Working hard is a high value for most people, but sometimes that value can make our lives imbalanced and work centered. It is ok to set “hardworking” as a value, but there are some key questions that need to be asked. Why are we impressed when people admit to working at least seventy hours per week or more? What drives a person to work so hard, that at the end of the day they are so exhausted there is nothing left to give to their family? What are the contributors to being overcommitted to our jobs?
Work can become an idol that you worship morning, noon and night, and the pace can be absolutely invigorating and seemingly fulfilling. But you can only sacrifice your relationships with family, your relationship with Christ and your physical health for so long before it catches up with you. Not only do you suffer consequences that may include, stress, headaches, sleeplessness, etc. your family and relationship with the Lord may also suffer. Many families struggle due to dad and/or mom being overcommitted to their place of employment. When you are physically and emotionally exhausted there is no energy or emotional strength to give to your family. Your family is worth much more than the extra time at the office. Each day we have a limited time to spend with our children, especially when you are a working parent who needs to be away from home for most of the day.
The prime-time for most families is between the hours of 6:00-8:30 p.m. Time with your children and family should be cherished. During that prime-time do your children have your undivided attention? When I answer this question for myself, I immediately think about the first four years as a Youth Pastor in Fergus Falls, Minn. My life was out of balance. Work consumed my life; all three parts of my day (morning, afternoon and evening) were filled with work. One specific evening I remember sitting down for dinner, with my 4 children, waiting for my wife Jan to place that final dish on the table. While we were waiting my mind drifted off; I was thinking about the next sporting event I had planned to attend after supper. My body was present at the table, but my mind was somewhere else. My son, a fourth grader at that time said to me, “Dad where did you go?” He caught me in the preoccupation of thinking of something else. My family had my physical body sitting at the table but they didn’t have my focused attention. They deserved a dad who was completely engaged in the moment receiving my undivided attention.
If this problem goes unchanged your child/ren and spouse will conclude that work is more important than they are. This can cause emotional pain, relational distance and potential rebellion. Your children and spouse may start to “shut down” emotionally. It becomes easier emotionally to no longer anticipate spending time with dad or husband. It is just too hard on the family to live with the constant emotional whip lash of dad or mom not showing up or being at home in body, but not in mind. In extreme cases, the family never anticipates you being home when they need you. Be intentional with your time when you are able to be home; try to focus on your spouse and children. That focused time may include shutting off your cell phone for a blocked-off period of time, choosing to not check work email, and engaging your family in conversation/attention.
If you are that parent who is working too much you might be asking, “How do I change? If I work less will I get fired? Will people think that I am lazy?”
I want to encourage you to find some answers to these questions. The goal is to find that healthy balance between work and time spent with family. Important questions to ask are: Why am I allowing work to consume me? Why am I so worried about what other people think? Am I working long hours because there are absolutely no other options? Am I afraid to talk to my boss about needing to go home earlier? Do I feel needed and valued at work and fear failure at home? What do I fear if I work less and spend more time with my family? In the process of answering these questions pray that God would give you wisdom and courage to make the necessary changes.
Finding that healthy balance between work and time with your family is very important. You have a very short time with your children before they leave the nest, and they deserve and desire your undivided attention.