A Healthy Balance of Work and Family…

My grandparents raised me for some of my childhood. I remember my grandmother picking us up from school each day. I remember my grandfather coming home from work by 5pm and my grandmother having a hot meal on the table by 6pm. There we discussed all that happened throughout our day. Most nights we even had dessert. After cleaning the kitchen, we all gathered together for some sort of evening activity such as playing cards, fishing, putting a puzzle together, etc. followed by watching Jeopardy, Wheel of Fortune, and the 8:00pm show for the night before going to bed.

Those were the good old days so to speak. What the heck happened? Somewhere along the past few decades that modest yet loving lifestyle has gotten lost in translation. It has been overridden by the desire for more. The fulfillment of family time has been traded for the demands of the workplace and the need to stay busy. The respect and admiration once given to a homemaker/stay-at-home-mom, has gone to the one who can seemingly juggle the most. The excitement of the child standing at the door waiting to greet their parent after work, is replaced with a kiss on the cheek during their night’s sleep. While the love, time, energy and devotion once given to a marriage is exchanged for idle time on social media, shopping and glasses of wine to fulfill a missing void only a spouse can satisfy.

The problem with this is we have sacrificed the sanctity of our family. We tell our children and our spouse each day where they rank in our lives based on where they fall on our priority list.  We convince ourselves that our family comes first, yet they understand full well that they are among the last. Most of our world revolves around the demands of our jobs and our household gets what is left over. Perhaps we only work 8-10 hours a day, but we drive an hour each way. Once we arrive home, we have our phones and laptops attached to our hip like a doctor on call. And we devote an entire room for our at-home office in order to accommodate the after hour requests.

Now that everyone in the house has a place of obligation, each morning is filled with the family’s individual race to their day’s destination. Peace is maintained as long as neither party oversteps their lane into the other’s. There is time for work, school, and perhaps an athletic activity to occupy each day’s agenda, off to bed and then repeat…

I believe most parents and spouses have good intentions. You will hear the frequent reflection, “I just want to give my family the life I never had.” I appreciate that effort. However, what was so bad about living in a 3-bedroom 1-bathroom house? What was so bad about homecooked meals? What was so bad about hand-me-downs and DIY projects for the family? If it means more time with YOU? I know the comforts of life cost money. I understand raising kids is a huge expense, and the price of living requires us to work for sure. But judging by the value of our cars, size of our houses, brands of our clothing, updates on our gadgets, I’d say it’s looking a bit more like selfish ambition vs. the desire to provide.

I hope everyone fulfills their desires. I hope we advance in our careers, pursue higher level degrees, start businesses, all that. But I pray it is not at the expense of our families. It was not easy on my ego to step away from a teaching career I loved dearly. I worked so hard to earn that master’s degree and was doing very well in my journey. But when the demands of the career interfered with the increasing requirements of my family, I had to shut it down. Sure, it has been a MAJOR sacrifice. Especially financially. But I realized I had to prioritize my assignment as a wife and mother. It had to come first. Here I am 5 years later, it has been one of the best decisions of my life.

After almost 20 years of marriage and raising 2 children, I would say there were two main decisions we made early on that helped preserve the balance of home and work life:

  1. We built our budget and livelihood on one salary. Though every force in our world told us to borrow and spend the max, we only used my husband’s salary as a base for our purchases.  This decision gave us the wiggle room to make financial adjustments for our family when necessary. It protected us during times of recession when companies decided to make major cuts in salaries, raises and health care. It made it much easier to step away from my teaching job when the demands of our family increased. Though it meant a smaller house than what we could have gotten, we didn’t miss a beat and it proved to be a MAJOR benefit for us all.
  2. Protect “peak time.” Most kids are in school for about 7 hours each day. From the time they get home from school until they go to bed is peak time. Weekends are included in this. As for us, we make sure we are present during their peak time. I put away my phone and give them my undivided love and attention. I show them they are my priority. Similarly to the time I found so sacred with my grandparents, we eat together each night, we discuss the events of our day, and we spend quality time engaging in activities we all can enjoy. It has proven to help maintain the sanctity of our union and helps us all keep things in perspective.

Whether we choose to work full-time or part-time; whether we are a stay-at-home parent, or even a single parent, we have to maintain the preeminence of our family.  They have to know they come FIRST in our lives. We communicate this each day by the decisions we make to secure their seat in our agenda. I love all the women’s empowerment movements. I celebrate the advancements in career and education. I even understand the idea of providing the best life we can for our children. However, we have to acknowledge that the “best life” for our children and spouse is a balanced life. One where they are safe and secure. One where they can learn and grow and feel loved and celebrated. One where honor and respect abound, and priorities are intact. When our families are healthy and whole, the need for gadgets, high-ticket items, approval from others diminish. They are secure in the love that is cultivated in the home and will go out and do amazing things in their journey. I pray you cultivate a healthy balance between work and home and that you are intentional about making the necessary adjustments to not only saying your family comes first but showing them that they do. Blessings to you. 😊

Attention: All Husbands of a Stay at Home Mom…

Hello Husbands,

First of all, hats off to YOU for making the selfless decision to put your family first. In an age when everyone wants to pursue an extra income, opportunity and status, you have chosen to work together with your wife making sacrifices to ensure the BEST care for your family. Hats off further for earning a wage and/or choosing a lifestyle where you can afford to do so. Simply put… YOU THE MAN!!!!! 🙂

That being said, unfortunately, what tends to happen during this process, is though you are satisfied with the outcome of your wife being at home, (your kids are well behaved, healthy, happy, safe and brilliant) you can sometimes overlook the effort it takes to get there. To help your AWESOME self, avoid making this AWFUL mistake, I have two simple ideas for you to consider when dealing with your stay at home mom.

Number one: Give her regular and intentional acts, thoughts, gifts, and words of appreciation.  The average employee earns a salary. It may not be lavish, but whatever it is, it is enough to keep them coming back each day. They are rewarded doubly for overtime hours and acts of excellence. Most earn paid holidays, sick leave, and vacation time. There are bonuses to strive for and promotions to look toward. Shoot, some places give certificates for not being late more than 3 times!!!! Lol!

Interestingly, your wife doesn’t NEED any of that. The services she provides and the care she gives is given freely; without expectation and most times without reward. For example, the child she wakes up to nurse five times each night, can’t roll over and thank her for her sacrifice of sleep. He/she can’t understand the benefit of learning how to use the potty. The hours of reading aloud, planning play dates, reciting numbers, watching repeated episodes on PBS, downloading educational websites, won’t pay off until they are of school age (at least we hope). The gratification of the work invested in our little ones are most times delayed by sometimes 18 years, yet she does it all faithfully for the retroactive bonus of great success, for the continued tinkle in the toilet, the health offered only from breastfeeding and the educational advancements that are to follow.

However, YOU can celebrate her during this journey. You have no idea how much your recognition means to her. The sticky note you leave on her mirror in the morning reminding her how you noticed her patiently helping your little one with his homework each night. The certificate you create and print off at work to present to her for being “Mom of the Year”. The public post on Facebook, letting the world know how awesome your wife’s dinner was last night. Or the weekend getaway you planned yourself, would trump every achievement she’s ever earned. Whatever method you choose to show your appreciation, do it regularly. Be intentional about noticing the time, effort and love she pours into your family. You will find it will not only strengthen her devotion to you, but also spark a second wind to continue her plight toward excellence in your home.

Number two: Be sure she gets (regular) temporary relief from her responsibilities.  EVERYONE needs and deserves a break every now and then… no REGULARLY. Again most employees are given at least 2 days a week, 2 weeks a year, holidays and even breaks throughout the day. Too many times, a stay at home mom’s “breaks” are filled with additional tasks. I remember when my kids were little, during their naps, it would seem a perfect time for me to catch up on sleep, reading, exercise etc… NOPE. I used that time to prepare dinner for the evening, mop, clean, wash clothes etc.. Weekends became opportunities to catch up on bigger responsibilities, birthday parties, sporting events and other commitments. Vacation generally meant handling the same duties only in a different location. WHEW!!!! Your wife needs relief.

Now, this doesn’t mean you have to hire a nanny or maid, but perhaps you can implement a “No Work on Saturdays” campaign. Every Friday you can plan to eat out or order in. From 4pm-6pm each day, she can go to the gym, take a class, go to the mall etc… Sundays could be HER day. She has no duties or requirements at all on that day and she is free to spend her time wherever she wants to go, doing whatever she wants to do. HELLO DADDY DAYCARE!!! 🙂 🙂 Whatever method of reprieve works for your family is up to you guys, but know that it is imperative for your wife to maintain balance in her life.

As a former teacher of high school students, I have seen the long term benefits of kids who have had an active parent at home. The fact that you have created a lifestyle of support within your family is such a great idea. Ultimately, your wife and children are and will be grateful for the time you put in at the office in order to provide for your family and the sacrifices made to put your children first. Just remember, you and your wife are a team. You both need each other to make this well oiled machine function properly. Be sure your wife gets the necessary regular maintenance she needs in order for her to perform at her maximum capacity. After all, happy, appreciated, balanced, rested wife… HAPPY…EVERYTHING!!!! 🙂

Sincerely,

Enjoying the Journey with Harper