“There is one kind of robber whom the law does not strike at, and who steals what is most precious to men: time.” Napoleon I, Maxims, 1815
Regardless of whether Secretariat’s owner was as successful in her parenting as she was in her horse ownership, the question from yesterday remains: Can it be done? Can a mother (or father) do huge things (hobbies, careers, ministries, anything can become “huge”) that require so much time away from home (as in seventy to a hundred hours a week or gone away from home for weeks or months at a time) and still be available for her children during their formative years?
We were faced with a similar dilemma about a dozen years ago—though not nearly as huge as working/living in another state part time for four years as the family in the movie appeared to be faced with. Ray’s job as a plant manager was unbelievable. He always worked sixty hours every week—and sometimes worked seventy or eighty hours (with occasional hundred hour weeks during problem times). We arranged our family life around his work—and made it doable during the older children’s childhood. However, now we had a fifteen year old and a twelve year old—and Mom as the primary teacher/child trainer twelve to fifteen hours a day with Dad’s teaching and input for an hour in the morning and a couple of hours in the evenings and Saturday nights and Sundays just wasn’t going to result in the family life we desired for our teens.
We made a tough decision to have Ray leave his career and take a “normal” eight to five job as a middle manager in a small plant. It resulted in a thirty percent salary cut (without even considering large bonuses that were possibilities with his former position). It meant giving up a brand new company car, company phones, and a huge house that we (especially me!) loved. And yet, it had to be done.
We have lived in our little house for a dozen years now—and still drive old, unappealing vehicles. We are, however, rich in books, learning, love, education, family times, spiritual training, character development, and relationships.
Obviously, not everybody will need to switch careers in order to be the Christian parent he or she needs to be at certain ages in his or her children’s lives. That is not the point. The point is…are we willing? Will we examine our lifestyle, our time, our money, our efforts, our hobbies, our “things”—in order to see if they are consistent with what we want, what God wants—or even with what we say we want?
So many good things have come from our decision to leave Ray’s demanding career: strong, close family relationships; Ray’s huge involvement in the raising of our teens; the ability to be with our children in their areas of interest—formerly speech and debate and currently drama and disability ministry; the starting of our publishing company and family ministry several years ago; unspoiled children who have had to work hard for things; an amazing marriage because I get so much time and attention; and much more.
Our children’s years at home (especially the relationship-intense ones from about ten to twenty) are short, really. We can do “big” things, like have successful, consuming careers; make lots of money; and more when our kids are grown (if we choose to). But our kids will only be at home for these years. How much are you being called to give up to be the effective, available parent you need to be? It might be something as small as a hobby or time-intensive friendship. It might be something as big as a career and large home. Listen to that still, small voice and heed its direction. You will not be sorry you did!