All of us want to live life without major regrets, but only some of us actually do something about it.
I read recently about a man who quit his demanding and time-consuming $100 million job because he felt guilt and regret from not spending time with his 10-year-old daughter. In fact, she had handed him a list of 22 events—from her first day at school to her first soccer match to a parent-teacher meeting—that he had missed. He got the point.
It was a wonderful reminder that drastic actions in life sometimes are necessary if we are to be family-oriented, even if we cannot afford to quit our jobs.
I have three young children who take most of my attention, so I think a lot about the subjects of regret, priorities and time.
The Bible can guide us here. In Psalm 39, the psalmist asks God to remind him “how fleeting my life is” and to show him “the number of my days.” The psalmist calls life a “mere breath,” describes much of the world’s chasing after wealth as pointless (Psalm 39:6), and then cries out to God: “My hope is in You.”
What was the psalmist’s point?
Keep your focus on eternal matters, not fleeting and temporary ones. Of course, there is a time for fun and games (Ecclesiastes 3:4), but they shouldn’t consume us. And they shouldn’t constantly distract us from more important things.
I’ll have about 1,800 days with each of my children before they reach kindergarten. That sounds like a lot, but it’s really not. Each day speeds past me like a Daytona racecar. Those days turn into weeks, those weeks roll over into months, and those months into years. Life with small kids is never boring, and time really does “fly.” Pretty soon, that little boy that I held in my two hands as a newborn is walking off to school, giving me a goodbye high five—slapping that same hand that literally held him some 1,800 days earlier. Five years later he’ll be 10, and five years later, he’ll be wanting to drive.
How, then, do we raise our children without later having regret? How do we maximize our time with our kids—without stressing ourselves out in the process? Here are three suggestions:
Get new priorities. I vividly remember the night before my son was born, thinking to myself: What will fatherhood really be like? Behind that question was another question: Will I still get to watch every football and basketball game my teams play? Will I get to spend my time with all my hobbies? The answer, of course, was a resounding “no,” but I didn’t realize fatherhood would be so wonderful that it didn’t matter. If our parenting years mirror our bachelor/bachelorette years, something is wrong. When we have the right priorities—and we truly put our family ahead of personal desires—our day-to-day decisions will be radically different. And more rewarding.
Get a new perspective. When we comprehend the brevity of life—how we’re here only for a few years and then gone—it changes how we view everything. It transforms our perspective. God calls us to have an eternal focus, to live each week with an eye toward heaven. But so often we don’t, and we make decisions based solely on temporary pleasures. In just a few decades, we’ll all be gone. How will you and I be remembered? What eternal impact will you and I have made? If, when you woke up this morning, you had known that it would be your last day with your family, would you have done anything differently? (Of course. I would have, too.)
Get rejuvenated—and get away. My worst parenting moments occur when I’m tired, stressed out or hungry. On those days, I’m in no mood to “maximize” the time with my children. Jesus dealt with identical physical needs and emotions. What did He do? Simple: He slept. He relaxed. He ate. He didn’t rush from town to town, and He didn’t try to squeeze 27 hours of ministry into a 24-hour day. He simply accomplished the will of the Father. He even withdrew to “desolate places” to pray (Luke 5:16). As the Southwest airline commercials put it, he “got away.” If the Son of God needed physical and spiritual rejuvenation, then how much more do you and I?
— by Michael Foust
Foust is an editor and writer, the father of three small children, and blogs about parenting at MichaelFoust.com.