Nikki Arnold needed some thoughts for an observation paper assigned in her Lifespan Development class at Lipscomb. She asked for my thoughts on the subject of balancing family and work. I needed to write my thoughts down to organize them. This are my thoughts as I sent them to Nikki. I thought they could possibly be helpful to others.
I think an important thing that makes for good parenting when considering work as a major factor is intentionality. The normal work week for my job is manageable but the extra events and circumstances are what could threaten my family. Because of that, those are the types of work/family balancing issues that I’ll talk about. I think there are 3 ways to be intentional when balancing work and family in this way.
The first way to be intentional is to decide upon which principles will you make the decisions of work and family. My guiding principle is that God has gifted me with my children and charged me with their development in a way that I am specifically responsible for the care of their souls. While God has also blessed me with talents and abilities with which to perform work, I don’t think he micro-managed the exact job I have or related events I attend. So while children are a specific, soul-possessing gift from God, my job is really just a generic gift. Therefore I know where my first allegiance must fall: with my children and family. This is not to say that family/children always and automatically win the battle of time or circumstance. But it is to say that I hold every decision on investment of time and energy up to this first principle of specific responsibility.
The second way to be intentional is determine the amount of expected influence. I don’t mean this to sound overly-calculated and cold, but I am a critical thinker by nature. Because of that, when two events or circumstances conflict with one another, I try to decide which to choose based on the amount of influence I expect the circumstance will produce. For example, if I’m asked to be away for a weekend to speak at a youth event out of town, I weigh the amount of influence I think I can have on those teens. If I think it’s an important subject to speak on or an influential event to attend, then I’ll choose to be away from my family for that weekend. If I’m asked to be away from my family but I determine that my presence will not be of much influence, then I’ll decline in order to have the time for family. The basis of this principle is to never make a decision based on ego, self-promotion or personal amusement.
The third principle for me is reinvestment. If I’m planning to be gone for a weekend, I’ll try to spend extra time before and after the event with my family. If I take away some family time for extra work or events, I try to take time back away from work to give back to my family. A terrible mistake any parent can make is to assume that your family should have to continually sacrifice to your job. As a working parent, you must find ways to make your job sacrifice back to your family.