Wednesday, July 11, 2012

When Husbands / Dads Can't Have It All Either

Our church's Vacation Bible School
photo courtesy of Darling Bride because I,
of course, wasn't there
This past week was VBS (Vacation Bible School) week at our church, and I was unable to get time off from work for volunteering to help.  Darling Bride and our awesome kids got to go.  VBS is from 9 am to 12:15, and I had to work.  Some could say in response that I could have taken vacation time, or even been so bold to ask my boss for the time off, or at least worked out a flexible schedule where I could make up the time.  That could be one way to have it all:  Shuffle the pieces of life's puzzle around and make them all fit - be an all star at work, at church, and at home.

It doesn't always work that way.  During VBS week, at work, our team was scheduled to complete a specific project on site at a client's, on a specific timetable mutually agreed on between the client and us.  After that project, I had to get back to the office to work on quarterly payroll tax returns for other clients.  The government is generally inflexible in its deadlines.

The current cover story of The Atlantic, "Why Women Still Can't Have It All," is creating quite a buzz.  This past Saturday I read it.  While Anne-Marie Slaughter admittedly writes to her demographic of well to do career women, is it reasonable to conclude that "having it all" isn't necessarily a man or woman issue?  (As the lengthy article concludes, she does expand her scope to include men's needs as she offers possible solutions).

Mr. 5th Grader in VBS heaven!
Men struggling with "having it all" is not a new concern.  This past Monday we watched The Dick Van Dyke Show on Me TV.  The episode, made in 1961 (over 50 years ago!) was about the conflict Rob Petrie went through when he had to break his promise and miss his son Richie's school play.  Rob was sent on a business trip by his employer, The Alan Brady Show.  If Rob follows his boss's orders, he is in trouble with his wife Laura.  If Rob goes to the play, he is in trouble at work.  He can't win.

As I think about Rob Petrie's and my schedule conflicts, some bullet points and suggestions come to mind:
  • "Having it all" is really a myth, an impossible ideal.  Since the industrial revolution made "working at home" (or the farm) the exception rather than the rule, us being finite beings means that we cannot be in more than one place at the same time.
  • We try to "have it all" by trying to establish "balance" between home and work life.  That is a myth too, thinking that if we try really hard at both, we will be happy.  The Book Off Balance by Matthew Kelly explains what to do about that.  I write about it here.
So what is a busy husband and father to do?

  • Pray for wisdom in setting priorities.  While you cannot do everything and be everywhere, are there reasonable limits you can set?  What's negotiable?  What's not?  The answers are unique for each one of us.
  • How are you spending your discretionary time?  Are you giving your wife and kids your love and attention when you can?

While we cannot have it all, we can still have our priorities in order.  Aspire for that.

P.S.  My church friend Charity Singleton writes about having it all from a single's perspective at her site, Wide Open Spaces.  She also refers readers to another response posted at The High Calling by Deidra Riggs.


  1. Jeff -- I am so glad to read your post. I have been thinking all along that this issue certainly isn't limited to women. Or married women. It's a problem we all have with wanting more than is reasonable or healthy or more than God has planned.

    I appreciate the links, too.

  2. Thanks for this contribution to the conversation. It's important to hear from men on this issue, too! And single people, as Charity points out.