Providing Your Children with Presence

The Need for Present Fathers

A man who abandons his family, which is the place where he belongs, is like a bird who flies away from his nest (Prov 27:8). When he does this, he neglects his children, leaving them without the provision, protection, and perspective that God expects him to provide for his family. Furthermore, when a Christian father does this, Scripture teaches that he also abandons his public testimony as a Christian (1 Tim 5:8).

This does not mean that a father should live at home and never work a late shift or take a business trip. After all, that’s what birds do, right? They fly away from their nest to return with whatever their families need them to provide. In this way, a father should go out into the places of business and commerce to generate the primary source of income that his family needs. Nevertheless, he should always return to his family, because his children need more than money and material provision. They need a father who is with them to provide safety and security, affirmation and affection, interaction and insight.

The Need for Present Mothers

Children also need their mother to be present, but in a different way. Mothers with young children should be “home managers” (1 Tim 5:14) and “homemakers” (Tit 2:5). The first expectation here means to “direct a household,” while the second means to be “busy and working at home.” In this way, home life should identify the role of a mother just as a career or profession should identify the role of a father.

We know that mothers are neither required to work only in the home nor prohibited from generating income outside the home. We learn this from the example of the ideal, virtuous woman (Prov 31:10-31). Still, the work that a mother does should be more directly associated with the home than the father’s work will be, and should allow her to make home life her primary focus. Furthermore, whatever income she generates should be supplemental, not primary, allowing her to focus on meeting needs around the home, including being there for her children (Prov 31:11)

Two Kinds of Absence

Children need more than material provision. They need a father and mother to be present at home in a physical way. They also need them to be present in another way, through personal interaction.

Physical Absence

Parents certainly remove themselves from their children’s lives when they are not with them in a physical sense, as when they are absent and simply not there. This happens when a child’s parents never marry or when they divorce. It happens when parents send away their children to a boarding school indefinitely. It also happens when one or both parents – though married – overcommit to professional pursuits or prioritize personal recreation, favorite hobbies, persistent addictions, or a social life over family involvement.

Personal Absence

Parents may also be absent from their children’s lives when they are not with them in a personal sense. This happens when parents are physically present at home, but are distant nonetheless. This distance (or relational absence) occurs when parents fail to listen to and talk with their children in regular, meaningful ways. Fathers, for instance, may retreat to their “man cave” for hours on end and mothers to their phone conversations or Facebook page. “Screen time” too often takes the place of personal interaction and relationship building, creating a kind of “virtual absence” even for parents who are in the same house or room as their children.

Solving the Problem

Sadly, absentee fathers (and mothers) have become an epidemic of alarming proportions, and this crisis is not limited to non-Christian families alone. For a variety of reasons, Christian families also suffer from this crisis. One reason is that many Christian parents have the distinct disadvantage of having been raised as children in a dysfunctional home. Their father or mother or both did not provide them with an example of physical and personal presence. For this reason, Christian parents should carefully and prayerfully evaluate their condition.

How can parents increase their presence in their children’s lives? There are many ways. Establish a basic morning and evening routine of eating breakfast and supper together. Pull the plug on hobbies and unnecessary social involvement, and pull the plug on unnecessary screen time as well. Avoid wasteful spending and debt, and learn to be content with a basic lifestyle that you can afford, one that does not require multiple jobs, odd shifts, and regular overtime. Then, when you are together with family, be sure to talk together, play together, and enjoy one another’s company.

Review Questions

  1. Were your parents “present” when you were a child? How or how not?
  2. Are you present at home? In what ways are you absent and how can you solve that?
  3. How can your family put into practice what you have learned from this lesson?
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