I’ve just settled into a vintage coffee house on the near east side of Indianapolis, Indiana where I live. The exposed brick, iron girders criss-crossing the ceiling, original wooden doors along the back wall, and dimly lit factory lights above make this the perfect environment for an author to hang out. Just around the corner from the table where I’ve set up shop for the morning, I can hear the hustle and bustle of folks ordering their expressos, lattes, and breakfast muffins. There’s a man in a suit growing restless because the barista is not moving as quickly as he’d like her to. Another woman is talking a mile a minute on her phone to someone who’s obviously disagreeing with her perspective. In a flash they all disappear to the parking lot behind the building, running late for their jobs in the city, only a few miles from the coffee house. Suddenly the entire coffee house grows quiet. I return my glance to my computer screen where I’m feverishly working to finish up a book manuscript that’s due way too soon.
I’ve just dropped my 15-year old daughter off at school. It’s a peaceful summer morning. I’ve got deadlines but I’m not in a rush. In fact, at just that moment my wife, Kristin, is dropping off our son at Thursday morning choir practice at his elementary school. In a little while, she’ll join me at the coffee house I’m currently working from. We’ll spend a few hours working on our online business before returning home by the time all of our kids get off the school bus. We make sure we never miss it. Our kids have grown accustomed to seeing both their mom and dad at home when they return from long days at school. We’ve decided that nothing else in this world means more than our time with them.
It used to not be this way. We both had “real” jobs outside of our home. For years I left the house before my kids got on the bus and would often not return until after they had been home for a few hours. In those days I was leading a team of people who specialized in working with families. Our job was to equip and enrich families by encouraging them to invest the majority of their time into their children’s lives. And there I was missing all of it with mine.
Kristin did too. Her job was to co-lead an after-school program with neighborhood kids on the outskirts of the city. She was responsible for creating environments and curriculum to help parents navigate past trauma and abuse their children had sustained as a result of living in a tough neighborhood. It was fulfilling but exhausting. She would leave before our children got on the bus and wouldn’t return home until just about their bedtime. The summer’s were the same except she was missing time with them doing activities like playing in a park, or going to the zoo, or riding bikes to get ice cream.
And then one day, it hit us. We realized how fast time was going. We suddenly woke up to the reality that we were in the eleventh hour with our kids. We blinked and our two daughters were now 15 and 16. We could have sworn they were babies just yesterday. Our youngest son suddenly seemed taller. Our older sons seemed to have both grown independence overnight and didn’t need us to help them get breakfast out of the cabinet, or do homework, or tuck them in at night. The truth of this hit us square in the chest. “What are we doing?” Kristin asked me one night. “What’s the worth of all of this if we are distant from our kids?” I had already been asking myself the same questions. A few years earlier I stepped out of the only career I had known in my adult life and pursued something that seemed insane to most of the world—I became a blogger. Since we are adoptive parents (seriously, we’ve adopted all 8 of our children…yes, I said 8!), we decided to create space online for weary foster and adoptive parents to have a voice speaking for them. We decided to call it Confessions Of An Adoptive Parent. We had no idea how this would grow from a small-time blog to a global platform that reaches more than 100,000 people around the world a month. Now we suddenly found ourselves at a crossroads. One of us had always worked in a job outside of the home to make ends meet. But we were both looking at this running clock with our children. We both sensed the urgency to do what most would consider totally insane, in order to invest in the most important thing to both of us—our family.
So I ran the numbers from our blog, our speaking gigs, and the two book contracts each of us had recently signed. It would be tight. We would have to live really really really below our means. No extra spending. No impulse buys at Target (which is really freaking hard to not do!), no daily Starbucks runs. We’re talking Aldi for groceries, coffee brewed at home, and a Goodwill trip every now and then when we needed some extra threads (we live in a super rich community so the Goodwill trips always yield high end cast-offs that we gladly scoop up and dress our children in).
We took a deep breath, clasped hands, and jumped off. This was crazy, crazy, crazy! Against everything we were taught growing up, in college, and into our adult lives. The questions would certainly come- “How will you pay your bills?” “What about seasons like Christmas when you have to spend more than usual?” (which is a complete lie that our society has bought into). “What if…” “How will you…” “What happens if you….” Oh they came….and we worried a little. But every time someone asked a question that had us thinking and wondering, we couldn’t help but notice that the peace we felt in making this choice far outweighed the so called security we felt in stepping out and becoming full time authors and bloggers. The most amazing part is that our children now had two parents in the home all the time—morning, day time, and night time. We take them to doctor’s appointments together. We both wake them up in the morning and put them on the school bus. We take turns driving carpool to our daughter’s high school. In the past few months since we both decided to quit our day jobs and focus solely on our family, we noticed something unmistakable: our children are healthier, happier, and more peaceful than they’ve ever been over the past 15 years. And for the first time in our adult life Kristin and I feel like our priorities are straight. We feel the healthiest and most balanced we’ve ever felt. And we wouldn’t trade this for anything- no amount of money…no amount of material possessions….no amount of accolades or recognition.
So what am I saying? Quit your job and stay at home full-time in order to spend all of your time with you children? Maybe. But maybe not. Maybe this more about priorities than doing something crazy like we did and quit. Truth is, a lot of you reading this can’t just up and quit your livelihood, neither can your spouse or partner. It’s not realistic and I get that. But you can home in on your priorities. You have full control over them. That’s what we realized when we really took a hard look at what we were doing.
You have the power to determine what’s most important to you and what’s less important, or not important at all. You have the power to place certain things at the top of your list and others lower. If your children and your spouse, or partner are most important it’s up to you to place them where they belong. But if other things are competing for top place, you have the power to keep them in that position or move them. Or delete them altogether (that’s another topic for another time). One of my favorite human beings and author is a guy by the name of Andy Stanley. He wrote this killer book several years ago called Choosing To Cheat: Who Wins When Work And Home Collide? In it, he makes the point that you will either cheat on your family or you will cheat on work. Whoever gets the most time and attention from you cheats the other out of their respective time. But here’s the kicker: you have to decide who gets cheated on and who doesn’t. The choice is yours.