When you have married or are a parent, there’s one truth you have to realize: You have two full-time jobs! Being a spouse or a parent is not easy work. It’s the hardest job in the world. However, it comes with excellent benefits if you work hard.
This truth is something I’ve shared with hundreds of couples over the last few decades. Knowing that marriage and parenting are hard work isn’t something any of them wanted to hear. It isn’t necessarily fun or easy. However, knowing this can make a huge difference in how you view your marriage, parenting, work, faith, and life.
There’s your first full-time job, of course. No matter what line of work you are in, work can be time-consuming and exhausting, even if you love what you do. However, this job allows you to pay the rent, childcare costs, tuition payments, grocery bills, and save a little bit for retirement or a family vacation. The reality is that we need to have that first full-time job to survive.
But what becomes a significant choice in our marriage and parenting is whether we realize and own the fact that we have a second full-time job.
Your Second Full-Time Job
If you’re married, recognizing that you have a second full-time job is a crucial choice. Let me make it clear, however, that calling this a second full-time job doesn’t minimize its importance or value in any way! In fact, in many ways, it’s far more critical than our day job. Recognizing that you have this vital second job involves realizing how much more difficult life has become once you tie the knot. In that difficulty, life can become better and even easier. However, it doesn’t become easier until you first realize that life has become more demanding.
Let me enlist the help of noted psychiatrist M. Scott Peck to make a case for this from his outstanding book The Road Less Traveled:
“Life is difficult. This is a great truth, one of the greatest truths. It is a great truth because once we truly see this truth, we transcend it. Once we truly know that life is difficult — once we truly understand and accept it —then life is no longer difficult. Because once it is accepted, the fact that life is difficult no longer matters.”
Let’s go back to marriage and acknowledge something we rarely hear before we’re married and never see in movies. It’s something many of us try our best to ignore after we’re married as well. One of those dreaded four-letter words: Work.
In the Beginning, There Was Work
I’m not sure about you, but my view of marriage was that of opening the door to attachment, caring, intimacy, and fulfillment. I was signing up to move in forever with someone who was a lot better looking than my former roommates. She was a life partner with whom I could share the load — a helper. I was open to carrying my half of the load. However, I wasn’t ready to double the load. That’s what happened when I got married. That’s when that four-letter word showed up in so many new ways — work.
How God Modeled Work For Us
Genesis 2:3 and 2:15 tell us, “So God blessed the seventh day and made it holy, because on it God rested from all His work that He had done in creation… The Lord God took the man and put him in the garden of Eden to work it and keep it.”
Yes, I realize this verse uses the phrase “rested from all His work.” I’ll get back to the concept of rest shortly. For now, let’s focus on verses 1 and 2. Before the rest, Almighty God was fully engaged in work for six days. At the end of each day, God declared His work was good. This is amazing when you think about it.
But what if work is something Almighty God Himself modeled for us in creation? What if work is something that we need? What if God designed it to be a part of our lives six days a week? Creative energy and cultivation come from work. In the Book of Hebrews, we are told to “be diligent to enter rest” (Hebrews 4:11). Before you dismiss this thought, think back a moment on how you felt during and after working hard.
Think back to all that creative energy you unleashed when you moved into your first apartment. Typically, that’s a time when we’re on a budget and just starting out. But that didn’t stop you from working hard to make that apartment your place and creating your new home. Think of the amazing amount of cultivation that comes before and after bringing home a first child: gathering, painting, setting up, and baby-proofing everything the child will need, all before you brought her home!
Work Can Pull Us Together
One of the critical problems in marriage and parenting that we don’t realize is how work can help pull us together. We think about how much work we’ve already done and how we are asked to do more.
When we come home from our jobs at the end of the day, and there’s that fixer-upper that needs repair, plus all those things our spouse and kids need from us as well, it’s as if we have just walked into another full-time job.
Amazingly, over time we can look back at our hard work and realize it was building more than just upgrades. However, we must get past our misunderstanding of what rest is to have this vantage point.
Raising Your Kids to Defend Their Faith
Why We Often Choose Rest Over Work
Rest is not overrated. We need the real rest that comes from eight hours of sleep a night to repair and rejuvenate our minds and bodies. We need a Sabbath rest — one day when we cut back so we can give thanks and gain back strength and perspective. If you’re like many people today, grade school and high school demanded little work at home outside of the mandatory homework. College came, and most of us had roommates who were only there to let off steam with us. No one wanted the roommate who reminded us of all the things left on our to-do list. And then, we got married.
Laying a Strong Foundation
Dr. Dewey Wilson, who leads the team at StrongMarriages.com, was a homebuilder before getting his doctorate in cognitive learning. He often talks about the arduous work that goes into laying a foundation for a home. It is work that almost no one sees and seems to go on forever, but that extra time spent in laying a solid foundation means everything in getting a home to stand strong for many years.
It takes hard work to lay a foundation. We expend so much work and energy in our family’s early years. We can compare that amount of work to the space shuttle’s launch into orbit. 87% of the energy used to get the shuttle to orbit is expended in the first fifteen minutes of the flight. Like our families, much of our work needs to be put into the first few formative years to lay a solid foundation.
Unmet Expectations and Unfulfilled Entitlements
Dr. Wilson also talks about two things that tear down a home:
1) Unmet expectations and
2) Unfulfilled entitlements
Let’s say you’ve been hard at work at your full-time job. Like me, let’s say you travel several days a week. It’s far from glamorous: battling trains, planes, and automobiles before finally returning home. At long last, you can sit down and rest. At least, that’s the expectation. You expect no one at home will want anything from you after you’ve had to fulfill expectations for days at work. All that work and travel should entitle anyone to be able to just zone out.
But as soon as we open the door, there’s our spouse, handing us a kid or asking for help with something important. Behind all of it is what makes life so difficult — more work.
Are You Ready to Make Life Easier?
If you’re ready to make life easier, find a blank piece of paper and write down today’s date. File it where you can find it and remind yourself that on this day, you decided to accept the fact that as difficult as it is, you have two full-time jobs. Next, remind yourself that it’s worth every ounce of energy to make it happen.
To do otherwise is what our culture does and what our world continues to elevate. To follow that path is to focus on your rights and how the individual good is more important than the common good. We’ve gone so far in saying that “it’s all about us,” even when we’re married. As Robert Bellah writes in his book, Habits of the Heart, “To make a real difference there would have to be a reappropriation of the idea of vocation or calling, a return in a new way to the idea of work as a contribution to the good of all and not merely as a means of one’s own advancement.”
The Apostle Peter knew people had day jobs. He was a fisherman, but he called us to something higher: “To bless. That’s your job. To bless” (1 Peter 3:9, The Message paraphrase). I know you have enough work from your first full-time job to deserve to go into the family room, garage, or to the gym and unwind a bit before seeing your family after work. It would help if you didn’t have to wait until you’ve helped out with baths and homework before you finally got a break to unwind.
No doubt about it — loving, serving, caring for, and working for those you love when you get home from your first full-time job is difficult. But owning and choosing the fact that you have two full-time jobs (at least until the kids are older) will help make life get more manageable. Your life will become better and more loving, which is totally worth it.
Your Labor Is Not in Vain
I have a good friend who is a Phoenix policeman. He usually drives his squad car home. Every workday, he pulls into an empty grade school parking lot a few blocks from his home after his shift. He rolls down his windows and shuts off his car. First, he thanks God that he is coming home. Then, he takes a prayerful minute to think about what is waiting for him at home: three young kids, two dogs, his awesome wife. All of them aren’t going to meet him with shouts of, “Way to go, Dad! Great job at work! Take thirty minutes of just you time. Don’t worry. We’re not expecting anything.” Instead, they’re going to tackle him and want him to hug them, ask about their day, and take them for a walk.
My friend does two things before leaving the grade school parking lot for the drive home. He takes a deep breath and reads through Galatians 5:22-23, “But the fruit of the spirit is love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control.” Next, he asks Jesus to help him live out those words at home and walk in his door, ready to start his second full-time job. As he steps into the house, he is reminded of what Paul writes in 1 Corinthians 15: “In the Lord, your labor is not in vain.”