Tell Them to Spend More Time with Their Children

By Judicial Family Institute (JAFI) Founder Jan Aikman Dickson 

The highly respected elderly judge was surprised and pleased to learn of the Judicial Family Institute when I was introduced to him as serving in our organization’s effort to provide helpful information to judicial families. I explained we share ideas on ethics, conflicts of interests, home and travel security, parenting in a high visibility situation, and other topics. He said he appreciated our work. Then as others moved on, with tears in his eyes, he grasped my forearm and privately and quietly said, "Tell them to spend more time with their children." That's all, just "Tell them to spend more time with their children." Later I learned from his former employees about the judge's extraordinary affection for his wife and children and also about his heartfelt dedication to the law. It seems this conscientious trial judge could routinely be found at the office until 10 at night and often on weekends. He wanted to do a good job and had a sincere desire to render justice quickly in spite of a heavy caseload. Though he loved his family dearly, he felt he could not spend much time with them. It's no wonder that by the time the children were out of the nest he felt he and they had missed out on something vital. Like so many other judges and spouses who may have become pre-occupied with work, he felt it important to begin devoting more time to family. 

For those of us who may feel guilty for having missed out on enough time with our children or may blame our parents, medical journalist Dr. Walt Larimore points to the importance of forgiveness in maintaining good health. He also recommends parents start now to take both quality and quantity time with their offspring. He highlights the health benefits of keeping our lives in balance. Dr. Larimore says that "the evidence that overwork can damage your health is virtually uncontested." According to a Japanese study, men who worked an average of over 60 hours per week were shown to have twice the chance of a heart attack, compared to those who worked no more than 40 hours per week. Statistics also prove that ties with family and friends can help sustain and improve health. A Harvard research project that covered a 35 year reporting period revealed that of the grown men who said they did not have a close relationship with their mothers, 91% developed serious diseases, compared to only 45% of those with close maternal relationships. Men who reported they did not have warm relationships with their fathers had an 82 % incidence of serious diseases, compared to a 50% incidence for those who reported close paternal relationships. Dr. Larimore later rearranged his own schedule to have private time individually with each of his children every week, after reading Margin: Restoring Emotional, Physical, Financial, and Time Reserves to Overloaded Lives by Dr. Richard Swenson, MD. Years later his daughter reported, "He has never given me a more wonderful gift."N"