Happily Even After
by Josh Noem
Over the past few weeks, I’ve been discerning a new career opportunity.
I had been recommended to an office that was hiring, and had begun exploratory conversations about the possible fit—both for the office and for our family. In the end, the office ended up making a different hire. I’m rather grateful that the issue was resolved for me—it saved me the heartache of making a tough decision.
I spent a lot of time in reflection and prayer, trying to wade through the different aspects of this opportunity. It was not an easy task—I had to intentionally put time and effort into this discernment. Walking to the university instead of biking or driving created space for quiet thought, and having a running dialogue with Stacey about pros and cons helped me sift through what was of ultimate value.
On one hand, having another full-time position would be a great financial boost. The position would have been a promotion, and, in effect, would have more than doubled our family income. It was tempting to think of how that level of income would change our family life. The end of the month would not be tight, we could easily afford a new minivan, we wouldn’t have to weigh recreational opportunities against their cost, and we’d have a very secure savings for the future.
All of these considerations constitute substantial “goods” for our family. All of these advantages are important ways to carry out a call to care and provide for a family.
Stacey and I have been arriving at the conclusion that though these advantages would be good for our family, they would come at the expense of a greater “good”: continuing to be involved in every aspect of the lives of our children.
Taking the new position would have been an easy scenario to envision during the school-year: office time while kids are in the classroom. It is the off-season that caused me concern. What would happen during breaks and over the summer? I suppose we’d have a mix of camps and time at home with a nanny of sorts.
I came to a sense of what this would look like one day when I took the kids out to a local playground for lunch. There were several day camps also occupying the playground—kids attending an educational camp for a week or two were taking their break in the day at this playground. I saw three children from one family we know at this camp, and realized that their parents were in the situation we were considering. They needed to work during the day, and so their kids were at a camp.
The three kids were doing fine—they seemed happy and engaged and active, which is everything a parent could want from a camp experience. Yet, I couldn’t help but think that our kids would be impoverished in a similar situation.
We were at the end of the summer at the time, and the kids were definitely ready for school. Their capacities for patience were wearing thin, toys were getting old, and summer projects were over. What used to be imaginative play with figurines had become imaginative warfare and what used to be freeze-tag has become tackling for no apparent reason.
All the same, even though kid-life at the end of summer in our home was getting stale, it was still homemade. Stacey and I were still there to correct angry responses and encourage forgiveness in the language that we want them to use. We were still the ones who could negotiate differences of opinion and sharing “opportunities” by modeling communication skills we want them to use.
They may grow tired of it, but the kids certainly feel grounded in our home as a space for family, a home-base where they are known and loved. They are learning how we do things in our family—from chores to play—and it is a privilege to be able to teach them that.
All of this discernment came down to one question for me: what is the best way to provide for our family? With that question in mind, I saw great value even in those conflict-ridden last days of summer. Even in the day-to-day humdrum routine, we are forming the children into the people we want them to be, which is the most important career-choice I can make.
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