Disclaimer: I realize, up front, that not everyone is in the position that I am. Not everyone values the same things I do. Nor does everyone believe the same things that I do. But you, dear reader, are on my personal blog. You have been warned. 🙂
There’s been a lot of tweets, chatter, blog posts and conversation the last few years about work and the balance between work and family.Recently, even Jeff Chandler at WP Tavern took a shot at opening up more discussion of the family first mantra after hearing a talk about it at Prestige Conference. While I see many of my friends and peers moving in the right direction, it would appear that America overall is moving in the wrong direction. While I definitely do not judge those who must or enjoy working 40+ hour weeks, I have found that it isn’t appropriate for me, all the time.
What I mean is that I’m working very hard on slowing down. Being with my family. Focusing on my mental, emotional, physical, and spiritual health. But this doesn’t mean that I quit my job and have become a hermit. In fact, part of the decision to write this post came from working a 70 hours week recently in order to launch a massive, complex project. We launched and I got to see a great team come together and do something incredible. Was it tiring? Yes. Was it worth it? Yes. Am I super excited to be back to normal and get to invest more in my family this weekend? Yes.
Family first is a mantra that has been heard by most in the last few years. While I think it is a positive idea, I think that it is often misunderstood. Family first doesn’t mean family first always or family only. Andy Stanley, a noted author, speaker, and pastor, has a book that I love called, “Choosing to Cheat.” The basic idea of the book is that we have a limited amount of time but an unlimited amount of requests for time and energy. We are going to have to “cheat” something out of time and energy. He encourages you to make sure you cheat more on work than family. But this doesn’t mean you always “cheat” work. Sometimes you have to invest in work in order to be able to invest in family. It’s a balance. I make a very comfortable living and am very blessed to be able to provide for my family at the level that I do. I’ve worked very hard and been given much. While I don’t necessarily call it family first, I do live by a set of boundaries that mean my family should be getting more time and energy than my job.
A little of my family first story
To give you some background, I have to go back to my first development job out of college. I worked for a large church in Virginia that was able to pay for their first full-time web developer as a part of the IT department. That meant on any given day I could be coding PHP or laying ethernet cable. I was newly married and grateful for full-time, benefitted work. I also had an incredible boss who is still a family friend. I was able to work from home a few days per week and wasn’t held to a 40 hour work week. Get the job done and enjoy time away. To this day, I am extremely grateful for that first experience. It helped shape my views on the industry as well as what work should look like in a major way.
Next, I moved to a much higher paying job in the advertising industry. While the job was fast paced and allowed me to work on some extremely high-profile clients, it came with long hours and a stressful, protracted commute. I worked with insanely smart people and was able to lead our company in all of our WordPress development efforts. But my wife and I welcomed our second little girl into the world during this time and I was home 30 minutes before bedtime each night. This became increasingly unacceptable to me. So I made a change.
While not for everyone, working from home has become the solution that works best for me and my family. It allows me to work hard but be engaged with my family throughout the day. It also does away with a stressful commute that takes up even more time. I see my wife and girls now more than I ever have. No, my life isn’t perfect. Yes, we get on each others nerves at times. Yes, I still work late some days. But we’re working on it. I’m learning to invest time and energy into the things that matter. My health. My wife. My children. AND my work.