Learning to Put Family First (before Work)

tim chan —  July 8, 2013 — 3 Comments

Many families I know live by the motto, “Family First.” Olive and I try to live by this principle as well. We believe that relationships are the most important thing in life, and of those, our relationship with God and family are the most valued. But what does that look like practically?

Learning to put Family First (before Work)Two months ago, shortly after the launch of our second book, I got sick. Really sick. The sickest I’ve been in years. I was out of commission, lying on the couch all day long, taking three types of drugs. Olive not only had to take care of me, but also Allie. On top of that, she cooked and cleaned with zero help from me.

As 2 days of being sick turned into 3, then 4, and finally 5, I could see that all the extra work was taking a toll on Olive. She looked exhausted and tired, and on more than one occasion she mentioned that she missed her husband (the normal healthy husband that had energy to converse with her and played with our daughter).

I finally started feeling better on Sunday evening and was gearing up for work on Monday. My emails were accumulating and I had plenty to do. But I also knew that my family needed me. Olive and Allie had spent 5 days without me and were missing me.

On Monday morning, I decided to take one more day off work. My work could wait. Although I had work piled up, there was nothing that needed to be done that jeopardized the well-being of my family (i.e. There wasn’t any work that if I didn’t do, would get me fired and thereby lose income that provided for my family).

I spent the day with my family instead of working.

That Monday, I cooked breakfast for Olive and Allie, and then went grocery shopping with them. When they both took a nap after lunch, I caught up on some work emails. Then I spent the rest of the afternoon hanging out with my wife and daughter, reading books, playing with play-dough, and singing songs. After dinner and after Allie went to bed, I did some more work.

That one day spent with my family made a world of a difference. I could tell that Olive really appreciated it – it communicated to her that she was more important to me than my work.

After 5 days of neither working nor being with family, what I decided to do with my first day of being well reflected my priorities in life. That Monday, instead of working for 8 hours and spending 3 hours with my family, I reversed it. I spent 8 hours with my family and worked 3 hours instead.

Decisions like that set the culture in a family. Decisions like that communicate to everyone, including myself, that we really are putting family first. It means that when both my family and my work need me at the same time, I will put my work on hold to take care of my family. 

I am grateful that my work gives me the flexibility to make that decision without losing my job, and I know not everyone can do this. But there are other decisions in life that test your priorities – what will you place first?

  • Great topic! I have learned many people might say they value spending time with family or have them as a top priority but their actions show something different. We can’t just say we put family first we actually have to do it. It’s something I’m still working on, but I’m getting better:) Thanks for this wonderful reminder.

  • Grace

    Awesome, Tim!