When Work and Family CollideBlog / Produced by The High Calling
As our children got older, it only got tougher trying to manage everything.
Infants: Okay, not enough sleep, but no big deal. It's off to work in the morning as normal.
Toddlers: They start talking and awkwardly waddling around. Uh-oh, now it's getting a little more difficult to leave those cute faces every morning.
Junior high: "Dad, how can God be one when there are three of them hanging around?" Uhhh…just a minute. Here are all of those "How to be a Great Business Manager" books, but where did I put that commentary . . . ?
First date (with an older boy): Yikes! Why did I spend all of those late hours at work when I should have been talking to my kids?
Most of us deal with frustrations and high anxiety at work every day. But as a parent with two kids, I discovered trying to juggle between being responsible at work and being a good parent produced a good deal of additional anxiety—and guilt.
I don't have any easy answers. But with kids now in college, I can look back and see the big picture a little more clearly. As a young dad, I often envisioned big events as the route to good parenting. Nice vacations, big Christmas celebrations—they all helped and are today fond memories. However, I discovered the little things often made the big difference in our daily life. Here are three "little things" for parents who are looking to balance work and family:
1) Write a personal note. Forget email. Turn off the cell phone or Blackberry. Handwrite a personal note at least once a week to your kids. It doesn't have to be much. A word of encouragement. Praise for achievement. But resist preaching to them—as parents, we do a lot of verbal correcting most of their young lives. These should be notes of compassion, grace, and love. This is a time to say I care enough about you that I will take time out of my busy, crazy day to handwrite a personal note just to you.
2) Play a game. I know games aren't for everyone. However, there was something about playing games that always brought us together as nothing else did. So, we always tried to play at least one or two games every week, from the time they were small up until they left for college. Games made us laugh, made us talk to one another, made us somewhat vulnerable—and our kids loved seeing a human side of their parents. I could lecture them all day about the virtues of doing homework, but during games we actually talked to one another. As a sidenote, when our kids went away to college, they taught all of their new buddies how to play the same games we played as a family.
3) Pray together. As with many young parents, we prayed with our toddlers at night before going to bed. But for us, the tradition kept going. As the years passed, I've watched my children go through many different growing-up phases. We often had stressful disagreements on what they should and should not do. I said "to-may-to," and they wanted to say "to-mah-to." But for a few minutes every night, we became united under God in prayer. It's amazing to me even now: Such a simple spiritual exercise that required only a few minutes. Yet it became a place where we felt "together," and somehow, for a few minutes, the disagreement on whether to go to a Friday night party with friends seemed a distant issue.
As a parent with grown kids, I can tell you that it never gets easy. But, be encouraged. Sometimes God uses the little things to do far more than we imagine.