My wife attended a conference recently and reconnected with some old acquaintances. One she hadn’t seen for years, a woman who’d been home raising her kids. She’d been absent from the conference circuit, but now her kids were grown and flown. She was back to working full-time, traveling, going to conferences, the whole shebang.
She was a hero to many of the conference-goers, who struggled with work and kids, trying to find a balance, the right course. The easy answer most reached for first was ‘both’. Work and family. My time and their time, all the time. And who can blame them? Who doesn’t want everything, if they can get it.
Well, it’s easier to say than to live. Reality has its way of intervening in our plans. Yet, here was a woman who seemed to have done it, to have both family and career. They asked her: “How?”
“What people forget,” she said, “is that life is long. There’s a time when your kids are young and need you at home. But that time is not forever.”
While her kids were young, she stayed home with them. She kept her finger in the profession, working a little here, a little there, when and as she could. Her kids grew, and she had more time to devote to professional endeavors outside the home. By the time her kids spread their wings and ventured out on their own, she was ready to go full time.
So you can have both, she said, just not at the same time.
It’s a good lesson from a mother that we fathers should pay attention to. Life is long, but childhood is not. As Scripture tells us, “For everything there is a season, and a time for every matter under heaven”. Eccl 3, 1. God “has appointed a time for every matter, and for every work.” Eccl 3, 17.
This is the season for us to spend time with our kids. That’s inconvenient occasionally. We’ve got a lot of things we want to do, especially with work. But inconvenient or not, childhood can’t be re-scheduled. Our kids’ childhood is now. They’re growing right now, their childhood is flying by right now. It won’t be here forever – it won’t even be here all that long.
Work will. We treat work with the breathless franticness of a 40 yard dash, when in truth we’ve got a marathon in front of us. What’s the rush? It’s not like we only have 5 years to cram in a career’s worth of work, so we have to squeeze the job into every possible moment, morning, noon and night. After our kids are grown and gone, we’ll still have many, many years of work ahead of us. Probably decades. But we won’t have our kids with us. For the kids, there is only now. Time with our kids should be first. That’s the finite resource. Not work.
I once heard a great half-time locker room line from Lou Holtz: “You’ve got 30 minutes to play, and a lifetime to remember.” This is that time with our kids. In their appointed hour our kids will go, leave home, and get on with their own lives. Our lives will change, too. But life will still be long, and filled, hopefully, not with regret for what could have been, but with the memories we make now. This is a special season, of springtime for our kids, of new beginnings for new lives, of young souls growing. Like every springtime, this one will pass before we know it. But while it’s here, there is beauty and warmth and the fresh zeal of new life to be had, if only we will embrace it.