In what is becoming a semi-regular occurrence, a high-profile executive stepped down to spend more time with his family. This time Patrick Pichette, CFO at Google, said he was having trouble with the work/life balance, so he quit.
While I appreciate the desire to devote more of his energy to his wife and their marriage, most of us cannot do what Pichette did. We don’t have millions of dollars invested and saved to enable us to quit and spend all of our time with our families.
Does this mean you and I are bad parents because we have a job outside of the home? Is quitting your job and never leaving your family the standard of being a good father or mother?
I don’t think it is. In fact, I think this line of thinking can actually be harmful to your child.
Here are five ways to be a good parent without quitting your day job.
1. Unplug from electronics.
It’s hard. I know. But when you are at home, silence the phone. Limit time on social media when you are with your kids (and your spouse). Invest those moments in the relationships that matter most, not in garnering retweets and likes.
You’ll be surprised what you can learn from and about your children when you take the time to talk with them about their day without the distractions of a smartphone or TV blaring.
Eye contact with your children should trump contacts on your iPhone.
2. Plan dates.
Time with your kids is important, so be intentional. Plan a date or an event with them regularly.
Unfortunately, I didn’t start doing this immediately with my two oldest. But now, one Saturday every month, I go out to breakfast with one of my kids individually.
Some do it more than that. Others do it less. But plan regular dates with your kids (and plan some with your spouse, too).
3. Put their events on your schedule.
Some parents say, “Quality trumps quantity” as an excuse to give their kid neither quality time nor a significant quantity of time. Go to every possible event they have.
Yes, your child may have 15 concerts this year. Yes, it will probably all sound the same. Yes, it might do permanent damage to your ear drums. But each of those are special and unique. Each one gives you a moment with your child that can never be duplicated.
As soon as your child has their schedule for the events they are involved in, enter those into your calendar as important dates. If it helps, think of them as meetings with someone whose trust you need to win and keep. Don’t trade the significance of those moments for something any less significant.
4. Participate in the things they like.
As your children grow and develop hobbies, participate with them. You can leverage those things to spend time with your child.
When your daughter is small, it might be tea parties or Legos. When she is older, it may be shopping or sports. Whatever she enjoys use that to speak into her life—both with your words and your presence.
My boys enjoy playing video games, so we have a family video game night each week. Most weeks, my wife and I get destroyed on the screen, but we get to hang out with our sons, which makes it worth it.
5. Don’t make them an idol.
Here’s where I think many of the wealthy executives quitting their jobs are doing a disservice to their children. Encouraging self-obsession is not good parenting.
Many parents grew up as “latch-key kids” and felt as if their parents valued work (and everything else) over them, so they go to opposite extreme and become “helicopter parents” who are continually hovering over their children, incapable of letting them out of their sight.
I want my children to know I love them, but I do not want them to believe I love them at the expense of loving my wife. I want them to know they are a priority in my life, but not to the detriment of my relationship with Christ. I want them to know I will be there for them, but to remind them that there are other concerns in life that sometimes press into our plans.
When I have demonstrated to my children that I redeem the moments I have with them and value being there for them as much as possible, they are better able to understand when I may have to back out of a commitment or miss an event on a rare occasion.
Stability and consistency breeds trust and grace. If I’ve established a foundation of being present in their lives, even those moments when I’m not there can serve as a reminder of my love for them.
If I quit my job to be with them all the time, besides not having any ability to provide for them, I will rob them of developing a proper perspective of themselves—someone who has value because they are loved and created in God’s image, but who should also have humility because they recognize Christ demonstration of it in His life and death.
The job of a parent is already extremely difficult, don’t feel guilty if you can’t quit your job and be with your child every hour of every day. Feel convicted (and do something about it) if you’ve established such a life that it would take a dramatic showing for them to know you love them.