Put Your Family First
Family Day is coming up February 18th. Put your family ahead of your work, even if it feels like you’re giving up your dreams. The reality is, you’re not giving them up—you’re just putting them on hold for a little while. And this little while is so incredibly important.
I never forgot those words. I was sitting in a business class, and we were discussing getting and keeping clients and work/life balance. The instructors asked a question about what we would do if we needed to miss an important date with a spouse or other family member for the sake of the business. Some people piped up to say they’d always choose their family, even if it meant the business wouldn’t be successful. The instructor didn’t seem impressed.
That’s when a man piped up to say that he disagreed. Your family would always understand, but your potential client might not. A woman agreed with him.
They were both divorced.
Yes, I get it. When you’re trying to start and grow a business, the very existence of that business hangs on your day-to-day decisions. And saying no to a meeting with a client might mean losing out on a good chunk of income you could be using to support your family in the first place.
But I still disagree with the man’s argument.
I was taking this (now defunct) government-funded course to learn how to run a personal training business. I ran this business successfully for two years after finishing the course, and I enjoyed doing it. But my kids were so little, and I realized how much I was missing—and how much they were missing me. So I packed up my business for the sake of my family.
No, I’m not telling every woman that she needs to quit work to spend time with her kids. The “best choice” is different for each family. This just happened to be the best choice for ours at the time. And don’t get me wrong—it wasn’t a choice I took easily, and it wasn’t a decision I made lightly.
I remember the last year I was running the business, getting a phone call from someone who wanted to sell me ad space. I remember telling him, I have enough clients, and I’m not interested in getting more. I’m a tiny business, and I want to stay that way—I value my time with my kids, so I don’t need any more clients now, so I purposely don’t advertise my services. I’ll never forget what he said to me in response:
“So your business isn’t your priority, then.” He said it as if it was a bad thing that my family was my priority.
When did we as a culture forget that people are what matters most? That we need to learn to “use things and love people,” not the other way around? When did we forget that the value of time spent with loved ones is not something to strive towards only after we’ve earned more, gathered more, accumulated more?
I recently heard a great story on a podcast, about a girl who was looking forward to a great day together with her father. She came with him to a gathering, where her father was invited for dinner. She watched as she heard her father say “that would be great.” And her heart was about to break, until she heard the end of the conversation: “But not today. I have a special evening planned with my daughter.” That day, the daughter learned that what mattered most to her father was her.
What is the most important thing to you? You must make a decision about this before making a decision about your business. And it’s the same for me.
I love updating this website, and writing brings me great joy. But we’re halfway through our 1-year road trip across the US and Canada, and I’m starting to think about the future. I am committed to homeschooling my children and spending as much time with them as I can while they’re young and not only willing to be by my side, but enjoy it and look forward to it.
While I love my writing and look forward to it every day, if I have to give it up to put my children first, then that’s what will have to happen. I decided long before I had children that when I did have them, my life would be dedicated to them. And while I don’t intend on being a martyr (I will certainly continue taking my weekends off), if being their teacher and role model requires me to put some dreams on hold, then that’s what will have to happen.
For now, I’ll continue doing my freelance writing work and updating the websites. But when we come home, my husband goes back to work, and I become the main homeschooling parent again, I may need to stop updating this site and I’ll need to take a break from the freelance writing. Whereas I enjoy doing these things fully, the truth is that they take too much time away from my children and husband. And so, if I need to take a little time away from it while the kids are young, then that’s OK. And on February 18th, I’ll try to set aside the sadness that comes when having to put any dream on hold, and I’ll celebrate the choice of spending more time with my family.
Back in 2008, the Ontario government established the second Monday in February as “Family Day.” Take this day to think about what you put first: your family or your business.
I get it. Sometimes, you have to think about the business so you can provide for your family. But in my experience, putting the family first never ends badly. Putting the business ahead of the family, however, often has disastrous consequences.