This last week I read an article in Time about a guy who quit his high paying job as CEO of a trillion dollar-a-year investment fund company.
Q: Why would that matter to me or you?
A: Because he did so after his daughter wrote him a 22 point list of all the key events in her 10 year-old life he’d missed due to work: everything from her first day at school to her first soccer game to parent/teacher meetings to halloween parades.
Not ouch, like “wow, that guy has a bold kid.” More like “Ouch, I feel that pain.” Not because my kids have written me a 22 point list of events I’ve missed. But “ouch” because I get it. I can identify when there are too many meetings to attend, too much on my to-do list, and too many pressures to both provide financially for my family while all-the-while still finding time for that which is so much more important: my family.
To that end, I firmly believe that my ministry and calling to be present to my family trumps my ministry to all others. In fact, I think my failure to minister to my own family is the chief thing that undermines my ability to minister to others. At this stage of the game, how I do life with my own 5 middle school and high school students living under my roof is the primary observation point for all of the other students in my ministry. My credibility is readily on display all day long. Maybe not necessarily in what my kids choose to do with their own free will, but certainly in how I choose to respond.
I wish I could tell you I never give into work demands or have mastered the work/family dynamic, but it’s no different for me. I have to work tirelessly hard to keep this balance straight. Last weekend I left 2 important high demand meetings at church to be present to events with my kids. Yet as I hit send on my first blog post in months, I’m also headed to the airport today where I’m going to be gone on business for 4 days. In the process, I’ll miss 4 of my kids playing soccer and leave my oldest son to coach my daughter’s team on his own and essentially ask my wife to be a single mom for the weekend. I get it. Work and life collide and I’m not superman and I’m not God. I can’t do it all or be in 2 places at once.
So how do we navigate this work/family thing as parents and spouses? Here’s 4 quick things I’ve found helpful. (If you’re in the military or you have a “traveling job” where you’re gone for weeks on end all year, then our worlds will seem miles apart- and maybe they are. But I still think the basic principles apply.)
TAKE TIME OFF.
More specifically, take all the time off you are permitted to by your employer. If you have 2 weeks of paid leave a year, then take all 14 days. If you have 4 weeks, then take 4 weeks. Don’t leave them hanging around, especially when you have kids hanging around. One of the latest Mastercard ads claims that 400 million vacation days go unused every year in the U.S. To which one kid replies, “That’s the stupidest thing I’ve ever heard.” It’s more than brilliant marketing. It’s a sad reality. Watch this 63 second video and be reminded of this powerful investment into telling your family they matter more than your business.
You don’t have to use your master card. Just go to the park or bum a friend’s pool for the day while they use their master card to go to Hawaii. It doesn’t have to cost money, but it will cost you time and the investment will be priceless. (which is some other credit card companies motto I think- ha ha)
COMMUNICATE BEFORE YOU COMMIT.
Get a calendar and load it up. My family shares ical accounts. Everyone can see where everyone is. I know when soccer games, concerts, and practices are. I know about special events and they know when I’m in town, out of town, or in a meeting. Communication is what keeps us on the same page and keeps us talking about real needs and real demands. It’s what changes the game for us as a family and what turns hypothetical values into practical commitments with purpose. If real-estate sales are all about location, location, location. The work/home life balance is all about communication, communication, communication.
KEEP THE END GOAL IN DAILY VIEW.
Ultimately, my job is not what I want to be known for or what I care about most. One day my church will find another youth pastor. We’re all expendable at work. My kids however will not find another dad. The days I let that reality drift too deep down the to-do list are the days I regret the most.
STOP DIVIDING LIFE INTO CATEGORIES.
Decide this firmly. There is actually no such thing as a work life and a home life. You and I don’t have a social life or an “on-line” life. All we have is a life. We all have just one life made up of many pieces that cannot be compartmentalized. What I do at work affects home and visa versa. We all get that we can’t be in two places at once. However our souls have no compartments in them. It all bleeds together. I must say yes to some things and no to others, not trying to find some elusive thing we call balance. Balance is not my goal. Living a life that accurately reflects my deepest values is.