Tip-1: Quality vs Quantity of time:
I remember long time back, when I was facilitating a Personal Growth lab for one of my clients, my daughter who was 14 years old then, accompanied me. While I was handling a session on work-life balance, one of the participants asked my daughter “Hi Sashi, your father being a busy consultant, may be hardly spending time at home; how do you feel about it?” And my daughter spontaneously answered, “It is not the quantity of time that is important but the quality of time is more important –and he spends Quality time with us!” I was amazed by her answer; as a young girl, she had rightly acknowledged her father’s contribution to her life.
I agree, in modern life style we get little time with the family and often we wish to stare at the idiot box most of that time instead of indulging in a conversation with our spouse or the children. Many of us feel that we can’t really have long, meaningful conversations with our children, as we do not really have much in common to talk about with them, considering the generation gap; and this thinking is the result of trying to find meaning in whatever we do; which, at times, in not possible.! My grandson is 2 ½ years old and, I agree, it is not possible to discuss with him about my business plans. He has his own agenda while I spend time with him, and I decide to go with his agenda as that is the only thing that is possible! Even if I spend just half an hour with him, while he beats me at least twice in between, I have realized that I enjoy every moment (including beatings) of it, as I have to go back to my childhood to match his frequency. And it brings immense joy. Please remember, life is a bundle of human interactions and to spend quality time with our spouse and our children, we need to make a conscious choice and some adjustments.
Tip-2: Don’t aim to win all the time:
Many husbands avoid going home early as they think will have to negotiate conflicts with their wife and hence they tend to pretend they are busy at office. I am surprised to see how men and women can talk for hours when they are courting and that too without many conflicts and how things suddenly change once they are married. You’ll find them in perennial conflicts. Why? Well, finding an answer to this question is closer to attaining nirvana to me! How two human beings, who have started to share their life, can have huge conflicts in any conceivable agenda? The only root cause I could think of is that each one of them wants control the other human being – the aim is to win all the time. Even if they know secretly that their argument is futile. But they still want to win the argument and have an upper hand in the conversation. No wonder, divorces are increasing world over, including India, as both the spouses don’t want to give up their so called “rights”.
Life is not all about winning and controlling always. It is also about being controlled and loosing, sometimes. While you play hide & seek game with your child, you hide in a place where the child can find you out because eventually you want the child to win. You derive pleasure in losing and not winning. Similarly, there are many occasions between husband and wife where losing can be more pleasurable than winning. For example, the wife always wants to select her husband’s clothes while she does not want her husband to choose her saris! Have you not experienced this when you affectionately buy her a sari, expecting she is going to hug and kiss you? But instead she ruins your excitement by scolding you to buy her such an expensive sari; because she thinks that the shop keeper charged you more than the real worth? Initially, I thought it is only me who has had this experience; but after checking with many friends, I concluded that all the husbands around, without exceptions, have resolved not to buy any clothes for their wives in their life time for having had similar experiences!
Please allow your partner to decide few things without your interruptions. The sari is just a medium through which husband expresses his love and not an end in itself. Ignore the sari and see the love!
Tip-3: The Family came FIRST:
We often have confusion, “Is the job for family or Family for the job?” The social arrangement called family has a strong rationale and it came first and the job came later; for the livelihood of the family and not the other way around! For some unknown reasons all species wish to live together – you see a flock of same feathers and herds of the same kind of animals. There is no system called marriage in an animal kingdom and it never posed any social problems also but the same logic cannot be extended to human beings who live in a society and are an advanced version of the same species.
Psychology says, “we exist in others listening” – what does this really mean? It means that I can be sane only in the presence of other human beings and my identity comes from others. For example, if I am alone on this planet, “I as NC” cannot be defined and I will also be another kind of animal altogether. So the necessity for a family comes from the paradigm that for remaining sane you need loved ones. – But we get so involved in everything else that we forget to love them back!!
Jobs came next; with the primary aim of supporting the family, but unfortunately they assume more significance than the family, which was the very reason for the job in the first place. The means has assumed more importance than the end. Unless we are conscious of this fact, there will be no redemption for us. For many, career assumes more importance than seeing a smile on the child’s face.
Tip-4: Make intelligent Choices
I recently met a successful young professional and was exchanging pleasantries with him on the topic of ‘work-life balance’. Quite surprisingly, he mentioned that he had stopped reading the newspaper and watching TV since last 3 years; so that he can gain time to spend with his family. I was happy to hear that my son and I did the same thing long time back. For a modern mind, this may look stupid as the obvious question that comes to our mind will be, “How do you know the developments in the country, without reading or watching the news, which is also needed to do your job better?” So he also cited a dialogue he had with his boss, who had questioned his ability to perform without reading economic times.
Let us deal with this rationale. My son Naveen used to say, “Newspaper is a good companion while you are on the toilet seat when your body is busy, so your mind also can be engaged on something!” If you carefully examine the contents of newspapers today, most of it covers politics and crimes, which is good for nothing and pollutes your mind. At least definitely not something you want to start your morning with! Tell me, for how many business decisions that we have taken, the inputs have come from the newspapers? Unless otherwise you are a Narayana Murthy of Infosys or a CFO of a large corporate or if being updated on various happenings is a chronic need for your business! If you record yourself during your ‘TV viewing’ in a video camera and view it later, you will find your attention span and enjoyment!
It is not the argument in favour of or against the newspaper or TV. The real point is that at the cost of spending time with your loved ones, all other activities are simply worthless. It is the matter of choice you have to make.
Tip-5: Share & Build your Child
According to me, one of the most awful schools of thought in India is keeping children at bay in the name of respect for elders. I grew up in Tamilnadu, where I hardly remember having any conversations with my parents; except being controlled by them on all occasions. We, inadvertently, seem to feel that children cannot understand complex things and so we tend to avoid sharing our thoughts and concerns with them. As kids, we were kept in dark on many matters that the family was negotiating. The fact is that the child starts learning when it is the womb itself and, to me, the very meaning of the “generation gap” is accepting with humility that the next generation is far more intelligent and sharp in learning. Indian epics are kept in our homes for the parents to instill values through storytelling in to their children. I used to share all my key learning with my children when they were very young, even if they yawned or showed signs of indifference. Now, when they are grown ups and lead their own lives, they say, “Dad, all that you shared when we were young, was not making any sense then, but that was ingrained in our sub-conscious and it became the North Star of our life.” And I feel extremely happy to hear that.
Tip-6: Don’t fail to leave a memorable moment
I remember my son re-calling now an incident from his childhood’ when he was merely 5 years old. He got hurt while playing and was admitted to the hospital. On the day he was discharged, he wanted a Ferrari car (of course the toy car only!) but I found all shops closed. I made one of the shop keepers open his shop and bought him that Ferrari. I really doubt if the happiness that toy gave him back then can ever be equaled even if I were to gift him real Ferrari now. It may look like a silly event, but to that little child, it made all the difference with my assurance to him that, “I am there with him.”
The point I am making is Life is a bundle of such prima facie-trivial moments, which may not be equal to receiving a Nobel price but, when you look back in retrospect, you will remember such small joyous moments more than the Nobel prize. Seeing smile on the faces of your loved ones (including your spouse), needs only a small act of kindness and compassion but it is worth a million and the joy there from is unparalleled.
God Bless you