Your head is spinning as you finally pull into the driveway of your home. You've had tough days in the office before, but today beats all records.

And in spite of a long string of interruptions entirely beyond your control, you have to complete the project on time, even ahead of time. Or else. The alternative is not appealing to contemplate.

But now you've arrived home. Time to unwind. Haven for shattered nerves.

You walk in, your wife greets you and looks you up and down, quickly perceiving your state of total physical and mental exhaustion. She says something that is intended to convey her concern and empathy.

But unfortunately, and indeed not surprisingly considering your fatigued condition, you misinterpret her comment for something disparaging and threatening. On a normal day - no big deal - all that would be needed would be a polite request for clarification. But today...today is different. Different because your reaction is so fast, so automatic.

You yell and scream at the top of your lungs. The kids burst into tears, the dog starts howling. Your wife is paralyzed with fear, and for that matter, so are you! What happened to you? Did the neighbors hear? Did they call the police already? Not a bad job at all for a gentle, mind-mannered guy like you!

Ideally speaking, that hour of the day when the various members of a family unit return and reunite after many grueling hours spent at the office, at school or whatever outside activity they happened to engaged in, should be among the most pleasant and peaceful of the entire 24-hour cycle.

It should be a time of gentle winding down, of soothing jangled nerves, of warm feelings of “we’re all together again”, and of exchanging news and perspectives of the day in a calm, relaxed atmosphere.

But you know and I know that it doesn’t work out that way too often.

For the younger members of the family, the daily act of re-entering the portals of the home can be a part of their regular routine of special significance. It means a return to the comfort, warmth and security of family life after a spell in a very challenging and sometimes frightening world outside.

Consider this scenario: teenager Sharon walks in the door, ready to burst into tears. Her school day has been emotionally draining.

Let’s say she had a major History test. She had worked hard and badly wanted to do well, but she felt the questions were unfair. She had respectfully pointed this out to her teacher, but all she got was a mouthful!

So she comes in and plaintively calls out: “Ma, where are you? I need to talk to you!”

At this moment, Mom is busy speaking on the phone. A fellow community activist whom she had been trying to contact earlier in the day had chosen just 30 seconds earlier to return her call.

“Hey, Sharon, what’s the matter with you?” exclaims Mom after covering the mouthpiece with her hand. “You can see I’m on the phone, can’t you?”

At this point, the tears that Sharon had been bravely trying to hold back cannot be restrained any longer.

The trickle quickly becomes a river as she storms out the house in acute disappointment mixed with anger. Mom remains unsympathetic and as she continues her telephone conversation, she makes a mental note to scold her daughter later on for her insolence.

Probably, neither party can be said to be blameless here.

Sharon could have considered that Mom might not be available to offer her the comfort she was craving her just at the precise moment she walked in through the door. Her mother could have excused herself momentarily to the lady on the other end of the phone while reassuring Sharon that she would be with her very shortly.

But what I want to stress with this incident is the potential of the hour of homecoming both for family growth and for family heartache. At best, it will be a time of healing, comfort, relaxation, re-commitment and reconnection. But perhaps precisely because of its positive potential, it is also a time fraught with danger.

I’m not only talking about the children.

If Dad comes home in a foul mood, ready to blow his top at the slightest provocation, you can’t expect his dear wife to show him the warmth and affection he expects. If Mom, for whatever reason, is overflowing with open resentment and hostility when hubby walks through the door, can she expect him to shower her with the care and attention she really deserves?

Of course, I’m by no means implying that since either or both of them are so tightly focused on their own unmet needs of the moment, this entitles them to remain blind to the hell the other may be going through at that time.

Just the contrary. If the overriding, uppermost thought in the mind of each partner, of each member of the family, would always be the special needs, the anguish, the unique difficulties of the others...well, need I complete the sentence?

Indeed something to think about!

Author's Bio: 

Azriel Winnett is creator of Hodu.com - Your Communication Skills Portal at http://www.hodu.com This highly-acclaimed free website helps you improve your communication and relationship skills in your business or professional life, in the family unit and on the social scene.

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