I struggle with finding a good work-life balance.
Often I’m a working single parent. My wife’s job takes her away from us about 75 percent of the time, so my daughter and I manage the best we can. And thankfully, as a pastor I have a little more flexibility during the week than most people I know. I’m able to find a way to make it to every awards ceremony and school concert, but it is still a struggle.
I’m really cognizant of the problem, too. I have too many friends whose parents were pastors and they have almost all said the same thing. Their mom or dad was always off doing something for “the church.” And even though they knew their parents loved them, they still felt like an afterthought at times. When an emergency came up, they would get dumped off at another church family’s house, often for hours at a time. I vowed not to do that to my daughter. But it’s HARD.
When you feel the demands of your job creeping up on you, but you feel super guilty for not spending more time with your kids, what do you do?
That’s exactly what I asked Alfonso Ribeiro.
Ribeiro, of Fresh Prince of Bel-Air fame, is the host of ABC’s America’s Funniest Home Videos (AFV), and I feel a sort of affinity with him. We’re both dads of blended families, we both have multi-ethnic marriages, and we’re both working full-time (albeit SLIGHTLY different jobs). So when I got the chance to interview Alfonso about the season finale of AFV, which is airing this Sunday at 7/6 c, I also asked him how he balances the same problem the rest of us face: work-life balance.
“You know, I simply make sure I have my family with me whenever possible,” he told me. “At this point in my career, there has to be more than just success. To me, success is being with family. To be a great dad you have to be present, to show the value of hard work, to talk about right and wrong. There’s just something you can’t get via FaceTime and Skype. Whenever I’m working abroad anywhere, I try to find a way to have my family be with me. Balance comes in making it a true effort and a priority.”
I know with everyone’s crazy schedule, that’s not always possible. When your kids are in school, it makes it even tougher because you can’t just pull them out and have them travel with you whenever you want. And it’s not always possible to bring them to work with you. But there is something powerful about PRESENCE. There’s something tangibly different when you spend time with your kids.
My fondest memories of my dad are when we did things together. He’d take me fishing with him often. One time we went on a half-day boat out of Long Beach and he taught me how to bring in a barracuda. Another time we went lake fishing at Puddingstone, and I remember getting a greasy burger from the grill and just sitting there with him, waiting for a fish to bite. Those were the best.
I make sure to spend quality daddy-daughter time with my daughter Emma as often as possible. We have regular “Daddy-Daughter Days” at least once a month where I don’t do any work and she doesn’t have any school and we just spend the day together. Sometimes it’s simple, like going out to eat at a favorite restaurant. Other times it’s more elaborate, like driving down to Disneyland and spending the day on rollercoasters. But no matter what, I know by setting aside time together, she knows in a tangible way how much she means to me.
Dads, there is something very powerful about Daddy-Daughter Days. One time when we were at Disneyland together, Emma wanted to go take a picture with Ariel. She handed Ariel her autograph book and inscribed on the inside it said, “Daddy-Daughter Day.”
Ariel looked up at me and said, “Oh, I used to have Daddy-Daughter Days with my daddy, too!”
Now I don’t know if she meant King Triton or her real dad, but I suspected she meant her dad. She got up after signing the book and insisted we all take a photo together. I still have that picture on my desk.
Ribeiro’s right. Success IS being with family.