?
  7. Do you have trouble setting personal boundaries with work after business hours? Do you feel tempted to check email or other work-related programs after business hours?
  8. Does your mind tend towards work-related things, causing a disconnect between you and your loved ones?
  9. Do you feel like you work to avoid being a husband and father?
  10. Do you struggle with being emotionally available to your spouse or children?
  11. Do you feel like being a husband and father is thankless work?

If you struggle with any of these questions, you may be facing a serious temptation towards working too much or as an escape from your vocation as husband and father. The questions, though hard to read and even harder to answer honestly, are designed to get you thinking. Before we can make a true change, we have to face the reality of our shortcomings. It is only through this that we can go on to answer the next set of questions with spiritual resolve to not allow work to dominate our lives to the exclusion of the most important relationships in our lives: our spouse and children.


RESOLVE

Now we’ve started to uncover the problems and potential pitfalls of working too much and its impact on self and family. Now, what primary steps can be taken to move toward healthier-minded behaviors?

  1. Do you want to improve the state of your vocation as husband and father by prioritizing what’s most important?
  2. Hug and kiss your spouse first thing in the morning.
  3. Using an app like Laudate, consider starting your day with prayer. There’s no better way to order your day than to listen to His word and hear what He wants you to do. God first, family second, self last.
  4. How does working more efficiently sound vs. working long hours just to work long hours?
  5. Do you want to work to create a strong family culture?
  6. Look at your work hours. Can any of those hours can be cut back?
  7. Spend some time each day with your spouse asking how her day went. Create an open line of communication.
  8. Name one or two activities you can do with your children on a daily basis for 30 minutes (read a book, take them to the park, play cards, homework, hug them, tell them you love them, etc.). Put your phone AWAY.
  9. Make sure to spend some time doing something healthy (working out, eating well, reading an edifying book, etc.).
  10. Try, try, try not to carry your work home. If you work from home, leave it in your work space. Avoid talking shop with your spouse in the home unless it is in your designated spot. This will be tough to do in the beginning, but boundaries will keep you from feeling like a slave to work.
  11. Remove all tempting phone apps that take you away from your family – especially seemingly harmless game apps. Do this for two weeks or longer and see the positive impact it has.
  12. End your day in prayer. Thank God for all the good He has done for you. Struggle with that? Consider a prayer of gratitude. The more you do this, the more you’ll start to cultivate gratitude in your days. Consider including your spouse in your evening prayer. 
  13. Hug and kiss your spouse goodnight.

SOURCES

National Center for Fathering

WZB Berlin Social Science Research Center

 

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7 Quick Takes Faith Formation Fatherhood Ink Slingers Kerri Saints Vocations

7 Quick Takes Friday, #7QT: Role Model Saints for Dads

7_quick_takes_smThis #7QT post is for all the fathers out there. I am using the term “fathers” very broadly. Fathers are those men in our lives who raised us, taught us the faith, and taught us how to live the faith. They can be biological fathers, adopted fathers, uncles, cousins, Godfathers, priests and religious men, and many others. All these fathers need role models and who better to turn to than some of our Catholic saints. As we approach Father’s Day (June 15, ladies, don’t forget!), I thought this was a good time to highlight a few saints who are good role models for dads and other spiritual leaders. Special thanks to our “Perspective from the Head” writers Devin and Allen as well as my husband for their suggestions.

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St. Joseph

The ultimate role model for dads has to be St. Joseph. He served as the earthly father of God’s own son, Jesus. What an amazing responsibility! Although we hear nothing about St. Joseph in the Bible after the Finding of the Child Jesus in the Temple, we can ascertain that Jesus grew into the man he became thanks in part to St. Joseph. No words of his are recorded in Scripture, yet his actions show a man of great faith. Joseph is an example to all fathers of a strong yet gentle man who cared for his family, honored and respected his wife, and was a man with extraordinary faith.

Further Reading:

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Blessed Pier Giorgio Frassati

Not all of our “Role Model Saints for Dads” have to be fathers with children. There is a lot to learn from even young men who embraced life in all its fullness and also had a strong spiritual life. Although Bl. Pier Giorgio Frassati was only 24 when he died, his life was an example of holiness, spiritual leadership, and living life fully. He loved the mountains, hiking, singing, poetry, the poor, and above all Christ. He gave money to the poor whenever he could, was a member of Catholic Action and the St. Vincent de Paul Society, and he worked with the poor in the slums eventually contracting polio, which caused his young death. This is a man who fathers can look to as one who fully embraced life while also having an intense prayer life. He was no “gloomy faced saint.”

Further Reading:

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St. Louis IX, King of France

Louis IX was a pious man who ruled France in the 13th century. His father died when he was twelve. His mother served as regent until he reached the age of 21. He married at 19 and he and his wife had eleven children. In his long list of patronages, he is listed as being the patron of parenthood and of parents of large families. His love for Christ and his children is exemplified by this excerpt of a letter written to one of his sons:

“My dearest son, my first instruction is that you should love the Lord your God with all your heart and all your strength. Without this there is no salvation … If the Lord bestows upon you any kind of prosperity, thank him humbly and see that you become no worse for it, either though vain pride or anything else, because you ought not to oppose God or offend him in the matter of his gifts. Be kindhearted to the poor, the unfortunate and the afflicted. Give them as much help and consolation as you can. Thank God for all the benefits he has bestowed upon you, that you may be worthy to receive greater. Always side with the poor rather than with the rich, until you are certain of the truth. Be devout and obedient to our mother the Church of Rome and the Supreme Pontiff as your spiritual father.”

Further Reading:

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Blessed Louis Martin

Blessed Louis Martin was beatified along with his wife Blessed Marie-Azelie Guérin Martin. He also was the father of nine children, five of whom survived to adulthood, all girls, and all became nuns, the most well-known of whom was St. Thérèse of Lisieux. The life of Bl. Louis was one of hard work and dedication to both his family and to God. By all accounts, he had a contemplative soul and was a deeply spiritual man. He is a great example of a loving and devoted father as well as a  committed Catholic who served as an example of a holy life to the children God put into his care.

Further Reading:

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St. John Bosco

John Bosco devoted his life to ministering to poor and neglected boys. He gained their trust and then taught them the faith and took them to Mass. Eventually he founded the “Oratory” in 1842 originally numbering about 20 boys. By 1846, about 400 boys were a part of the community. Over time, St. John Bosco taught classes and found a place for the Oratory to open a permanent home, which eventually became the Salesian Society. To this day, the Salesians teach boys from the beginning of their education all the way through to seminary, for those who wish to study for the priesthood. They also teach night classes for adults, Sunday school, and much, much more. St. John Bosco is the patron saint of boys, school children, and young people. For fathers, St. John Bosco is an example of perseverance and dedication in teaching the Catholic faith and caring for young boys and men.

Further Reading:

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Blessed Luigi Quattrocchi

Blessed Luigi Quattrocchi and his wife Blessed Maria Beltrame Quattrocchi, were the first couple to be beatified together. They are an example of spousal love, of devotion to the family,  and of community service. Together they had four children, two became priests and one a nun. They were also organizers, founding three different organizations in Italy, one for scouts, one for lay Catholics, and another that organized and accompanied the infirm on pilgrimages to Lourdes. In his homily for the Beatification, Pope John Paul II said,

“Drawing on the word of God and the witness of the saints, the blessed couple lived an ordinary life in an extraordinary way. Among the joys and anxieties of a normal family, they knew how to live an extraordinarily rich spiritual life. At the centre of their life was the daily Eucharist as well as devotion to the Virgin Mary, to whom they prayed every evening with the Rosary, and consultation with wise spiritual directors. In this way they could accompany their children in vocational discernment, training them to appreciate everything ‘from the roof up’, as they often, charmingly, liked to say.”

Further Reading:

–7–

St. Thomas More

St. Thomas More, whose life is dramatized in the movie A Man for all Seasons, was a staunch supporter of the Catholic Church. Refusing to swear allegiance to King Henry VIII as Head of the Church of England, he was eventually imprisoned and then martyred for the faith. He remained completely dedicated to the Holy Roman Church to the very end. A father of four, he was an example of standing up for the truth.

Further Reading:

Who else would you add to this list and why?

For more 7 Quick Takes, #7QT on social media, check out Jen Fulwiler at Conversion Diary.