Balancing a demanding career and a family isn’t easy with eight children, but Bryan Orr offers practical advice on how you can without losing your sanity.
When I was 17 years old I knew the girl I wanted to marry. The catch was that my wife came from a family of 12 children and we both knew we wanted a big family.
I was making $9.00 an hour, working in a blue-collar job as an A/C tech when we got married. Our first child was born ten months later.
Fast-forward to today and we have eight children ages five months to 12 years old. I am co-owner of a 28 employee A/C business, as well as a web startup founder and a podcaster/blogger.
If I said my life was relaxing, I would likely get struck by lightning on the spot. However, I can honestly say that I am not overworked, and our family is very close and engaged with one another.
Here are my top seven tips for balancing a demanding job and a large family.
1. Own your choices
The size of your family, and the work you commit to are your choice. Nobody else can make that choice for you and nobody else will save you if it starts to go awry. If you make a choice to take on work, or grow your family, you must know your “why” and commit to it before you start.
Most people think having eight kids is crazy, I agree, it certainly can be at times. For my wife and I it isn’t a matter of whether it’s crazy, just whether it’s worth it. And for us, it is.
2. Change your internal vocabulary
Stop using the word “deserve”, it’s pointless to think about what you deserve, it only matters what you are going to do about it. If you think of the word deserve as the opposite of serve i.e.; DE-serve, then it will help you remember.
Use the word “I” less. This one is tough, and it takes a lot of work to learn, but it will help you focus more on your family and less on yourself. Someone hammered me recently on my overuse of the word and they were 100% correct.
Say the words “love” and “purpose” more. When you act based on love and purpose, you will make better decisions.
3. Know when to quit
You can always quit your job for the sake of your family; you should NEVER quit your family for the sake of your job. Test yourself by asking, “Would I quit my job and do something else if that is what would be best for my family?” if not, then recalibrate.
I have learned through some tough circumstances that you can and must quit on systems and businesses from time to time, but you should never quit on people.
4. Rest, don’t escape
You cannot escape your life and you shouldn’t try. You do need to set up rhythms of rest and relaxation where you shut off the noise in your head and embrace simplicity. Give yourself a little time for rest every morning and evening.
Vacations are great, but with a big family they certainly are not an “escape”, and very rarely are they even physically restful. The goal is emotional and mental rest (I need the physical exercise anyway).
5. Reject overwhelm
We have all been there, you get to the point where your brain starts shutting down and you feel like you are going insane. When this starts to happen, think of the most important thing in your life and spend some time there.
It is much easier for me to stop being overwhelmed when I am focusing on only one thing; tip #1 would be to shut off your phone for a few hours.
6. Stop comparing to others
There is no secret formula to work/life balance. As a tradesman, I have worked more 70-hour weeks than I can count. If I compare myself to a banker I may feel jealous, but I have learned that comparing myself to others only leads to bitterness. What your family needs is what matters, not what other people do or think.
7. Embrace the tension
There will always be tension between work and family time. Make sure you are always re-evaluating your priorities and schedule, but forget about always getting it perfect. Your family benefits when you are working towards your calling, and your work benefits when your family is your top priority.
In our western culture we have the luxury of over-thinking our current circumstances until they become an overwhelming monster. If you had to grow crops to survive, there would not be these questions and your children would be working with you in the fields in joyous simplicity.
So stop it, enjoy your children by washing dishes together, sweeping the floor, or trimming the hedges. Take the time to read a Dr. Seuss story to them. Your family will feel valued when they ARE valued; don’t worry about meeting arbitrary quotas or the standards of others.
You will know you have achieved success in a greater sense when both family and work are a joy, instead of an obligation, regardless of the circumstances.