Finding family balance in a busier than ever world – it’s tough.
It has to be one of the most frequently asked questions I get from other pastors and leaders. Frankly, I’m glad they are asking the question. I especially see this true among the newest generation of leaders.
Cheryl, the boys and I were talking not long ago. They wanted to know how we did it? How did we keep the balance between a busy life and a healthy family life?
They knew we were busy. We had lots of responsibilities.
I was on the local city council. Served for a time as vice-mayor. We owned a small business with many employees depending on us to keep a business going which could feed lots of families. (You don’t know stress until you feel the weight of making payroll for 35-40 people every week.) I was on dozens of community committees and was active in the church, where I served as a deacon and Sunday school teacher.
Cheryl spent more time in the home than me during this season, but she also worked in our business. She served in the church. She was active leading in the schools where our boys attended – often serving as the president of the parent organization.
Yet my boys knew we rarely missed anything they were doing. Ball games. Practices. School events. Church events.
And, they felt we had lots of time for just us as a family. We ate dinner together most evenings. We threw and kicked lots of balls in our back and front yard. They felt we invested a lot of time in them.
They wanted to know how we did it – how we figured out the balance.
And, honestly, I have to admit – we didn’t really know what we were doing. We were figuring it out as we went. Plus, everything seems busier now. Travel ball. Travel dance. Social media. You know you’ve got to update your status often or your social media stats will suffer.
How do you do all you feel you have to do and still find balance?
Well, it may be harder today than 15 or so years ago, but I think the same principles we used then still apply.
Say no to some good things.
And, this is hard, isn’t it? Because you want your kids to have every opportunity they want. You want them to be exposed to lots of different things. You don’t want them to miss things their friends are doing. How can you say no?
But, sometimes as a parent you have to make the hard decisions for your kids they aren’t mature enough to make for themselves. Of course, they want to do it all. They are kids, but you have to ask yourself – is this the wisest decision for them today, based on where they need to go someday?
One day they’ll be gone and you’ll wish for more time with them. Some moms, like Cheryl, will wish you could wash some dirty clothes or pick up some socks from the floor (yea, funny how that works). Some dads, like me, will miss coming home tired from work and still getting outside to play catch.
But, right now your kids need you. More now than ever. They need your influence. And, you develop influence with them over time – when you’re with them. So, which is the greater good — another sport – another activity – or more time with you?
You’ll have to decide, but I suggest you consider the word “no”. It’s a good word. And, I would say it’s vital to having a balanced family life.
We limited the number of activities we allowed our kids to do. They got to choose, but they couldn’t choose everything. And, we said no to outside social invitations many times so we could have family time together.
Say yes to intentionality.
When you’re home be home. Turn off the phones. Put down the laptop. Turn off the television. Be radical with your scheduled time with them. And, yes, my family went on my calendar – trumping other good things.
I know this is hard also. You’re tired – and the recliner and remote are your escape. I get it. You have one more email to answer. You need to check your Facebook or Instagram posts to see who has interacted with you.
I cover this more in the next one – but since time is limited you’ve got to make the most of it. Every moment must count. Every night is another opportunity. An opportunity which quickly disappears with a fast moving calendar. (If there is one thing I hear empty-nest parents say it is they got to this stage quicker than they thought they would. Time passes fast.)
And invest in your marriage too. Intentionally shut everything down often enough so you stay connected. Yes. It’s crazy. It takes time away from an already busy schedule. But , it’s life giving to the marriage and your sanity.
We weren’t perfect at this, but our boys knew they had our attention. One example, I didn’t play golf for years – even though I loved the game – because my boys never took an interest in it. I thought time was better spent with them. We didn’t turn on the television every night – and not for long periods on the nights we did.
Be creative with your time.
You’ve got to learn to use teachable moments. Learn to love the activities your child loves. Throw balls together. Learn to love dancing at home. Play with action characters. Build science projects together (oh I hated those – miss them now). Use bedtime and dinnertime and breakfast time – and car circles – and trips to the garbage dump – whatever you have, whatever it takes, use the time you have with your children well. Use it creatively.
There isn’t one moment to spare when you’re intentional in raising a busy family. Not one moment. Intentional is the key word in the last sentence. You have to be intentional. And, it is hard work, but the rewards are worth it. Every. Single. Time.
We didn’t really do family devotion times in our home. It didn’t work as well for our boys. But, we talked about God’s Word, principles of life, values we should hold as followers of Christ – along the journey of life. Every time a ball was in the air I knew I had a captive audience with two eager soon-to-be men. And, I took advantage of the opportunity. I knew it would pass too soon.
You can find the balance<. It is hard. There's nothing more important.