"I stopped following millionaires a few years ago. Instead, I started following men and women who seem to have their personal lives in order. A long lasting marriage, children who respected them, and a good name in the community. Interestingly, many of these folks happened to be millionaires as well." -Dale Partridge-
As I laid with my daughter at bedtime the other night, we were chatting like we also do. I am not sure what started it or how it came up, but she asked, "What was I like as a baby?" My mind was blank. I could not think of anything. I then remembered a picture that we have hanging in our house where her and her brother were treating me like a bull in a rodeo, I responded, "You used to like to crawl on me a lot." She giggled and rolled over to go to sleep. I, on the other hand, was up for hours, ashamed.
My kids are now 9 and 6 and I wonder where the time has gone. I have spent most of my life working long days to provide. While we were scrambling to get out of debt, I was working from sunrise to sunset. After we had most of the debt paid off, I kept working 14+ hour days. I would teach all day, coach, and then mow lawns. I worked 7 days a week once we added signs to our business. The years have flown by and my kids are getting older and I missed most of their baby years.
Balancing business and family is something I have done very poorly over the last several years. I am driven and focused and when I get set on something it is typically hard for me to get out of "the zone." I work hard so my family has a roof over their heads, food to eat, toys to play with, etc. While I was chasing dollars, my kids were chasing me. Wondering where I was, when I would be home, why I was so focused on my phone or computer and not them.
MY DILEMMA: If I do not work endless hours, I will not make money to provide for my family. If I do not take time out of my work, I will not have a family to provide for.
That doesn't mean I expected my family to pack up and leave. It simply means I will not create and grow the relationships with my family and give them the attention they deserve. Eventually, they will grow to resent my decisions.
7 IDEAS TO BALANCE WORK AND FAMILY:
1. LISTENING While I am emailing, texting, blogging, or researching at home, my kids, wife, and even dogs work hard to grasp my attention. I usually nod, say okay, or get frustrated because I am trying to focus on my task. Listening to all of them is something I am trying hard to improve, but I have a long way to go. I learned I was missing out on my kids' lives, as their stories and questions begin to define who they are, and it is my job to help foster and guide that. When I say LISTEN, I mean listen. I try to respond with something fruitful or meaningful rather than "that's nice." Since I have been working to improve this area of my life, I have found that what my family has to tell me is usually meaningful, our relationships have grown, and my frustrations have declined. I am still not a great listener, but I am striving to be. Listen to your family, you might learn something. 2. UNPLUGGING I read a 2014 article that stated the average American spends 40 minutes per day on Facebook. 40 x 365= 14,600 minutes per year. Put the electronics down and do something productive with your family. Kids need their parents to engage with them at home. My computer, phone, and television have hindered my relationship with my kids. My son will be the first to say, "He is always on his phone." I have been so bad on my phone that my kids lecture me! Emails, texts, phone calls, etc. are not going anywhere. They will be there after you enjoy time with your family. Facebook is not going anywhere, but kids grow, mature and leave. Don't miss out!
3. FOLLOW THRU Too often I tell my kids that I will do something with them, and something "more important" comes up and I choose it over my children. We try hard to encourage our children to follow thru with their promises. I did not realize how much I did this until my son brought it to my attention. I had no rebuttal other than to think how hypocritical I am. My kids are not asking me to engage in reconstructive surgery or house demolition. They want me to throw the football, kick a soccer ball, go fishing in the river at our home, all very simple tasks. Actions speak louder than words. Follow thru on your promises!
4. CAN IT WAIT? I was listening to Jeff Danker speak a few weeks ago. A great speaker and human being to learn about if you ever have a chance. He said, "I told my corporate sponsors that at 5:30 pm I will not answer emails or calls that have to do with work because that is my family time." (not word for word but something similar). One would think that this had a negative impact on his business, but it was the exact opposite. His business progressed as did his family life. Can the task that is "more important" than my family time wait until tomorrow? The answer should always be, YES! I have always put my family off for my work, but in reality it should be opposite. If the people you are doing business with do not honor your time with your family, are they worth doing business with? Old habits die hard, and I still put work over my family. I have to fight to not use family time to work, and am improving in this area. There is a time for work and a time for family.
5. TAKE YOUR KIDS ALONG FOR THE RIDE While I was teaching, I was mowing lawns in the summer (still am...ha). In order to save on daycare costs, I began to take my kids with me. At the time, it was more of an inconvenience for me and I was just trying to save money, but over the last three years it has evolved into way more than that. My kids have began to build a strong work ethic. My 9 year old son had been itching to push a lawn mower, build signs, and produce products to sell. He is now attempting all three. When we mow, my daughter picks up sticks at nearly every yard. She counts them, tells me how many and then we do the math on how much money I owe her. My kids have grown from an inconvenience to grasping the concept of hard work, math, personal relationships, money management, and more. They understand why I am so busy and why I am on the phone or computer. They understand, but they still need me to be their dad at home. Guiding your kids about the importance of work is important, but do not make it their entire childhood. Help them understand there is a balance.
6. HELP YOUR WIFE/HUSBAND I always knew my wife did a TON to keep our family afloat, but I never fully appreciated it. My wake up call came about 6 weeks ago when my wife had hip surgery. I had to take on all her domestic duties including caring for her. It was not until then that I fully understood the rigors of what my wife does for our family, while working full time. I was usually working or was "too tired" to help with the inside chores around the house. After going through 4 weeks of doing nearly everything, I realized that I need to take the time to help. I am officially the launderer of our home. Helping out more around the house will give you more free time with your family. SECRET: Wives love it when their husbands help out. Divide and conquer household duties between your entire family. This will save time and energy and give you more time for the things that matter!
7. BECAUSE YOU NEVER KNOW.... So far in my family, we have been healthy. But I have watched other families struggle through cancer, unexpected deaths of loved ones, disease, complications and the list goes on. My heart goes out to those families that have had to endure those struggles. These families were living "normal" lives and were blind-sided by these catastrophic events. I do not know what is going to happen tomorrow. God forbid one of my kids or wife were diagnosed with something that currently has no cure. During the rigors of life, we often forget the blessings in our lives. Our lives could turn at any moment, and it is imperative we cherish the time we have and the family we have around us. Don't take your family for granted because you never know!
Let every part of your life have its time and place. Make certain there is ALWAYS time for the ones you love and who love you back!