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In A Circle of Quiet, Madeleine L’Engle wrote:

During the long drag of years before our youngest child went to school, my love for my family and my need to write were in acute conflict. The problem was really that I put two things first. My husband and children came first. So did my writing. Bump.

The conflict—or collision—of work and family summed up in a word: Bump. Ouch. Yet we're often stuck trying to get it all done without compromising family or work. Is it even possible?

Enlarge my Time

J. B. Wood of Shrinking the Camel wondered how to get it all done, with no clear solutions for dealing with the family-work conflict:

The other day I asked a friend for prayer. The exact words I used were “for God to enlarge my time.” I know that is not really a fair request, expecting that God might bend space and time just for my own sense of personal productivity. But the many obligations and opportunities have been weighing on me... There is the stuff that goes along with my job, of course, which keeps growing and getting more challenging. But there is also a long list of other things that I want to do, because they are good opportunities: more writing, blogging and speaking on this subject of integrating work and spiritual life, for instance. And then there is my family - investing time into my marriage to keep it fresh and strong; and being a good father to my two teen-age daughters who need a strong model of good character now more than ever...

Trim the Day

HCB Book Club selection Loving Monday (by John D. Beckett) inspired discussions about the need to balance family and work. L.L. Barkat of Seedlings in Stone wondered:

While Beckett talked about the need to balance family and work, in some ways adding even more responsibilities to a person's mental plate, I considered whether there might be a subtle alternative. Stop trying to balance it all, and just trim the "all", on both the business and family side of things. Heck, not just business and family, but also spiritual and recreational.... In How the Mighty Fall, Jim Collins notes that companies who are doing well sometimes get "insulated by success" which...can lead to an undisciplined pursuit of more... "[O]verreaching better captures how the mighty fall." And this is why I didn't feel guilty on Sunday when I missed church because we missed the time change...It felt good to have trimmed the day, and I wondered why I had to wait for a mistake to make it happen.

Family as Foundational

Lyla Lindquist of A Different Story spent several days in a friend's old farmhouse as a family laid to rest their father, her friend:

[Melvin's] obituary sits in my peripheral vision as I type, reminding me of the man he tucked away behind his quiet humility. An accomplished scholar with sprawling international research credits, he jumped at the chance to come home from his work in Nepal and run the family farm.To be, as the poem that graced the cover of his memorial service program quipped, just a farmer. Just a farmer. I suppose that’s right, if by just a farmer you mean just a farmer and a husband. Just a farmer and a father. Just a farmer and a follower of Christ. Just a farmer and a friend. Just a farmer and a teacher. Just a farmer, indeed. I’m told he came home to the farm because he loved the farm. And I know I’m speculating, but I reckon it had at least a little to do with family too. Because I’ve seen the man with his family. I’ve seen the love, and I’ve seen the heritage of faith, and I can’t imagine he’d have traded the warmth of his home and his family for any prestigious research gig anywhere in the world.

A Sustainable Life

In the comments of Tightrope, Maureen of Writing Without Paper advised:

It takes courage to take responsibility and walk away from a job that conflicts with your sense of authenticity, to say no to yet another invitation, to make a point of having dinner together every evening, to stay home and raise a child, to turn down a promotion if it means you’ll spend your life in airports and hotels, to turn off the computer/BlackBerry/computer and try just being in a room and talking together... The solution to achieving balance, if balance in fact is what you want, is not in any book or anywhere on the Internet. It rests with each one of us individually making our own decision to create a life that’s sustainable. And a life that’s sustainable is whatever life each of us wants for ourselves and also for others...balancing (and for me that doesn’t mean making sure the scale is even on both sides) work with family requires that I be intentional enough to say no to whatever takes away the joy life brings.

I've tried to live that way, turning down opportunities to live a sustainable life. And it's worked well, for the most part. Our family lives a relatively slow and simple life. But it does seem that just when I discover a rhythm and approach that works, something changes. Then, before I know it, family needs once more slam into work deadlines: Bump.

  • How do you handle the collision of work and family?
  • How have demanding seasons of work affected your family life?
  • Is your current pace "sustainable"?
  • What changes have you already made—or what changes could you make—to create a more sustainable life? Have you "trimmed your day," for example, and simplified?

Post by Ann Kroeker.