Helping a Dad Take Care of Himself

I once met with a self employed Dad who worked out of his home office. His wife had a demanding full time job and was pregnant with their second child.

Like most parents who work at home this father was surrounded by undone household tasks and the comings and goings of his child. As an active and involved Dad it was easy to get distracted from the demands of his professional job. He came to talk to me feeling embarrassed by his inability to be more efficient.

His wife was legitimately upset as well. Their income was gradually declining and bills were harder to pay on time. He kept trying “to put his nose to the grindstone” and try harder but the self-imposed pep talk wasn’t’ working. It also seemed to me that his self-criticism had exacerbated the problem.

The couple was sitting in my office when I asked Dad if he ever exercised. Both alarmed that I was not taking their dilemma more seriously the Dad eventually mentioned that he used to play tennis with a friend every Friday morning. His partner and he would compete hard against each other and he benefited from a good physical and emotional “workout “by the time they were done.

“Do you think it helped your mood,” I said? He nodded, “yes.”

With hesitation I asked his overworked wife if she thought it was a good idea to encourage him to play tennis once a week for a little while to see if it made a difference. She reluctantly agreed.

The “workout” helped and Dad became less judgmental, more energized and slightly less stressed. Things improved, I am sure tennis was not the only contribution to the progress but whenever a parent takes a step towards taking care of them self it can make a big difference.