Parents, We Need to Hear This
I remember looking out my office window at all the slackers going home at a normal hour. My office window on the 10th floor looked directly at North Central Expressway. Soon the headlights turned on, and bumper-to-bumper they inched home, those slackers. With the hum of traffic to my back, I reviewed lease documents or sent emails or researched prospects. You know, important stuff.
After it was totally dark and the streets were nearly empty, I switched the light off and went home.
No one cared.
My extra hours didn't move the needle in my real estate career. It didn't earn me extra commissions or advance me in the industry. All it did was stroke my fragile ego and keep me away from my wife and son at home. Seriously, that's it.
My rationale for my late nights was providing for my family. As I hiked up my belt and puffed my chest on the empty elevator, I was proud I'd put in work for my family. College funds and houses and weddings cost money. We didn't have enough of it, so I'd make more. Simple, right?
Not really. There were 3 problems with my obsession with work:
1. Work hours have a diminishing rate of return. We're human. We cannot function at full capacity without rest, exercise, and recreation.
2. I was working to justify myself as a man. I felt worthy - even smug - for the long hours. I was feeding an anemic ego.
...This is the big one. This is what I really wish someone had told me back then:
3. Our kids don't need us to make a fortune.
Our kids will benefit more from pancakes on Tuesday morning than a large college fund. We as parents are character-builders and spiritual guides, and that takes time. Proximity matters. In the same way it's easier to throw a dollar out your window at an intersection than engage in a conversation with a homeless person, its easier to fund a family than to actually build one.
A bit of balance is needed here. One of the most important character traits our children need is a strong work ethic. They need to see mommy and daddy working hard. That's a good thing. But they need mommy and daddy more than they need mommy and daddy's money.
It all comes down to trusting that God will provide for our families. If he is the one putting food on the table, then I can pull up a chair and enjoy the feast. If he is the one putting the roof over my head, I can stop for a moment and enjoy the shelter. Am I the vehicle through which he provides for my family? Yes. But I believe if I were gone he'd provide for them another way. God uses me, and that's an honor I get bestowed upon me as a dad - but he doesn't need me.
The manna shows up. It may not taste like chateaubriand, but it is enough. It is always enough.
We must remember:
Look at the birds of the air: they neither sow nor reap nor gather into barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not of more value than they? (Matthew 6:26)
We will fail at being good parents. Daily. But better that we fail and show up for our kids than to fail by being absent and obsessed with our career.
Work hard, go home, trust God, and grab hold of those little ones.