I feel like I have been working through Work – Life Balance every day of my marriage. And of course it gets more complicated with every child. And for me, the summer months are interesting, as I work all day/evening for 77 days straight (with 4 days off.) The crazy thing is, it works! Notice I didn’t say it’s easy.
My wife Amy and I were given some strong advice from some leaders in our life when we got married. We were warned about the challenges of balancing our relationship with Jesus, our marriage, our kids, our ministry, and our careers, and our social lives. This doesn’t include how we get involved in our community. How does a young, newly married couple manage?
Well, the more couples I talk with, the more I realize that we barely manage. Most of us fail at this balance, at least for a while. But then there are moments of fresh, clean air, untainted by the difficulties in life. Man, these good times… when everything is going well… those are awesome!
Here are a few wise words of advice that have worked for us! Dads, since I’m one of you, this will probably resonate the most with you. Listen up! There are only 5. (And I’m pretty sure I stole all of these from different folks throughout the years. I can’t take credit.)
1) Leave work at work. As hard as it was to start. This has been Huge for me! We work in a laptop/ipad/blackberry world. But it will change your life if you have the discipline to pick up and leave your office, and leave everything there (obviously not your blackberry). At first I was told it was impossible. Then I tried it….and have been doing it ever since. Try it for a week… see what happens with your time with your family when you don’t work at home.
2) Family First, always. A simple principle to try to live by. We watched an older couple live adventurously with this motto, and it was inspiring. We would say this simple phrase often as we tried to prioritize our schedules. Man, it helped us make tough decisions…
3) Meet your kids where they are. Intentionally move into their lives at some point every day. This means actually getting down on your hands and knees (without your blackberry) and play with your kids. The best time to do this is right when you walk in the door. Put your stuff down, greet your wife, and get down and play with your kiddos! Maybe you can only do this for 5 minutes each one day. That’s still awesome! They will notice it and remember.
4)Go on dates. With each person in your family. Individually. I try to go on a date with Amy, Piper and Lily each month. A fun way to go about it is to shoot for birthday DAYS. For example, Piper was born on the 11th. So, on the 11th of April, we took a date to “old McDonalds.” That’s right, the golden arches! Simple, affordable, but special every month. Just for her. We call them “daddy dates”, and my girls love them.
5) Say “No” to 3 seemingly important things a week. Believe it or not, one of my former bosses told me this one. If you feel like you are getting pulled in too many different directions, then you probably are. Say no to people. And remember to put your family first. By the way, it might help if you keep track of the 3 things you say no to each week. Try texting them to your wife, she’ll like to hear about them. And remember, these things will seem (and may be) important. Say no.
Like a Rubber Band. Like all practices, you can’t do them all 100% of the time, so just relax. Treat all this like a rubber band: be flexible, stretch it out when you need to. But remember, a rubber band always returns to it’s original shape. (Or if you are really with it… like a Silly Band.)
I hope these practical things help bring Balance to your life. When I am doing things like this, I find that I have more time with Jesus and can listen to what he wants me to be doing. And that is something I don’t want to loose sight of…
Husband to Amy, Dad of Piper and Lily
Ridgecrest Summer Camps