I was recently teaching a group of youth in my church and we were talking about the nuances of being a parent. I had them list some of their concerns, which ranged from dropping the baby to how to teach the kids all the things. After they had suggested their list, I added one more – WANTS/NEEDS.
This, of course, can mean several things. First, there is the financial aspect. My kids know that there are times they have to wait until payday for things that can be deemed as needs because needier needs were already taken care of (food, clothes, what have you). And they know that if it is a want, they will often have to pick up extra chores (or, quite frankly, actually do the ones they have right now all the way).
I suggested to these youth, though, that moms and dads are often guilty of working so hard to provide for everyone elses everything that they begin to neglect their own. We hear all the time that moms do this, giving everything they have to their children, but I’ve known way too many men who become reluctant workaholics to think this is a gender based issue. Before long, both mom and dad are on autopilot, both at work and at home, reacting to the circumstances around them instead of intentionally making decisions for a happier life.
Everyone knows that a cup can’t be filled if the pitcher is empty, but more and more, I see adults transitioning into empty pitchers.
This, among several other reasons, is why I write. I like that I have something to work toward, something that is mine, something that gives me joy and satisfaction and a feeling of accomplishment. Sure, that feeling can come when all the laundry is done, but it’s not the same thing at all.
Several of my sisters find this feeling in athletic competitions. Two of my sisters, and my 60 year old dad, are heading to California in a few weeks to complete a century ride down the coast of California. That’s 100 miles on a bike – and they are quite excited about the idea. My brother has taken part in starting up a company (okay, a couple) because helping get a business from concept to corporation is thrilling for him.
Yes, there are things that will fall to the wayside in pursuit. But if I’m weighing pros and cons, I’d rather have a kitchen that is less than meticulous than have children who are afraid that one more request might be the one that snaps mom’s patience. I’d rather have floors that get vacuumed slightly less often and let my kids see that I can have a career and love/drive/cheer/encourage/comfort/push my children and myself.
The funny thing that happens is happiness begets happiness, talent begets talent, satisfaction begets satisfaction. Time and again, I’ve seen adults who rediscover a passion they had, and that passion extends to passion for marriage and love and children and family. There will still be the struggle for balance – I don’t think that ever goes away. But the end product of such a balancing act can be drastically different if we allow time for ourselves.