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Photography by Jenna Neal

A practical discussion on work-life balance for a father

 

 

Illustrator. Assistant Principal. Coach. Mayor. Pastor. Business Owner. All are important titles, and, in many social circles, what these four men are known and appreciated for. But, behind the scenes, they share a common title that exceeds all other labels: father.

Fatherhood is a gift and an honor. But fatherhood is also hard work, as it tests and shapes a man. All fathers have been there: the crossroads of feeling joy and fulfillment colliding with exhaustion and guilt. The joy of hearing about your child’s day at school and the desire to be more present at home, while the weight of work bears down on your back like a 500-pound gorilla.

The work-life balance drapes itself, at times, in busyness, clouding the vision for our lives to healthily invest in our families and embrace our God-given ability to work.

“Busyness is a lack of vision, and you need a vision for your life,” says Jason Burns, pastor of Access Church, owner of Radiant Printing, and father of three. A healthy vision brings about purpose and changes perspective and priorities. “Because I only have 24 hours in a day,” Burns says, “I have to cheat something, and I refuse to cheat my family.” In addition to being a pastor and business owner, Burns is also a doctoral student who starts most days at
4 a.m. — well before his children wake up and kick off the day. In short, he’d rather cheat himself for a season than cheat his family.

One influential force that encroaches on the limited hours within our day is technology. Unless you are Ron Swanson, you probably have a social media account, or, at a minimum, a smart phone. Technology is powerful when you think about it, but that power comes with responsibility. With constant connectivity, it’s extremely important to strike a balance when it comes to our devices and media.

“Always do everything together as a unit.”

“Social media makes us feel like we have to catch that perfect moment,” states Josh “Bump” Galletta, a freelance illustrator and father of two. Even someone like Galletta, savvy with technology and social media, recognizes the threat that tech and media pose to a working father. “If you think about it, Amazon Prime messed up the whole thing,” he says, referencing how we live in a quick-click, two-day shipping kind of world where we want it fast and flawless. But, especially with family life, not everything is so instant, accessible, and perfect. Rather, “It takes time and nurturing.”

Conversely, it requires patience and perspective, something that Alonzo Thompson picked up at a young age. Thompson grew up fatherless and was raised by his grandmother. But he did not let his upbringing hinder his dreams or the vision for his family: married with five kids and a house.

Thompson lived out his dream and attributes that to his faith, stating that, without it, “I wouldn’t have had any guidance or direction.” Now a man with a family of his own, the Thompsons “always do everything together as a unit.” Every year they pick a date “where everything is shut down and it’s all about family and sharing moments. We’re not thinking about work or other stressors that are outside of the home.”

Enter Mayor Bill Mutz, perhaps one of Lakeland’s most famous and beloved dads. Time is precious, and though it is limited to 24 hours a day, Mayor Mutz offers a unique solution.

“One of the things we can do is allow God to multiply our time,” Mayor Mutz gently presents, “and many times, in that, we simply need to ask for wisdom on what we ought to be doing as a dad.”

While we strive for God’s provision and guidance, is work-life balance a myth? Work-life balance is really more of a phase, not a state, and, according to Mayor Mutz, fathers “pass through a state of balance, like a pendulum swing, fluctuating from under-involved, to over-involved, to where it balances in the middle.”

Finding the balance in the swinging pendulum of fatherhood is both the issue and the goal. It’s one of life’s greatest conundrums. “I don’t know if I’ve ever felt balanced the more complicated life became,” says Mayor Mutz, “where I leave work feeling like I should have done more, and I leave home feeling like I should have done more.”

“It’s hard to keep score at home,” says Burns. “At work you can measure progress and know how you’re doing through measurables: raises, performance bonuses, and more — you can literally measure your progress to see if you’re winning. At home, how do you know you’re winning? Measuring success at home is not quantifiable, which makes it harder.”

Winning at work may take only a few hours or days to quantify, where winning at home may take months or even years. Regardless, it’s more qualitative at home, right?

Drawing boundaries, or, for the nature of this article, striking a balance, is especially hard when your office is at home. Consider Galletta, who went from being a youth pastor for 20 years to now being a freelance illustrator and having a home office. He says, “My work is literally at the house, and that’s been a major learning curve where I’ve chosen to implement benchmarks of what I want to get accomplished. I want and aim to be present when my kids come home from school. I don’t want to be trapped and for that to control my life.”

Mayor Mutz described how he “used to mentally put [his] briefcase in the triangular flower garden at the corner of Beacon and Lake Hollingsworth Drive” on his way home from work each day. “It was the point on the rest of the way home,” says Mayor Mutz, “where I functionally made a decision to start praying for my family and the evening together. After many years of this, I started to specifically pray for who God wanted me to make sure I spent time with that night.”

Noticeably, every single father speaks of intentionality. That’s what keeps the pendulum swinging in the right direction toward faith and family: intention in the way we listen, act, and pursue our family. Don’t buy into the lie that things will slow down. The pendulum will always be swinging back and forth, requiring an intense focus.

For Thompson, fathers must be intentional by “being the image of what you want them to be, putting forth an example and having a model to follow.”

“[Fathers] pass through a state of balance, like a pendulum swing, fluctuating from under-involved, to over-involved, to where it balances in the middle.”

Fathers must be intentional by being “predisposed to interruptions,” as Mayor Mutz says, “because most great ministry in life happens at the most inconvenient times — it’s a satanic reality.” Having a set of antennae up, which is not natural for most men who tend to compartmentalize, is extremely important when someone comes with a real issue in their eyes.

Fathers must be intentional by involving their kids in their lives rather than keeping them on the sidelines while pursuing a dream. “Family is we, not just me,” emphasizes Burns, “and as a pastor, I want my kids all up in my work.”Fathers must be intentional to not let the win at work dominate family life; otherwise, it becomes a loss.

Fathers must be intentional to listen well, a simple concept that practically every male seems to botch daily.

Husbands must be intentional with their wives, because, after all, healthy marriages often yield healthy children. Galletta takes his wife on coffee and workout dates. Thompson takes his wife on a trip every February. Mayor Mutz prays daily with his wife. Burns constantly dates his wife (yes, it’s as simple as that).

Begin with the end in mind. No, it’s not a morbid concept, but a practical reality of looking ahead with the past in mind. “When I’m 85, sitting in a rocking chair, reflecting on life, I hope to have minimized the number of regrets and maximized the amount of opportunities,” says Mayor Mutz. For the working father (and husband, for that matter), now is the time to consider the swinging pendulum in your life with the end in mind.

Where’s your pendulum? There is honor in both work and family life. Through a healthy perspective and boundaries, genuine intentionality, and a whole lot of grace, the swinging pendulum of fatherhood can be a beautiful thing.