I have a problem… I work too much and often sacrifice the MOST important things in life for the moderately important things. I love my job (most of the time), but too often I allow my work responsibilities to take precedence over my responsibilities and privileges as a husband and father. I believe this is a problem many of us face: finding a balance between work and family life.
Right before Christmas, I read (for probably the fourth time) Andy Stanley’s book, When Work & Family Collide: Keeping Your Job from Cheating Your Family (previously released as Choosing to Cheat). Some books you read over and over, and no matter how many times you read them, you still get kicked in the rear.
Stanley’s main premise is that we all need to ‘cheat’ someone or something. We don’t have enough time to do everything we want to do or everything everyone else wants us to do. And since we can’t do it all, we need to decide who or what we are going to cheat. In other words, I will either cheat my family or my job. He defines cheating as “choosing to give up one thing in hope of gaining something else of greater value.”
A few quotes help bring this point home:
- “Before long we aren’t working to support our families. We’re working to support something far less virtuous – our egos.”
- “You do your job, you love your family. It’s when we reverse the order that the tension escalates and the tug of war begins.”
Bottom line: a lot of people can do my job. Not everyone, but many people can serve as the Director of Premarital Ministry at Watermark Community Church. Some would do a better job, some would do worse. However, only one person can be Kristen’s husband and the dad to my boys. No one can do it better. This job description is perfectly designed for me.
What I am NOT saying: Be a great dad and husband, but be a lousy employee. In fact, I’m saying the opposite. A few scriptures to help guide us:
- Ecclesiastes 9:10 says, “Whatever your hand finds to do, do it with your might…”
- 1 Corinthians 10:31 says, “So, whether you eat or drink, or whatever you do, do all to the glory of God.”
- Colossians 3:23 says, “Whatever you do, work heartily, as for the Lord and not for men…”
Be faithful to complete your job to the best of your ability. I have heard excellence defined as “doing the best job possible with what you have in front of you.” In other words, be excellent in your work, do the best you can to honor God and your employer, and go home and love the family God has given you.
The part that hits most home for me is when Andy describes what happens when one spouse passes on an unfair share of the responsibilities at home to his/her spouse. When we ask our husband or wife to carry our loads as well as theirs, it’s like handing them a very large rock to carry on our behalf. We tell them to ‘carry the rock’ and we leave and head off for work again. Yes, there are times when we serve one another and rightly put their needs before our own. The problem comes when we take advantage of the spouse and make them carry the load.
How do I know if I struggle with a poor work/family balance?
If you want to know where your loyalties lie, look at your calendar. If you struggle with finding the right balance, Stanley recommends a three-step process:
- Make up Your Mind. Decide to quit cheating at home. By the way, sometimes it’s not your job, it’s your hobby. You still must make a decision.
- Come up with a plan. Present your strategy and share it with your spouse, your community and your employer.
- Set up a test/trial for your plan. Agree to trial run your new plan, and choose to cheat in the right places!
Ultimately, the hope is that you don’t go home just because you’re committed to your family. You go home because you LOVE your family
My review of the book:
Clearly since I have read this book multiple times, I am a big fan of it. The book is easy to read, practical, and includes multiple real life examples of families who have struggled with finding the right balance between work and family. He teaches from the story of Daniel, and challenges the reader to be like Daniel, who chose to do the right thing, even when it cost him something.
I believe this book is a worthy read for moms, dads, marrieds, singles, those with kids and those without, and even empty nesters. This book helps you establish priorities and helps you put the right things in place, choosing the BEST opportunities before the good opportunities. We all cheat someone or something and can use all the help we can get to help us ‘cheat’ the right things.
The book includes discussion questions so it can be used for a men’s accountability group or a community group book discussion.
What do you love about your job? Is it the praise you receive from others? Why do you think you cheat your family in order to do a better job at work?
For those of you who end up carrying the rock at home while your spouse prioritizes his/her job over family: are you enabling your spouse? Do you need to have a conversation with him/her that you are avoiding?
Some of us cheat our jobs too much because we idolize our family and the safety of the home. How are you doing at honoring God in your job? Are you taking advantage of your flexibility and autonomy in your job?
What change would your spouse most like for you to make in your schedule?