It's the end of a hard workday. You climb into your car - or board your bus, train, or ferry - and face another commute home. As you settle in for the trip, your mind begins a recorded review of the day's events - the mistakes you made, disagreements with coworkers, a chewing-out from your boss.
Before you know it, you're home, and you're one stressed-out mess. This isn't the guy you want coming in the door to greet your kids. They deserve a dad who's ready to relax, hear about their day at school, and get down on the carpet and wrestle. So, how can you put your workday behind you and get into the right frame of mind for your family?
Here are three steps you can mentally walk through during each evening commute to help you transition to life at home.
Put it away
We all occasionally wish we could redo our daily blunders. But let's face it: until they invent time travel, it's not going to happen. Rather than wasting time and emotional energy grumbling over what's done and gone, make a conscious decision to let it go until tomorrow.
Begin by acknowledging your mistakes. Taking personal responsibility is a sign of maturity, after all. But what about those things that were someone else's fault? You can't change people, or rewrite their personal failures. Resolve to look at the ways others have disappointed you the same way you would want them to view your mistakes - with patience and kindness.
Put it off
While some working dads have a heavier load, the 40-hour work week still reigns. The end of your day on the job is just that - the end. You may not have a briefcase full of files to lug home, but the filing system in your brain is probably overflowing. All that stuff you're tempted to bring home with you can wait until tomorrow. Decide to mentally "put it off" until you arrive back at work.
Sure, you may think you can handle home life and ongoing work demands at the same time. But recent studies showing how poorly men handle their attempts at multi-tasking ought to convince you otherwise. Do yourself and your family a favor: Devote yourself as fully to being a dad at home as you do to your career while at work.
Put it on
You can't change the congestion of evening rush hour or the same old songs on you car radio. But you can change your attitude while you're on the road. Your commute is a chance to mentally refocus, to "put on" your role as a parent and spouse.
Reclaim that time by thinking of things to talk about with your family, and not the same old details about your job. Did you read anything interesting during the day? Do you have ideas about fun things you can do together this weekend? Make a list of favorite games you play with your family. Plan a special evening out for ice cream or a movie with one each of your kids in turn. Dream up ideas for a date night with your spouse. Most importantly, consider how you can use words of encouragement to strengthen your relationships when you walk through the door.
Changing old mental habits is hard, but the rewards can far outweigh the effort involved. Think about how a mental transition time will benefit those you love, improve your emotional health, and make your home a happier place to be. Your family wants to look forward to your returning home each evening. What will they see when you walk through the door?