Deacon Paul and Helen McBlain write the Marriage Matters column for CatholicPhilly.com. Members of St. Joseph Parish in Collingdale, they have been married 50 years and have seven children and 21 grandchildren.

He says:

Gregory says: I like to watch a lot of TV. I also enjoy a few beers with my friends on the weekend while viewing our favorite sports events. I work hard all week to support my wife and two children and to pay the bills. Since I work hard, I see this as my contribution to the family. I am not the type of father to go outside and run around and have a catch with my son or sit and chat with my daughter about her latest teen-age heart throb. I believe just “bringing home the bacon” is enough.

She says:

Cecelia says: I get upset when Gregory lets the TV viewing and the beers with friends cut into the weekend time I think Gregory should share with me, our son (12) and our daughter (14). For the most part, I will make sandwiches for the guys who come over for the games and will be pleasant even though I would prefer Gregory spend some of that weekend time with me and our children exclusively.

I try to make up for the lack of participation on their father’s part by spending a lot of time with the children, throwing balls to our son, going to his baseball games,  cooking and chatting with our daughter, and playing board games with both children. If I ask Gregory to participate in a family outing on a day when a sports event is on, he may participate in the outing but his disgruntled attitude usually puts a damper on the event.

What do they do?

It would appear these parents are functioning in different ways. Over time, Cecelia has taken both the father and mother’s role in interacting with their children. Gregory seems to be fairly immature and still living the life of a teen who has not fully accepted all the responsibilities of parenthood. Gregory needs to comprehend what is happening, see the disconnect in their family and, perhaps, the irreparable damage that can be done to his marriage and family in the long run.

Cecelia must demand a serious conversation with Gregory to bring home to him the critical situation that may be developing due to his lack of involvement with his family. Asking God to guide them in their discussion is a good stepping-off idea (“Once more will he fill your mouth with laughter, and your lips with rejoicing” Job 8:21). If Gregory is able to “see the light,” the next step may be to have a family meeting where each family member has an opportunity to present ideas on how they would like to spend some of their weekends together.

If Cecelia and the children tell the dad how much they enjoy spending time with him, he might just see getting together with the family as a comfortable move for him. At least they should try to find a way to positively invite the dad to join them.  Nothing would be worse than for them to complain and nag him to grow closer to the rest of the family. As to whether or not the family will succeed in getting Gregory to join in their outings will depend on this dad waking up to the need for his family to see him involved.

If Gregory is not willing to alter his weekend activities, the question becomes, are Cecelia and the children willing to continue to live rather separately from the father, enjoying each other’s company without Gregory’s participation?

Gregory and Cecelia are at a crucial stage in their marriage. The present circumstances do not bode well for either Gregory and Cecelia’s marriage or for the welfare of their children. Children need both mother and father involved in their lives. Hopefully, Gregory’s love for Cecelia and their children will help him to mature sufficiently to rectify the present situation and enable their family to become a complete, healthy, happy family unit.

Listen to King David’s instruction to his son, Solomon: “Take courage and be a man. Keep the mandate of the Lord, your God, following his ways … that you may succeed in whatever you do” (1 Kings 2:2-3).