It starts off innocently enough. You stop buying small luxuries for yourself. You start computing how much grade school costs. (PHP 70,000 for Ateneo, over a million for any kind of international school.) You look into college plans. You read about financial products. You worry about the future. And you wonder, "Am I saving enough?" The answer is almost always, "No."
Alpha male hormones kick in, and you start working like you're possessed by Ebenezer Scrooge. You burn the midnight oil. You push for that promotion. Your answer to everything is to work more, to make more money. Being a provider takes over your life.
I should know. That's what happened to me.
Then my life turned upside down. After a couple of years of working suicidally to provide, I found myself partly self-employed (mostly unemployed?), working from home, taking care of the kids full-time with my wife, without a yaya in sight. And somehow, before I knew it, I had become that awful cliche, Mr. Mom. I was knowledgeable in the ways of diapers. I was the go-to guy for bath time. I could juggle two small kids, feed them, and put them to bed, no problem.
While I was with the babies 24x7, I discovered that I had it all wrong. Daddies, money is the least of your worries. It's important, yes, but difficult as it is, that's the easy part. Investing time and effort to bond with your kids is harder. It is essential to know how to bond with your kids, and not just to be physically present with them, but to foster a healthy parent-child relationship.
The weird thing is, investing in your kids has a lot of similarities with investing money:
1. You don't need to invest all your time. Just like investing money, a little goes a long way. And just as all the money experts tell you, 20% of your time is okay, more is great. If you can only be with them a couple of hours a day, that's not a big deal. But be with them, play with them, read to them. Don't just veg out in front of the TV.
2. You are their insurance. To you, insurance means a secure future. To your kid, it means much smaller things. To him, it means you've got his back in the playground. It means someone's there to kiss his boo-boos when he falls on his face. It means someone understands that "Mulk chocklit boutil peas?" means "Please give me chocolate milk in the bottle and not in the sippy cup." You know you've done your job when they start taking you for granted, when they jump off ledges thinking you'll catch them or when they fall asleep in the grocery cart, secure in the knowledge that you're there to take care of everything.
3. Compound interest is still the bomb. Like the Little Prince taming the fox, the key is consistency. You need rites with your kids. Being with them every day during playtime, bedtime, bath time or whatever has a multiplier effect, just like compound interest. 18 years of that, and you're set for life.
4. Investing time in your kids takes discipline. Again, it's just like money. Make a plan. Stick to it. It's not that hard. Once you've got the feeding/bathing/diaper changing routine down pat, the rest of a child's day is spent playing, goofing about, and getting into trouble. It can be tiring to keep up, mind you, but it's not brain surgery.
5. Watching your investment grow is great fun.If you think watching the stock market ticker is fun when the market is on a bull run, it's nothing compared to seeing the difference you make in your kids' lives. When I became their yaya, the kids became better behaved, more disciplined, and happier. They've blossomed in countless other ways, which, ahem, I will take credit for, thank you very much.
Your kids will be big before you know it, so don't let this time pass you by. You are their father. Don't give it up because you have to provide for them. You're only shortchanging yourself if you do that. Don't fall into that trap. If you know how to invest your money, investing time in your kids isn't much harder. Family bonding might sound cliché, but for the long-term, you will find it most rewarding.
Photo used under Creative Commons from kwanie