I recently had a young man reach out to me with an honest question. These words might sound alarming coming from a dad, but at their core is a secret struggle some men really battle.
Is it okay if I find more enjoyment and satisfaction in my job than with my family?
I discovered that he was a software engineer who works out of his home. He has two little ones and is in the early stages of parenting. I could relate. As a former software engineer and bivocational pastor, there were many Mondays I was happy to get back to work. Ministry to unpredictable and mysterious people on Sunday was so difficult when compared to dealing with bits and bytes. If there was a software problem, you could just fix it. With people . . . not so much.
As we unpacked his comment a little, here were some things I said to him.
1. Praise God you enjoy your work that much.
You’re blessed to live in a country and culture where you could choose a job and career that matches your gifts and talents. Your task-oriented job fits you well.
2. The strength of your job is also a weakness.
Though you love people through your work on computers, there is still more personal interaction in which all of us must grow. Jesus teaches us the greatest commandments are to love God and to love others. As we personally love others, we are changed. And part of your growth as a Christian is to lead your family well (1 Tim. 3:4–5). God is developing your character as you lead this little community.
3. Leading a family is a high and holy privilege.
As a father, you have the joy of shaping eternal souls. Your interaction with your wife displays Christ to the world. To quote C. S. Lewis:
There are no ordinary people. You have never talked to a mere mortal. Nations, cultures, arts, civilization—these are mortal and their life is to ours as the life of a gnat. But it is immortals whom we joke with, work with, marry, snub, and exploit.
And to apply this to parenting: It’s immortals we’re privileged to create, feed, influence, and disciple. Your children will live forever. Your computer work won’t.
4. Work is work and family is work.
I noticed in our conversation that you used the word enjoyment a lot. But work is also work. It’s infected by thorns. I’m glad you don’t experience many of those thorns in your job. But family is also work. Building others up into a godly family requires effort. A lot of it is enjoyable. Some of it is drudgery. So much of faithful family life is, in Eugene Peterson’s famous words, “a long obedience in the same direction.”
5. You don’t have to fulfill every emotional need of your wife and kids.
This new generation often equates love with meeting every need. But a man isn’t the Savior of his wife. He cannot and should not meet her every need. She needs other friends and ministries in the church. The same is true with our children. Love is multifaceted. It includes emotional connection, but it also means raising them to be independent.
6. Love is emotionally connected and affectionate.
Having given you freedom not to meet every need, I need to state the balancing truth with equal force: Love is affectionate and emotionally connected. Twenty years from now, your oldest will be 23 and describing her father to others.
Twenty years from now, your oldest will be 23 and describing her father to others.
Will she say, “He wasn’t perfect, but he loved me and really cared for me”? Or will she say, as one young woman recently said to me about her dad, “He was around, but he never really connected with me”?
7. Love is self-controlled.
Sophisticated love manages multiple priorities. As one who loves your work, it may mean setting boundaries when you push away from the computer. Create time slots when you really focus on your kids. I remember counseling one man years ago who was working too much. I finally realized it was just an issue of self-control. He loved his work like a glutton loves food, or an alcoholic loves alcohol. We can sin by doing too much of a good thing. What boundaries will you set in place to love your family?
Loving those closest to you will be difficult. As one CEO told me, “It’s easier to lead my $25 million company than raise four girls.” But it’s God’s calling on your life and is ultimately worth every minute.
Be faithful in the drudgery and little things. God didn’t just give you two children to influence, but eternal souls to cultivate. And your daughters have only one dad.