Eighteen years. In less than two decades, you’ll go from being an expectant parent to being an empty nester. In less time than it takes to pay off a mortgage, your kids will graduate from diapers to a diploma. You’ll spend 20, 30 or 40 years in leadership roles but only about 18 years raising children in your home. We have to do this right.
When a leader’s home is a refuge, children thrive. When the stress of a demanding schedule or challenging times invade the home, children suffer. Here are a few things you can do to make your home a haven for your kids.
Be There. The main thing your children need is you. Ministry schedules are as demanding as the leader allows them to be. A dedicated leader may be tempted to work 55, 60 or 70 hours a week. Set a reasonable schedule. Take time off religiously. Guard your free evenings jealously. Let your children know their time with you is a high priority.
Leave Problems at Work. Every leader deals with conflict, stress and difficult issues on the job. One of the greatest challenges is to go “off the clock,” letting difficult issues wait until another day. Learn to leave church problems at church. Let your dinnertime conversations be about homework, Little League or piano lessons. Don’t allow the stress of the job to invade your children’s lives.
Screen Your Calls. A leader is always on call and needs to be. You need to respond to emergency situations at any time of the day, but not every phone call represents a true emergency. Don’t interrupt a family video to take a call about scheduling issues. Let voicemail listen to your chronic complainers; you can call them back in the morning—maybe.
Get Away. Vacations are a problem for many leaders. They don’t have the income to travel to exotic places, but it’s hard for a leader to be truly off duty without leaving town. Be creative and work your networks. Find one- or two-day getaways. Your kids will love it, and it won’t hurt your own mental health either.
Growing up in the shadow of a leader can be an incredible experience for your children. Their home can be one of the happiest places on earth. Love your kids, love your Lord, and love your work. Your house will be a bit of heaven on earth!