When Is Enough, Enough?

I have been struggling with this issue in quite a few areas in the past few months, but the one that has really lodged in my heart today is the issue that seems to be attacking the family life of people all over the world. It is the issue of “how much are you willing to sacrifice for your job?” At what point do you finally reach a point that enough is enough? This question has so many different applications, but it is definitely a question that many families need to be asking themselves.

Right now in the lives of so many families around me I am seeing a growing trend where husbands go to work before 7am in the morning and only return home after 8pm. Husbands and fathers are stretched so thin that they barely have time for themselves, their wives, never mind cultivating a family life. There are so many justifications for this epidemic. Most of them revolve around a weak economy and needing the job security that their work provides. Others are driving themselves to get out of debt, or to push for a promotion so that they will be a better financial place. This is such a huge pull on the soul of a man, but a devastating blow to family life.

Matt and I often feel like islands on this issue because we are so fiercely protective when it comes to our family time. I grew up in a family where we had dinner as a family every single night. My Mom and Dad were fiercely protective of our family time, and I grew up valuing it as well. It is at the dinner table that we talked about our day, and prayed as a family, and we actually discovered what was going on in each other’s lives. We have started this with our children as well. Every night at dinner we play “high/low” where we take turns telling the high points of our days and the low points. Luke doesn’t quite get it, but he laughs and claps when it his turn and everyone turns to him. Ava’s high/lows make me laugh, and give us such neat insight into what she values. Noah’s high/lows bless my socks off, and more days than not, he says that there were no low points in his day. I love it. I wouldn’t miss it for the world… and neither would their Daddy.

Family life is a fight. It doesn’t just happen, and there is no replacement for it. You have to prioritize it, contend for it, and if you are too exhausted from work to engage your children, then you are being stolen from. The thing is, your job will always take everything that you are willing to give. The better you are at your job, the more they will want you to take on. If you succeed, they will expect higher levels of success. You are a resource and they will mine you until there is nothing left. The only person who actually determines how much of you is left at the end of the day… is you. You are the only one who can set appropriate work boundaries for your time and for your family. Your boss won’t do it. Your co-workers won’t do it. It is time to stop and ask yourself what you are working for and when is enough, enough? At what point do you get to enjoy your life and your children? When do you get to breathe and live?

A dear friend of Matt’s and mine was recently offered an amazing promotion. However, as he looked at the promotion, he realized the time that he would have to sacrifice with his children. So even though it was more money, more influence, more prestige… he said no. Enough is enough, and he wasn’t going to keep pushing until he had lost what was actually valuable. I can’t tell you how proud I am of him.

However, I think for many people the decision isn’t that clear cut. It is more like a frog slowly boiling in a pot. Why doesn’t the frog jump out? Because it slowly accepts the gradual increase in heat all the way until its death. I think this is what happens in a work environment as well. If you were looking at the job from the outside, there is no way that you would choose it. You wouldn’t choose to sacrifice your family, your health, your life. However, I think you get to a place where you have sacrificed so much already it is just easier to keep going. You don’t even realize how damaging your job has become. You just keep accepting the lie that you don’t have a choice, when you are actually the only one who can choose for you.

Money is wonderful. It can equip your life, but it is not life. If at the end of it all, you don’t have a life to celebrate outside of your job, then you have lost the vision. And that is what it all boils down to…. Vision. Why are you doing what you are doing? When will enough be enough? It is time to set some boundaries before your job takes everything. There is a reason why divorce rates increase the older you get. There is a reason why the teenage years are the hardest years with children. And a lot of those issues have their roots in children without an engaged father or mother, and marriages that have been left in neglect. And it really is not just Dad’s. These days, women are just as driven, and the point is that you always have to weigh the cost. I really believe that you can’t have it all because there is only so much of you to give. If you give it all at work, your children will get nothing. You get to choose what you value, and when you have set your values, you make your decisions by your values instead of letting opportunity make your decisions for you.

So, a serious word today, but from the bottom of my heart. There may be seasons of “sacrifice” in family life, but remember, your children didn’t make the financial decisions that have brought you to this point. You may sacrifice, but they shouldn’t have to. They may not have all the toys they want, but the truth is that they don’t really want the things… they just want you. And honestly, nothing can replace that.