Everywhere I look there is an article on work-life balance, juggling a family, or how to be a better parent. Unfortunately, a lot of it seems to be crap. I have a theory that most of this stuff is written by people with all sorts of degrees and letters behind their name, but they have no idea what reality looks like. They are just repackaging the same stuff they learned in school.
Don’t let schooling interfere with your education. -Mark Twain
But until you’ve missed the school bus and had to jump in the car to chase it down the street (happened to me last week!) or had to use a vacation day because your child was sick or didn’t know if that brown spot on the kitchen floor was chocolate or poop, you can’t talk to me about work-life balance!
I am an unashamed, unapologetic family man.
Being a husband and father is one of my greatest joys. Try to take my faith or take my family and you might as well take my life. Those are most precious to me.
I’ve adopted a philosophy that you should consider adopting as well. It isn’t always easy, it causes some issues from time to time, and it is greatly misunderstood by a lot of people. But if you have the courage, you should join me in living Family First!
Living a Family First life
Yes, I said courage. It will take courage because our culture tells us that everything else is more important. Even in the Ashley Madison debacle, did you notice their tagline? “Life is short. Have an affair.” Hey, family doesn’t matter, only your needs! Do what you want. Put yourself first. Now, that may be the extreme case. But how many other messages do we see every day that are parallel to that thinking?
The truth is, this world will try to suck you dry. It wants every ounce of your energy, creativity, and ambition. If you are going to adopt a “Family First” mentality (and you should!), you’re going to have to fight for it. At first, it may seem easy. But a time will come when you are going to have to decide, work or family. This opportunity [or] family. This relationship [or] family. Success defined by the world [or] success defined by my family.
But here is the key. To truly have a Family First philosophy, you don’t decide later, when the choice is in front of you. You decide today. You make the decision to live Family First and later, when the difficult decision has to be made, you will realize something very important. You’ve already made up your mind.
To help you in your choice to live Family First, let me offer four reasons to choose this life.
4 Reasons to live Family First
Here are four reasons you should adopt a Family First philosophy.
Your First Calling
We all have a calling, a purpose. If you’re a Christian, you probably believe in God’s will for your life. We have different words and phrases to say it, but it comes down to this: There is a certain way we should live our lives. There is a path set out before us. We have a role to play in this world.
Actually, you may struggle with knowing what God’s will is for your life or what your purpose is. Many people do. But I can answer part of that question. Your first calling, before anything else, is to your family. You may be called to accomplish great things in this life. You may be a world changer. Who knows what God ultimately has in store for you. But I can be certain of this: His first calling for you is to your family.
Let’s play this out a bit. We would probably agree that pastors would be important to God. Hey, they are in charge of sharing His Word with the world. That’s a huge responsibility. So, it would be easy to guess that for pastors, God would want them to put their ministry above everything else, right! After all, they have a “higher calling.”
Well, you’d be wrong. 100% completely, totally, wrong. God (through Paul) makes something very clear:
“He [overseer or pastor] must manage his own family well and see that his children obey him, and he must do so in a manner worthy of full respect. (If anyone does not know how to manage his own family, how can he take care of God’s church?)” 1 Timothy 3:4-5 NIV
God makes one thing clear. Take care of your family first. If you can’t do that, you can’t complete the other callings He has for your life. No matter if you are a pastor, a teacher, a plumber, a lawyer, or a programmer, your family is your first calling.
Your Greatest Legacy
We all want to leave our mark. For men, leaving a legacy is hardwired to our psyche. This is why ancient cultures highly valued having a male heir. They needed to carry on the family name, the legacy.
Today, we want to carry on a legacy of our work, our career, and our art. We want the world to remember the mark we’ve made. I’m right there with you. I’m hugely ambitious. (This is one of the greatest misunderstanding of the Family First philosophy. Just because you choose to be a family man doesn’t mean you are a push-over in every other area of life. Those that are the most successful in multiple areas of life have figured this out. Michael Hyatt comes to mind as a great example of this principle. He has as million dollar business!)
Your greatest legacy, more than your work or wealth, is the values and lessons you hand to your children. Every business article I read is how to 10x your business. You know how I’m going to 100x my impact? Through the legacy of my children and (later!) grandchildren and great grandchildren. My purpose and value will live on through them.
Invest now in your future legacy.
Your highest (yes, highest!) priority
My family is, hands down, my highest priority. This is a foreign concept in our world. (But what about God?! Isn’t He our highest priority? I answer that question right here. For now, simply think about everyday life.) It is such a foreign concept, in fact, that we rarely think of our family responsibilities anymore. Responsibilities involve work and other extra-curricular activities. That is where we have to put in the hours, our time, effort, and energy. But family is just family. That’s just where I live. But it’s not. Family is never just anything.
Paying bills, living on a budget (still a struggle!), grocery shopping, feeding my children, paying taxes, cleaning the house, investing in retirement, investing in college… These are responsibilities. But are these really more important than work? Is family really the highest priority? What if I lose my job for putting my family first? Then how can I provide for my family?
If your job consistently makes you choose between it or family, GET A DIFFERENT JOB! I said it would take courage. Do not sacrifice your family for your job.
The Family First rule of keeping your family the highest priority does have one important principle. And this principle is another one of the great misconceptions of the Family First mentality:
Just because family is your highest priority, it isn’t your only priority.
People mistakenly think that if you put your family first you live in this bubble where nothing else matters. That’s ridiculous. I have a lot of priorities. I have a job. I have a website. These things require time, energy, and money. I don’t live with my head in the sand. Sometimes I need to say “no” to my family because of these other areas of life. But here is the key difference to a Family First philosophy. When I need to choose between family and some other area, I involve my family in the decision.
I am not a lone wolf (a wolf pack of one!). Too many men make decisions and then inform their wives of the choice. That isn’t a conversation. That isn’t a relationship. Sure, we all have schedules. When I have a mandatory meeting at work after hours, I simply keep my wife informed of my work schedule. But for any decision that is a decision, it needs to be made together. Sometimes we choose family. Sometimes we choose an opportunity I have at work or with Phosphorus. But the point is, we made the decision.
Your deepest relationships
The time of the “lifelong career” is dead. Fifty years ago, you finished school and got a job at a local business. If you were lucky, this job came with benefits and a pension. College was just starting to become a trend and only for the wealthiest of families. You found a good job, you settled down, and you stayed there. You put in your time.
That doesn’t exist anymore.
Not only do people change jobs frequently (average tenure is 3 years and lowering), but employers are no longer loyal to their employees. In this shifty (there’s an “f” in there) economy, businesses are closely watching their bottom line and cutting anything that will help that line increase. Including you.
Yet! Even though we know this, we still have the tendency to treat our work relationships as they are the most important relationships. I’m not talking about being friends with your coworkers. I mean that when it comes to pleasing our boss or pleasing our wives, we choose our boss. “Can I stay late… Again? Um, sure!”
But your boss won’t be in your life in a few years. Hopefully your wife will be!
I had a boss that was a perfect example of this. For three years, I looked up to this man. He wasn’t just a boss, but a mentor. We developed a strong relationship and worked closely on several big projects. I enjoyed working with him. Then it came time for me to leave. I was respectful and gave plenty of notice for him to find a replacement. But after I turned in my notice, our relationship went cold. For three months, he probably only spoke three sentences to me. Always with a smile. And always when people were around. The relationship was dead. My last day fell on our staff meeting day. I thought it would be a good time to say goodbye to the staff and say “thank you.” Honestly, I was hoping for a few “we’ll miss you”‘s, as well. When I walked in the room, he looked at me and said, “Why are you here?” I stayed, anyway.
It stung. It still stings a bit. But once I was leaving, I had no more value in his eyes.
Of course, not every employer is like this. But it illustrates a point. Work relationships don’t last. I have seen so many husbands give all of their energy at work (read: workaholic, not simply working hard) only to come home and throw emotional scraps to their family. Work will take take everything if you let it, and it will give little back in return.
Family First says that we work hard (we do have to provide for our family), but we don’t burn ourselves out at work. We leave plenty of emotional energy in the tank for our families. Yes, you’ll be tired when you get home. Sit down, relax, prop up your feet. Take 15 minutes.
Then get up, help your wife, and play with your kids.
That is a Family First mentality
Adopting a Family First philosophy isn’t easy. It’s a complete mindset shift. But it’s much more natural than our “hustle at all costs” mentality that has become so popular in our culture. Family First doesn’t mean you are giving up on career success. Look at people like Chalene Johnson and Amy Porterfield that say they do not like the word, “hustle.” Yet, both women have million dollar companies. And Michael Hyatt and Jeff Goins have expressed that they have changed their mindset from a hustle mentality. Each of these examples is extremely successful, and each share the importance of family.
I encourage you to adopt a Family First mindset. No one ever says, “If I had only not given so much time to my family, I would be so much happier now!” Take courage and put your family first.