As a man, especially a black man, I am programmed to be the hunter and gatherer for my family. This means that my traditional role would be to work and to bring home the “bacon” for my family. For the majority of my life, I did just that. I had a successful career in management and, together with my wife, provided a very comfortable lifestyle for our family. However, success comes with a cost. There were times during my career that required me to be away from home for extended periods of time. Early on, I was willing to pay this cost as we figured that sacrifices sometimes needed to be made now in order to be successful in the future. After I became a parent, it became a different story.
After the birth of my oldest daughter, I turned my focus to becoming the best Dad that I could possibly be. Since my oldest daughter was born prematurely and required frequent doctor visits as a toddler, we decided that my wife would become a stay at home mom while I changed careers in order to find a job that required less travel and stable hours. As our daughter grew and began school, my wife re-entered the workforce but our focus was still centered on our role as parents. As she continued to mature, we realized that our daughter needed additional education resources that were not available where we currently lived. While our lives were stable and we were financially comfortable, we knew that we needed to move to maximize our daughter’s potential. We decided to move from Maryland (where we lived at that time and where our extended family was based) to Austin, Texas, over 1,500 miles away. It wasn’t easy but we focused on what was most important and that was our daughter’s well being.
While my wife was able to soon transfer her job to Austin, I was not so lucky. To maintain our lifestyle, I decided to commute back to the Washington, DC area and keep my current employment. In the beginning, I commuted every other week but soon I was required to be in the office on a weekly basis. Additionally, soon after moving, we made the decision to add to our family and adopted two additional children, thus increasing our family to five. While my job allowed us to maintain our standard of living, the commute was tearing our lives apart. I hardly had any time for anything other than travel and work. I was so focused on being the hunter and gatherer that I completely lost my focus as a parent. My wife became a de facto single parent and it started to affect all facets of our lives.
One time, while home recuperating from a medical procedure, I had the time to reflect on what I was doing and how far I had strayed from purpose. I remember reading an article about the top 5 regrets that people have on their deathbed. I remember thinking that money is great but what good is it if you can’t share it with the people that you love. I was gone so much that my children barely knew me. It was time for a change and the change needed to start with me.
I realized that the most important thing that I could give my children was not money but my time. Although I was afraid to walk away from a promising and lucrative career, I remembered that my main focus at this stage of life was being a parent. I recalled in the Bible where Jesus says in John 14:1 to “Let not your hearts be troubled. Believe in God; believe also in me.” I took a leap of faith and resigned my position to come home not only for my family but also for myself. In the process, I learned three lessons that turned out to be the key to parent leadership.
Do the Right Thing
When I was commuting, my focus was on earning money for my family; however, my assignment was to be a good parent. As the Bible says in Luke 16: 13, “No servant can serve two masters, for either he will hate the one and love the other, or he will be devoted to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve God and money.”
I commuted back and forth between Texas and Maryland because I was depending on myself to provide financial resources for my family; however, when God gives an assignment, He also provides the resources to complete that assignment. By following the path that God had for me, I remembered the words of Jeremiah 29:11 which says, “For I know the plans I have for you, declares the Lord, plans for welfare and not for evil, to give you a future and a hope.”
Make Family a Priority
Proverbs 22:6 says, “Train up a child in the way he should go; even when he is old he will not depart from it.” In order to accomplish this task, I needed to be more of a presence in the lives of my children.
Other than my faith, my family is the most important priority in my life. My responsibility as a parent is my primary purpose and focus. Like anyone else, I want to be successful in life and to enjoy the fruits of that success; however, I realized that if I failed as a parent, nothing else mattered. In my book, Discerning God’s Purpose: A Father’s Journey from Tragedy to Triumph, one of my principle foundations of leadership is that leaders must be led. For me, that leadership comes from God. When I learned to really trust Him, I truly discovered that with God, all things are possible.