Monday, June 04, 2007

What Can A Dad Do About Balancing Work And Family?

Last month we kicked off a ten-part series entitled, “What Can A Dad Do About…?” based on the top critical issues facing the Christ-following family in America today that were determined by a survey produced by Lifeway, the Southern Baptist Convention’s publication entity.

“Balancing Work and Family” is a growing problem in American homes where dads and moms find that, because of the demands of their work, they are not able to give “their best selves "to their families. Work life “bleeds” into family life and robs it of its rest and joy. This phenomenon has been described as “the rising pressure to invest more of one’s energy in work at the expense of family.”

One frustrated mother describes it this way, “Mom comes home tired, Dad comes home tired. Family life suffers-nutrition suffers, homework for school suffers, kids must make decisions for themselves that a parent should make for them. Too much emphasis on material things, not godly things…”

Of course, before the Industrial Revolution, work and family life were integrated, since the home was the center of production for most families. Back then, spending more time at work also meant spending more time with the family. The difference for the pre-Industrial Revolution family was that the family’s work actually brought them together rather than drive them apart.

In this series, with God’s help, I desire to show that the sovereign God has placed our families wherever we are in 2007, amidst these very real challenges. I believe that these issues are not problems to be solved, but rather opportunities to be seized by Christ-following families for the Heavenly Father’s glory and His kingdom.

Also, it is my belief that each of these challenges that families face have deep spiritual roots. As husbands and fathers we have been called to be the spiritual servant-leaders of our families; we are not the hapless victims of circumstance that the media often portrays us to be. We CAN do something about each of these issues.

When we consider the issue of work and family balance, I contend that the biggest lie that the enemy has deceived us with is “the Comparison Trap.” Comparison drives us in our work lives and tempts us to feel perpetually dissatisfied because we compare ourselves with the “ghosts” of our fathers (memories of what our fathers did for a living), the images in our media, the successes or failures of our peers, siblings, co-workers and neighbors.

Think about it. What is the first thing we usually ask each other when men seek to get to know one another? That’s right. “What do you do?” There is genuine and legitimate motivation behind asking that question as it often helps men to better relate, but the question also can have a more sinister side. Comparison. “What do you do?” Can be heard, “What is your value to society, prestige, financial net worth, earning power, power and influence?” I have always envied the guys who can just say, “I’m a surgeon”…or “I’m a CEO of a Fortune 500 company”...or “I’m an astronaut and I’ve walked on the moon.” You see these jobs carry plenty of prestige and need no explanation.

The problem with seeing our work through “comparison glasses” is that it makes us feel insecure, like we are precariously perched on a pinnacle and we are dangerously close to falling off to either side.

On one side is the lie of my own superiority. That is, in comparison, I feel better than someone else based on the work that I do. That can fuel me and drive me to try to continue to maintain this false sense of superiority. I become a slave to this “god” that gives me what I want. My best energy will go to where this god is served, which is the workplace. This comparison-driven attitude can cause me to put my greatest focus in the workplace where the comparison game is played and to over commit at work. My family will receive my “emotional leftovers.”

On the other side of The Comparison Trap pinnacle is the slope of inferiority. If I see our work in comparison to another’s as of less value to God and to my family, then I slide down the slope of the devil’s entrapment of inferiority, which leads to self-condemnation and despair. No matter how hard I work, no matter how I use my God-given talents, I believe the lie that my work is of little value or importance. When I live this lie I feel bad about myself and what I do; this can also separate me from the ones I love as I can not keep from projecting my own unhappiness on them.

It is very interesting that when the National Center For Fathering studied what it meant for a father to be an adequate provider it found that in this area of work, sometimes “less is more.” True, there was a basic level that a good provider attained for his family. However, for the well being of his family, the most important thing was that his “consistency” was more helpful to his family than the abundance he might provide.

A song written and performed by Country and Western singer, Reeba McIntyre articulates well the problem of the man who has swallowed whole the “Comparison Lie.” Here is a few lines from her song, “The Only Man I Never Knew,”

“The greatest man I never knew
Came home late every night
He never had too much to say
Too much was on his mind
I never really knew him
And now it seems so sad
Everything he gave to us took all he had”

“Everything he gave us took all he had.” Now that sums up masterfully the trap that we can fall into, doesn’t it?

So what is the truth, what antidote do we need to absorb into our thought life that will protect us from this “Comparison Trap.” Let’s label it “The Completion Truth.”

There is nothing really very hidden or secret about this truth for a man who follows Christ. He can see it plainly on the pages of the Bible. This truth states, “As a chosen, beloved, blood-bought adopted son of the Father he has been created with a unique and amazing life purpose. He has been called to offer his life back to the Father God as an expression of loving worship. He has a vital contribution to others that he is to make in the home, in the workplace, among fellow believers and in the world as a whole.”

When a man grasps this truth he sees the work sphere, not as more important than the family sphere of his life. Then, no matter what sphere he is in, whether it be the home, workplace, church or in his community, he is there not to “compare” or to “compete” in the negative sense of the word, but rather to “complete,” to serve, to offer the uniqueness of himself to others. In the home his presence as husband/father is vitally important, essential and irreplaceable.

The man who grasps this truth will see himself as a vital stone that is placed within different “buildings." His contribution is VITAL no matter where he is because he is filled with Christ and represents HIM in each context. This truth that individuals in Christ make a unique contribution to the greater whole is found in Romans 12, I Corinthians 12, Galatians 6, Ephesians 2 and I Peter 2.

So what does this really have to do with the balance of work and family? When we wearily strive under the Comparison Trap we will tend to draw our identity from our work. When we grasp the Completion Truth we will see ourselves accurately as those who always have a contribution to make to the whole: in the home, workplace or wherever we are. All of life is worship and we worship our God by serving others as He has uniquely created us. He has specially equipped us where He has placed each of us to serve.

Yes, some men will have more prestigious, more lucrative jobs than others, but as beloved sons we should be about “completion,” not “comparison.” We each have a key role to play in our families as husbands/fathers and an important part of that role is to provide for them. The work we do now is what God has called us to do in this season of our lives. We need to do it to the best of our abilities. We serve God through our work, but we cannot depend upon it to give to us only what only our Heavenly Father can give, that is a once and for all settled sense of significance through what HE has earned for us through His Son on the cross.

This perspective will enable us to say “enough” when we have worked sufficiently in the day and allow us to change gears when we need to so we can be present at the end of the day to the ones who desperately need “our best selves”…our families! Happy balancing!

What do you think about this work and family balance issue? Do you agree that today’s families face a rising pressure to invest energy in work at the expense of family? Click on comment to leave your thoughts....


Anonymous said...

I have decided that during my kids early years (birth - Jr High) that I would work part-time as a father. This working long hours is not about the kingdom..... Just my two cents

Anonymous said...

I have struggled with this ever since I have had children and have tried not to overdo my work at the expense of my marriage and family. With my wife working more (volunteering) and our children's schedules becoming busier this is a greater challenge than ever! I can relate to both the "Comparison Trap" very much. It helps to remember that ALL of life is worship and that I have an irreplaceable role in my family.

Mike said...

It is important to keep it simple. What will be the last thing on your mind before you enter eternity. Is it "I should have spent more time at the office"? Hopefully not. Man, I know that sounds harsh. Believe me. But your kid thinks you are his hero. Guys, it is so important that we sit down with our families at night and turn off the idiot box (maybe get rid of it), and ask our wife and kids how they are doing. The pursuit of money and material things can leave us with what a pastor friend of mine said to me. "I have left my wife and kids in the dust". Do you realize that when the Lord revealed this to him, his wife was saved a week later? When you take a burden off of your wife such as vacuming the floor, you may not realize it. But you are making love to her. We as believers have received the spirit of adoption. So, what better example as men do we have than "Abba Father". Take a child's example and approach "Almighty God" as "Daddy". He is grabbable. He loves you. He is nuts about you.

Anonymous said...

We as fathers need to make a deliberate effort to train our children to be good stewards of their time & money (by example & communication).
We need to live by a budget, not by our credit availability.
Love God with ALL our heart, soul, & mind. Keep His commands & He will keep His word to provide for us ALL we need.
If we live within those blessings, we won't become a slave to debt. Which satan uses to steal time from our God & our families.
If we are following Gods example, we should look different than most dads, & they should be curious how they can have a family like ours!!
God Bless

Bobby C said...

Thank you soo much to the Dad's that gave their feedback. I am sitting in my office right now @ 10:37PM. I NEED TO GO HOME To my Family. You are all right Satan would rather me be here then there an Day or Night..

In God's Grip,

Anonymous said...

Mark R. sends...

Most men give up and quit.
I did.
(dispite all commitment, knowledge & belief)
I stopped initiating.
When she quit responding, I quit initiating & let her take over the family.
* The energy it takes for family to function as God designed it, flows spiritually through the father. EVEN when you are not getting any responce to the love you offer, DO-NOT-BACK-OFF! Keep loving.