So you have three main responsibilities in life if you’re like me… your spouse, your career, and your kids. And like me, you probably feel the pressure to do the best you can with all three. But what do you do when it seems like they are competing with each other for your time and energy? Who gets first dibs?
Forgive me for answering with a story… but you know that’s kind of how I roll…
I was sitting in my orthopedic surgeon’s waiting room a few days ago waiting for my appointment, reading email or doing something on my phone when I realized I couldn’t concentrate because of the loud couple sitting across from me. They weren’t loud on purpose, they were older (probably in their seventies or eighties), and probably struggled to hear each other.
They were filling out the paper version of the forms I had filled out online. Somewhat unconcerned about medical privacy, they loudly interviewed each other about their medical history for the purpose of completing the forms. It was very sweet, and a bit funny.
I couldn’t help but listen as they sorted through what I can only imagine was sixty plus years of medical ups and downs they had experienced together. Conditions, pains, medications, etc. In some cases he remembered illnesses she once had that she no longer remembered and vice versa. As they started wrapping up their forms, I had one of those powerful moments of realization…
This is what I want.
Someday when I’m old, grey (let’s face it, that’s a pipe dream; I meant bald), retired, hard of hearing, and at the doctor’s office, I want Wendy right there by my side, yelling into my good ear, asking if I ever had a history of kidney stones in front of God and everybody. That’s what I want.
This is why the kids and the career can’t come first. They’re both important responsibilities and they both deserve appropriate attention. I’m not making a case here that you should ever ignore your kids or not give them tremendous amounts of your time and energy. You should do that. The issue is that they can’t take priority over your spouse. And your career certainly can’t take priority.
Why? Because someday your kids will be grown with a life of their own. They may spend 18-20 years with you, but, Lord willing, your spouse will double that number plus some. Our job with our kids is to “work ourselves out of a job.” Yes, we’ll always be their parents, but eventually they will be on their own… and so will we, if we don’t foster a primary connection with our spouse.
And your job? Well… the day will come when you don’t produce the way you do now, and your career will change significantly. That’s no commentary on you, your work, or your place of work. That’s just life. And when that happens, if your whole life was centered on your career, it will feel like your life is over. But if you’ve spent your working life intentionally developing a close relationship with your spouse… letting go of your career won’t feel like letting go of your life.
Maybe in this culture where marriage is often deemphasized, we forget the power of the vows we take on our wedding day. ’Til death do us part is not just a relational timestamp or a clever turn of a traditional phrase. It characterizes your relationship with your spouse as different than any other. It stands as God’s plan to fix the problem that it was “not good for the man to be alone.” It is the expression and promise of a life-long companionship. And it is a firm commitment to give our spouse priority in our lives.
One short postscript…
I’d like to say thanks to that couple in the waiting room for being a part of a generation that showed us the way. I’m worried that after the greatest generation leaves the scene, fiftieth and sixtieth wedding anniversaries are going to be a pretty rare thing indeed. Couples like my grandparents (on both sides) have shown us the way… now it’s time for us to stand up and follow. Let’s put our spouse first.