“I do the things that I don’t want to do…and I do not do the things I want to do…” Paul (paraphrased!)
We have all heard the analogy of managing life as juggling balls. We parents especially juggle and juggle, taking care not to drop the balls too often—and taking extra care not to drop the most important balls at all, if possible. Juggling balls is certainly an accurate picture of playing all of the roles that Christian moms and dads must play.
However, for many of us—and especially for fathers—our view of these juggling balls is not fully correct. You see, we have a tendency to see some of these spheres as less important than others: we often think of our kids/family as the rubber ball—the one that we can safely drop and it will quickly bounce right back up to us with no damage. At the same time, we often view the “work” ball as one that is made of glass—one that will shatter if it is dropped.
The Reishes know this all too well, for we have experienced this first hand. Like many other parents, twelve years ago, we were juggling furiously with no relief in sight. And while we were extra careful with the family ball and the work ball, we had an incorrect view of the work ball, too. It seemed so…fragile while the family ball, though we took extra care with it, seemed so resilient.
We had seven kids ages one through fourteen and an eighth little one on the way. Ray’s work was so demanding and had been our entire marriage. Up until that time, we had managed his sixty to seventy hour work weeks by my staying home most of the time and tending to the home and kids. When Ray was home, he was fully home—after all, we didn’t want to drop the family ball any more than necessary. Once our oldest became a teen and our second child was following close behind, we just didn’t see how we could keep juggling with such a demanding “work” ball that was in grave danger of shattering into a million pieces if not handled with kid gloves.
To make a long story short, our eighth child was stillborn and after my week in the hospital, a ruptured uterus, blood transfusions, and some extremely scary moments, we realized that the work ball was truly not as priceless and fragile as we had thought it to be. And we realized that the truly breakable, non-shatter-proof ball was the family one. Work was shown to be the bounce-able ball that it was—and our family was the priceless, non-replaceable one.
So we turned in the glassy, sparkling work ball for a rubber work ball. Yes, it cost more—everything truly good costs. But a forty percent pay cut, going from a 4500 square feet home to a 1400 square foot home, and the loss of a company car and other perks seemed like a small price to pay in order to keep the most important—non-rubber—family ball up in the air. It wasn’t an easy adjustment for any of us. I was used to a huge, newer house with a large schoolroom, three bathrooms, and more storage than I’ve ever seen in a home. Ray was used to being “somebody” in the company, a plant manager in an automotive plant (and prior to that, its controller). Moving into a forty-hour-per week job without all of the pressures (and accolades) of his former job was a difficult transition for him.
But we got better than ever at juggling! The career ball wasn’t so fragile anymore; the family ball was. If the work ball hit the floor, it bounced back. We became even more careful with the precious gem-like ball known as family.
Obviously, every Christian parent is not asked to give up his or her career to raise seven teens. But if you find yourself thinking of careers as the glass balls and family as the rubber one. Or you find yourself juggling furiously and continually chasing the work ball for fear that it will shatter while the family ball falls and bounces back then falls again and bounces back, you might need to examine those balls more carefully like we had to. You do get better at juggling with practice, but who wants to take a chance with such a precious juggling ball as our kids?