Monday, December 22, 2008

More Upsides To The Downswing

If there's one thing I've learned it's that, for the most part, people don't usually do things until they are forced to. Yes, there are always some generous people who make decisions for other reasons, but when it comes down to it, business tends to be business - and forget about really caring for the individual.

Such is the way it is regarding our culture's resistance to better family/work balance. Productivity and efficiency (or at least 20th Century ideas of these things) still prevail - and yet, it's possible this recession may alter this behavior.

In today's New York Times there's an article about how some companies are avoiding layoffs by some implementing different strategies, among them: four day work weeks and flexible work schedules. In other words, companies are shifting to these policies not because they see the benefit to their workers but because they have no alternative aside from layoffs.

It's not a rosy article, but the potential upside is that perhaps some of these work policy shifts might stick even after things settle down, which would be a great step forward in our corporate culture regarding family/work balance. I'm hopeful. Only time will tell...

Friday, December 19, 2008

If History Be Our Guide....

I recently asked sociologist and fatherhood expert, Dr. Ralph LaRossa, how he felt the current recession would impact the role of fatherhood, given his vast knowledge in this particular area. Here's what he wrote:

"If history is a guide, at least two scenarios may play out. During the Great Depression, a number of men withdrew physically and/or psychologically from their families. Thus, in terms of the conduct of fatherhood, there is evidence of a decline. On the other hand, the economic crisis helped to fuel positive changes in the culture of fatherhood, with "experts" further encouraging men to play a greater role in the life of the children, and the business community pushing hard to institutionalize Father's Day. Thus, in terms of the culture of fatherhood, we see progression." (Ralph LaRossa, The Modernization of Fatherhood: A Social and Political History. University of Chicago Press, 1997.)

The Evolution of (Dino) Dad

Just when we thought that the Evolution of Dad was a recent occurrence, news from 800 million years ago arrives. Scientists now believe that a certain type of dinosaur was an involved dad. Read here for the full scoop. Special thanks to Ralph LaRossa for bringing this to our attention.

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Miracles and Magic

The other day Charlie and I were watching the original Miracle On 34th Street and I found myself getting all choked-up. It's amazing how a movie that's so old can still have such power.

After the movie finished and my son had settled into his bed, I sat for a while, contemplating just why I had been so moved. I've seen this film so many countless times before and hadn't that kind of reaction to it.

But then it occurred to me: this was the first time I had seen the movie as a father. Being a father and, in essence, seeing the film through my son's young eyes, was like watching it again for the first time.

This is the true magic of really getting to know one's kids. It's hard to communicate this to people who aren't parents yet. From the outside view there is so much sacrifice involved in bringing up kids - and that is correct.

But then there's the magic.

It's all too easy as we get older, to get tired of our lives. It seems at times that a lot more magic is needed for a much diminished return, than when we were kids. The same things, year end and out, the same routines, the seasons spinning...

The antidote for all this are children. They remind us of when we were young.

So, when the very young Natalie Wood in the film says, "There is magic! I believe, I believe!" and the tears are flowing from my eyes as I sit watching, snuggled on the couch with my elder son, she's not just speaking about what she has found again but what we all can if we want to.

I wish you and your family a good holiday season. May you find the miracles and magic again if you haven't already. Peace be with you.