I work very long days and provide nice things for my wife and children. However, I’ve grown increasingly aware that I am missing out on valuable time with them. Can you help me find balance?
Torn Between Work and Home
Dear Torn Between Work and Home,
Having struggled with this early in our marriage, I can certainly relate to your struggle. The tension between providing materially and relationally can easily get out of balance. For most, money tends to be the top priority because it seems inflexible in order to meet monthly payments and flexible because one can make up for lost time with family later. So, your question of balance is a very good one.
Don’t let money master you
If you prioritize money over time, you may be undermining your happiness. An article by Elizabeth Dunn and Chris Courtney at the Harvard Business Review tells why. They reference several studies supporting this theory. Researchers found that students who prioritized money were less happy a year after college graduation than those who prioritized time, even after controlling for happiness beforehand and accounting for various socioeconomic backgrounds.
Evidence shows that wealthier people are happier than the poor, but excessive amounts of money do not inevitably make one happier. On the other hand, low deposits in bank accounts impact people negatively. Those who can build a cash reserve, even while eliminating debt, relieve stress. Those who can access $500 of cash show a 15% higher life satisfaction. So, these authors propose two questions to consider prior to spending:
- What do I buy that is not essential for survival?
- Is it contributing to my happiness?
Ultimate happiness is found not in spending money on things but in experience, time, and investing in others. In addition, research proves that giving can boost your mood. Jesus warned us that we cannot serve both God and money. When we serve Him as our top priority, He will lead us to care for our families while also providing for our needs to do so.
All the time in the world
I’ve traveled the world and been invited into many different cultures. One thing I’ve witnessed is that people in other cultures tend to do a better job spending unscheduled or unhurried time with one another. Africans have a saying that “they may not own a watch, but they have all the time in the world.” They are not driven by clocks or schedules or impacted by things that people emphasize in our culture.
Perhaps you know the lyrics to Cats in the Cradle by Harry Chapin.
Busyness does not mean effectiveness. Movement does not mean eternal impact. Unless we control the minutes in our days, they will control us. External pressures will drive us; escapism will lure us. Proverbs 90:12 is appropriate for combatting warfare over the minutes of our days: “So teach us to number our days that we may get a heart of wisdom.”
Time impacts finances
Employees who use their time wisely, on and off the job, are more productive and better employees. They are the ones who often receive raises, promotions, or new opportunities. This translates into more money.
If you grew up in a home where hard work was modeled for you or if you are passionate about your job, it is even more challenging to learn to relax. Balance is important so that time with family, church, neighbors, and community is not neglected. Learn to detach from work (as much as possible) when you are home. Develop healthy habits. Laugh and play with your children; invest your time into their lives. Ask your wife to hold you accountable. Is there an older man (father, uncle, pastor, mentor) who will honestly speak wisdom into your life?
The fact that you recognize the need for balance makes me confident that you will find it. When scheduling your day, include time with the Lord. Read His Word, and truly listen to Him. When you are driving alone, pray for your family, and listen to the Bible or things that will deepen your walk. Memorize Scripture; this is a good practice to do with your wife and children.
Seize the opportunity to run your day rather than letting it run you. Here are a few things to consider:
- Set and prioritize goals.
- Limit phone use to what is essential.
- Analyze why you say “yes” to obligations.
- Determine what blesses your family and close relationships.
- Take time to relish moments of peace and quiet.
- Spend time regularly outside in nature.
- Give thanks for moments to meditate and pray.
Answer these questions:
- What do you do with your time that brings glory to God?
- How do you use free moments in your day?
- How would your family say you spend your time?
- With whom are you investing time?
- Do you need to adjust your lifestyle so you have less overhead?
- When do you turn off your phone and computer each day?
- How do you want to be remembered when you depart from this world?
God has given each of us a limited number of days. Remember to number them and use them in a way that you will have no regrets when this life is completed. Thanks for writing.
If you want to consider more ways in which you can effectively steward God’s resources — both time and money — the Crown Stewardship Podcast can be a valuable resource. You can subscribe for alerts of new episodes. I hope you find it beneficial.
Chuck Bentley is CEO of Crown Financial Ministries, a global Christian ministry, founded by the late Larry Burkett. He is the host of a daily radio broadcast, My MoneyLife, featured on more than 1,000 Christian Music and Talk stations in the U.S., and author of his most recent book, Economic Evidence for God?. Be sure to follow Crown on Facebook.