Wednesday, September 5, 2012
I haven’t been able to keep the blog topic from a couple of weeks ago off my mind. Maybe it's because I am constantly aware of “striking the balance between work and family.” Maybe it’s because one of the main characters in my upcoming novel is teaching a parenting class. Or maybe it’s because I’ve been getting quite a few questions lately about both subjects from blog readers and podcast listeners.
This is what has been bouncing around my mind—if you have a job that you love, that usually means that what you are doing makes a difference and creates value in the lives of others. Maybe you’re a teacher, a doctor, or a stay-at-home mom. Whatever it is, it’s something that you refer to as your calling, your mission, or your purpose.
When you’ve found that work that fills you with a sense of purpose, it can become hard to pull away.
For example, over the past decade or so, I’ve come to believe that my purpose is helping others live the lives they’ve always wanted, if they only knew how. By explaining complicated things in a simple manner, that is what I work hard to accomplish in my writing and my speaking. Once I discovered that purpose, I began to take advantage of almost every opportunity I had to speak.
But I soon saw another side to the coin. If I’m supposed to get a message out to everyone I can, how will I have time to be a great husband and raise two boys? If you have something that drives you and are a spouse or parent, I know you understand this dilemma.
Being a great husband and dad are extremely important to me, but so is explaining principles to people in a way that can change their life. Often, I am presented with the opportunity to speak in front of thousands…or spend that particular time with my family. So, which one has more lasting impact: sharing a message I believe is very important with thousands of people…or spending quality time with my wife and boys? Obviously, a balance of both is best, but in the past, I was incredibly conflicted.
My heart wanted to be at home. On the other hand, I might have been offered the opportunity to speak for thousands at a single event. I wondered—did my purpose require me to put the needs of 10,000 above the needs of two boys? Simple math said, “Yes.”
Yet I also knew that being a husband and a father was a high calling. My family was also a “purpose,” weren’t they? I understood that Polly, Austin, and Adam were my priority. So I struggled hugely, caught between two “callings from God,” neither of which I could ignore. I did not have a clue how to reconcile this quandary in my mind.
Until I read an interview with Billy Graham.
He was asked, “Looking back, what is the one thing you would change about your life if you could?”
He answered, “I would have spent more time with my family.”
That was the moment I realized that the key to my dilemma was contained in a book I had already written: The Butterfly Effect. As I looked again at the principle of the Butterfly Effect, it became apparent that time spent with family is at least as important as time spent at work.
In fact, an afternoon spent with one child—the right child, YOUR child—can render more results over time than an entire day spent with thousands. When your own life’s worth is finally examined after having flapped its wings across centuries, then what your child did with his life and the people he touched will also be counted as a part of your legacy.
For you and I, on any given day, whether work takes priority over family time or family time trumps work, we still have to make a choice. I’m not sure the choice will ever be easy. Sometimes, I think I’d like to spend all of my time with my family. Then of course, I would touch no one else with my work. And we would live in a tent. Neither result would be a great example for my boys about work ethic, responsibility, serving others, or making wise decisions.
Therefore, you and I continue to struggle. But with the lesson of the Butterfly Effect renewed in our hearts and minds, we can at least find a peace about work when we are away from the family and a calm recognition of the true difference we are making when we are home.
One final note: At home, I live alongside a beautiful, smart, and witty woman. Together we love, protect, teach, discipline, and laugh at our boys, ten and twelve years old. As I continue the process of moving aside the anxiety about “what I should be doing right now with work” in order to accept and embrace every minute with my family, something else has occurred to me... The excitement, fun, perspective, and purpose I find by being “at home” creates an “Andy” who is infinitely more valuable in his work. Curious, huh?
What lessons have you learned at home that made you more effective?