Your situation isn’t that different from mine. If you stayed at work until everything was finished, if you took advantage of every opportunity that came your way, if you sought out every angle to maximize your abilities, improve your skills, and advance your career, you would never go home. Your job can steal time from your marriage and family.
Likewise, if you stayed at home until every ounce of affection was poured out in all the appropriate places, if you kept giving until every emotional need was met, if you did every chore, finished the “honey do” list, and did everything necessary to ensure that everyone felt loved, you would never make it to work.
In fact, if you are a parent, you know that your kids alone could command every waking hour if you let them. Add to that your fitness goals, hobbies, and friendships. The list is endless and so are the time requirements.
NOT ENOUGH TIME
So let me take some pressure off you. Your problem is not discipline. Your problem is not organization. This problem isn’t that you have yet to stumble onto the perfect schedule. And your problem is not that the folks at home demand too much of your time. The problem is that there just isn’t enough time to get everything done that you’re convinced —or others have convinced you —needs to get done.
As a result, someone or something is not going to get what they want, need, or deserve from you —certainly not what they expect from you. There isn’t any way around it. There is just not enough time in your day to be all things to all people. You’re going to have to give in somewhere.
Our reaction to this dilemma is to answer the call of “the squeakiest wheel getting the oil.” Whoever creates the biggest mess ends up with the biggest share of our time and attention. We run from fire to fire, troubleshooting our way through life, rescuing the needy and rewarding those who can’t seem to stay out of trouble.
FAMILIES GET SECOND PLACE
Over time, our families learn that the only way to get our attention is to create a crisis. And let’s face it—it’s amazing how much time we can take away from work when our children are in crisis. Men and women become incredibly bold with their managers, company presidents, and boards when there is a crisis at home. What was once unthinkable becomes non-negotiable.
I know a CEO who spent 29 days with his wife at a Detox Center 600 miles from their home —29 days! Yet over the past three years he has done almost nothing in investing in what he’d tell you is his most important relationship. And if anyone had suggested he take a 29-day vacation in order to invest in his marriage, he would have laughed. But he did—only when he had to.
I know a contractor who almost had to shut down his business to attend to his daughter’s drug addiction. He took her from one rehab center to another, trying to find “the best medical treatment in the country.” This is the same man who could never find the time to complete an entire week of vacation with his family. Suddenly, he has the time.
Wouldn’t you do the same for your wife, your husband and your kids? Of course you would! So why wait? Instead of allowing the most recent crisis to dictate how much time you give your family, why not find a way to let your time and priorities by governed by the greatest purpose?
You’ll find that creating a healthy family environment is difficult because of the selfishness of each family member. Creating a successful career is difficult because of the competition in the marketplace. The struggles related to both of these environments could take up our undivided attention. But we don’t have the luxury of devoting our undivided attention to either since most of us find ourselves with the responsibility of both. So we’re forced to wrestle with the conflicts of home and work.
Clearly we don’t have the luxury of choosing one or the other since both are a permanent part of our lives. Both demand more attention than we have to give. Both originated with our Creator. But still, there’s not enough time to tell to get it all done. We’re going to say “no” somewhere, either verbally or through neglect.
We credit ourselves with good intentions. We know we’re guilty. But since we know we’re guilty, surely the fact that we feel bad about what we’re doing counts for something! As one young husband blurted out to his wife in his own defense, “But honey, you know my heart!” And he was right. She knew his heart. But it wasn’t his heart that had left her feeling left out from his life. It was his schedule.
Good intentions have never accomplished anything. If I run over you with my car, but it was my intention to swerve and miss you, you still have to go to the hospital. Upon hearing of my good intentions, your bones are not suddenly healed. You’re just as injured as before.
I’m going to tell you a secret about each of your family members that they’ll never tell you themselves. This is primarily because they aren’t aware of it. But it’s true and extremely important for you to know. Do you know what your family wants from you more than anything else?
“Love?” you say. That’s part of it. But it goes deeper than that. They want to feel accepted. In practical terms, they want to feel like they are your priority. “But they are my priority,” you might argue.
They may be your priority, but that’s not my point. They want to feel like your priority. It is not enough for them to be your priority. They must feel like it.
I’ll never forget discussing this point with a very busy corporate vice president. He kept assuring me of how much he loved his wife and kids. Finally I interrupted him and said, “The problem is, you love your family in your heart. But you don’t love them in your schedule. And they can’t see your heart.”
IT’S A QUESTION OF LOYALTY
For us, the chief indicator is time. Ours is tested by what we put on our calendars. Where you spend your time is an indication of where your loyalties lie. In effect, you pledge your allegiance to the person or thing that receives your time.
Are there bridges you need to burn? What are the bridges that making this decision will require you to burn? Are there accounts you need to hand off? Are there some out-of-town meetings that need to be handled on the phone? Is there an offer you need to refuse? A promotion you need to give back? Once you have made up your mind, it will become all too clear what stands in the way of your being able to focus on your commitment to reprioritize.
So what is your non-negotiable? What does it look like? Does it mean leaving the office everyday at 5:30, regardless? Does it mean never missing one of your children’s performances or ball games? What does the commitment look like in your world?
Again promising to do “better” won’t get it. You’ve already done that. That terminology doesn’t even register with your family. They’ve heard that before.
When we at last catch a glimpse of the hurt we’ve caused at home, there’s something in us that wants to fix things immediately. It’s not enough to make up our minds. We want to do something.
But the wrong actions for the right reason produce painful results. You can do the right thing for the wrong reason and end up in a worse situation than the one you left. The operative word throughout this book has been choosing, not reacting.
The fact that you have decided to make a change in your life does not necessarily mean the folks at work are under any obligation to change. There is no value in punishing your employer. Your attitude and approach should be seasoned with diplomacy and tact. Besides, the source of your frustration is not your employer. It is the decisions you have made in response to the demands of your employer and the marketplace in general. Nobody forced you to work there. It was your decision. You, not they, must bear the consequences.
CHEATING AND DECEIVING
Think and pray about reallocating your limited time assets according to your predetermined priorities. As we’ve said on several occasions, the blessings of God are never attained by violating the principles of God.
I don’t believe for a minute that God guarantees us a pay raise if we obey Him. But I do know that God honors those who place their faith in Him. Jesus summarized it this way: But seek first His kingdom and His righteousness; and all these things shall be added unto you (Matthew 6:33).
In other words, order your world around your Heavenly Father’s priorities for you. And then trust Him to fill the gaps created by your faithfulness. Instead of asking God to stand watch over family while you give to your career what belongs at home, turn the prayer around. Go home, and seek Him first. And ask Him to watch over things at work. In time, you will discover that when you prioritize correctly at work and at home, God will honor you in both arenas. Everybody wins.
Let’s face it. One day you will come home from the office for the last time. Nobody retires from his or her family to spend his or her final days in the office. Your last day may be at sixty-five when you retire. Or it could be at thirty-five when you are laid off. Either way, you are coming home. What and who you come home to will be determined by what and who you choose to cheat between now and then.
I have seen too many men and women cheat their family of giving them enough of your personal time, only to find that the companies they worked for, were not nearly as faithful to them as they were to the company.
Loyalty in the marketplace is rarely reciprocated. It is sad when a man or woman is forced out of an organization they bled for to return home to the family they have neglected.
Why give your ultimate loyalty to an organization where your value is conditioned upon your ability to perform? Why betray those whose loyalty is unconditional? And why devote so much of yourself to something you know you will leave? And why give so little time to those you will eventually come home to? It doesn’t make any sense, does it? Yet without a conscious decision to do otherwise that is exactly what most of us are prone to do.
It has been said before. It is worth saying again. Nobody gets to the end of their life and wishes that had spend more time at the office. You won’t be the first.
YOU NEED TO:
- Make up your mind.
- Develop a plan.
- Deliver it diplomatically.
- Be willing to walk.
- And then watch for God.
After all, He takes full responsibility for the life that is wholly devoted to Him.
This article comes from the book, When Work and Family Collide: Keeping Your Job from Cheating Your Family. It is written by Andy Stanley, and is published by Thomas Nelson. As Dr John Maxwell says about this book [which we agree]: “This is a life-changing book. It is extremely relevant to our modern way of life. Author Andy Stanley confronts us with truth and transparency. Just as Andy had made a commitment in his own life to balance his family time with his work, he encourages us to make similar commitments. A godly man who makes choices in his own life to never sacrifice his family for success has written it. If he wins the world but loses his family, what has he gained?” This book presents a plan for resolving the tension between work and home.
A related article, written by Christian Business Coach Steve Marr, could give you additional insights to consider as you read:
We recognize that a spouse doesn’t always have the choice as to how many hours is required to work his or her job. (Often times the company requires it.) And we recognize that there are times when a spouse may have to travel more than it is desirable. Sometimes spouses even have to live apart in distant locations because there isn’t a job available in the same town. But we encourage you, if this is the case, that somehow you find ways to build communication bridges. Line your priorities up to make your marriage and family life as healthy and strong as possible. (We have additional articles on this web site that can help you with this mission.)
If you have additional tips you can share to help others, please “Join the Discussion” by adding your comments below.
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