It can be tempting to pursue fulfilment and accolades at work, but you are irreplaceable in your family — a conscious decision to put them first will reap the most precious rewards.
Wisdom is usually discovered in retrospect. Such is the case with me anyway. I usually stumble into wisdom, and therefore can take no recognition for it.
My one strength is that I pray a lot, so providence must take the credit for any success I have experienced. Let me explain.
This time, Sunday is the first day of January 2023, and so the first day of the new year. Traditionally a time for setting goals. If I have any advice for you at the beginning of this new year, it would be to put your family first in 2023.
For those who have tried this, it can be the hardest task in the world, especially for a man who aspires to be a high achiever and wants to be the best at his chosen vocation, but put his family first at the same time.
This goes for most men. Think about it. You are at a party or barbeque. Once you find out a man’s name, what is the second question you ask him? “What do you do for a living?”
Why do we ask that question? Simple — it is part of who we are as men. We identify with our job. Someone has to bring the bacon home! However, these days, in the informational economy, women can bring home more bacon than men.
Don’t get me wrong. I am not against the idea of the man being a full-time father/homemaker. I did it for six months and it was one of the most enjoyable periods of my life.
However, in over 95% of cases, men choose their many vocations. The average man has 12 jobs in his lifetime and in that process, he will have between 3-7 career changes. This speed of vocational change was unheard of three to four decades ago, but it is only likely to increase as technology continues its acceleration.
So, my advice here is to choose your career or vocation wisely, men, and manage your vocation for the benefit of your family and not to the detriment of your family.
As a father, having a lot of income or prestige in your vocation does not equate to putting your family first. It can do, but certainly is not always the case.
If you really want to put your family first, you must make values-based decisions and make them consistently.
This can be difficult, if you are driven to excel in your chosen vocation — the demands can be endless. Also difficult in management positions, and similarly if you are a good tradesman or craftsman. Your own popularity (success) destroys you and worse still, destroys your family relationships in the process.
Time is always your most valuable resource, and the allocation of your time can be your greatest challenge. You may be massively successful in your vocation, profession, business or trade if you allocate all your time to it.
Notice I say ‘all your time’, because to provide food and shelter for your family requires you to allocate some serious time to your vocation. Let’s just say it is a glorious balancing act that requires constant recalibration.
The old proverb comes to mind: ‘A just balance is the Lord’s delight.’ Values are important, and transcendence plays a big part in the formation of values to give you the action plan to get the right balance and put your family first.
Let me give you three different examples to illustrate the ways a father can put his family first.
Firstly: A friend of mine has had a very busy (too busy according to him) but successful year in his chosen vocation. Invited to contribute to an important end-of-year function, he confided that he did not feel like going as he badly need rest, even though his 18-year-old son had volunteered to go with him. Initially, I advised him to rest, but when I heard that his son wanted to go with him, I changed my approach.
I rang him back and suggested that an 880 km trip was too good an opportunity to spend quality time with his son, who may not be able or want to do such a trip with his dad in the years to come. My advice was simple: ‘Fulfil your vocational expectations, but build the work road trip around your son and enjoy the journey. Build in some moments that will take your breath away’. Then rest later!
As Vicki Corona said, “Life is not measured by the number of breaths we take, but by the moments that take our breath away.”
Second: An equally inspiring but disparate example. A friend of mine just got out of jail. He has three children born in Australia. After my friend finished his original three-year sentence, he was due to be deported from Australia. The law states that anyone who is not a permanent resident and commits a crime receiving a twelve-month sentence or more, has to be deported to his country of origin.
My friend became a devoted father while inside prison, but deportation meant he would never see his children again, as his record would prohibit him from ever returning to Australia.
My friend chose to spend a further three years in detention (that is six years total for a three-year sentence) so that he could remain in Australia to be involved in his children’s lives. He endured six more appeals that were unsuccessful before being released on his seventh appeal, just in time to spend Christmas with his children.
Third: This is personal. I cut back my career expectations and also my financial expectations, but ultimately travelled the world and Australia, playing music with my family. It was a series of values-based decisions that had a providential outcome beyond human reasoning or ability. As I said, prayer is my lifeline.
These three examples prove the power of putting your family first. The wisdom of this is always better understood in retrospect!
Why not try it for the New Year and see where it takes you?
Put your family first in 2023 and pray during the process. You will be surprised at the results.
Yours for a Happy New Year,