This post title may bug you a bit, and you may not be aware why. It’s probably due to a prevailing assumption in our culture—and I believe one of the most damaging mindsets for building great families today. It is the premise that you can have it all.
We have convinced ourselves that there is always a solution to getting more in our schedule or to have everything we want.
But there isn’t. And you can’t.
I’m sorry to burst your bubble. And I’m a good news guy and extremely optimistic. Yet the reality is that we are finite beings with limited amounts of time, money, and energies.
And we inherently know this. Yet we continue to hope against hope. We still think that if we push a bit harder and farther, we really can have everything we want.
The Trade Off
In Greg McKeown’s outstanding book, Essentialism: The Disciplined Pursuit Of Less, he convincingly makes the case for the necessity of choosing between options, knowing which should be a trade off for the sake of the better.
As an example of this in building a great family, he tells of a couple he knew and their family which he admired. How did they do it? They chose not to be involved in clubs—no lodges, no book clubs, etc. Instead, they chose to spend their time with their kids. As a result, they enjoyed a close-knit relationship with their adult kids now and considered them best friends.
What We Traded Off For The Family We Wanted
I’ve never written or spoken about the above as eloquently as McKeown has, yet Gail and I have have stressed the same thing for years to other interested couples. We knew early on what kind of family we wanted, and we traded off many things over the years to work toward that vision.
- Gail chose to be a stay-at-home mom when we could have used more money.
- We chose to educate our kids at home when tuition-free private education was available to us.
- We didn’t have regular nights-out with the guys or girls.
- Our kids didn’t have full schedules of organized sports or other lessons because with five kids, we’d have been running every waking hour.
- We could have lived in bigger houses and drove more expensive cars and had more toys—but I wasn’t willing to trade the requisite time and energy away from home to do so.
These things were trade-offs for what we wanted more. We did so willingly, without regret—and would do so again.
We traded many good and enjoyable things for things we knew we’d treasure more. Hundreds of weekly Family Nights. Scores of overnight camping trips and extended family vacations. Plenty of one-on-one time and talks during critical transition periods. More treasured traditions and goofy family catch phrases that we can list.
Most of all, we enjoy close, everyday friendships with all of our adult kids today. And we see them carrying on the same family values in their families.
This is the reason why Gail and I are so passionate about helping young families learn to manage their limited time and resources toward the things that matter most to them.
What Will Your Family Trade Off?
This isn’t about right or wrong—or whose choices are better. What we desired and chose to trade off doesn’t have to be your desires or choices.
What is important is that you know what you want and what you will gladly trade off.
And what do you benefit if you gain the whole world but lose your own soul?” Mark 8:36
He’s talking about the reality that gaining one thing will require trading off other things. You could work incessantly and amass great wealth and everything money can buy. But would you do so at the expense of your health? The experiences of your kids’ birthday or school plays? Your marriage? The relationships with your sons and daughters now and in the future?
You can have the family you want. Just don’t fool yourself thinking you can have it all.
Question: What is one trade-off you've made for the family you want that you would do again? Share your answer in the comments below.