Putting Family First Doesn’t Look The Same for Everyone

I think most moms have a deep desire to put their family first. Even the ones who appear to be placing their careers or their hobbies in front of their children. Even the ones who rely on nannies or relatives to take care of their babies. Even the ones who are too tired at the end of the day to tuck their little ones in with a kiss and a prayer. (I have been this mom – the one who does all of these things – at one time or another. Yet, I truly intend to put my family first.)

We judge each other – and ourselves – on the things we see. But we don’t see the conditions of another mom’s heart. We don’t know if she’s putting her family first in a different way. If she’s setting an example for her children that all things are possible. If she’s pouring out her love for them by providing for them. If she’s showing them how important it is to use the gifts God gave her to serve others.

Putting your family first isn’t easy. And it doesn’t look the same for everyone.

It sometimes looks like you don’t care… I’m one of those moms who has no idea what her children are learning in school on any given day. My refusal to micromanage my children’s homework starting in the first grade was not received well by teachers who were probably hoping for parents who were more engaged in their child’s education. But I recognized then that I had precious few hours to spend with my child and I wanted to spend them doing other things – I wanted to help build character rather than teach math. I’m forever grateful for the wonderful teachers who so excellently manage my children’s education so that I can focus on my priorities. I do care. Just in a different way.

It sometimes looks like you can’t stick with a commitment… I’ve been known to let my child skip soccer practice so that we can enjoy a family dinner. I’m sure the soccer coach and other team members view that as a lack of commitment. But I view it as a commitment to family time. And my children are learning to honor commitments. It just may not look that way to others.

It sometimes looks like you have no ambition… When others around me are climbing the corporate ladder, getting promotions, being relocated for new opportunities and pursuing multiple post graduate degrees, I often think my career pales in comparison. But then, I remember why I treasure my home-based business as a freelance writer, marketing consultant and leader of the International Christian Mompreneur Network. It’s because I’m putting my family first. I actually think it takes a lot of ambition to achieve that goal.

It sometimes looks like you have too much ambition… On the flip side, I’ve had 60-hour work weeks and left my kids with a babysitter so I could travel to a conference for five days. I don’t choose that lifestyle for my family on a regular basis, but there have been seasons in my life when my work grew on my priority list. But ultimately, the times when I’ve had to work more have enabled me to adjust the rest of my schedule to work around my family needs. And for that, I am most grateful.

It sometimes looks snobby or secretive… We tend to turn down social invitations quite a bit. Well, we don’t exactly get invited to a lot of parties, but when we do, we often choose to stay home together as a family instead of attending the party. Maybe people think we’re boring. Or snobby. Or just plain weird. But I’m ok with that. We have three teenagers who want to spend time with us on a Saturday night. That won’t last forever – so I’m embracing the opportunity now!

It sometimes looks messy… On a recent trip we decided to get two hotel rooms – one for the parents and one for the kids. They are old enough to be trusted on their own, especially right next door. And I was thrilled to have a nice, clean hotel room all to ourselves. Until the kids came in to take showers in our room…they used all the clean towels, splashed water on the floor and left a mess. I had a little bit of a meltdown. My daughter let me have my tantrum and then looked at me and said, “I’m sorry, Mom, but you have a family.” Wow. She was right. I do have a family and I love my family. And sometimes they are messy. Sometimes life is messy.

It sometimes looks like you live in the Dark Ages… Every family has their own rules around things like social media, dating, sleepovers and curfews. When it comes to certain things, I’m probably a little too lenient. But other times, my kids insist I’m THE ONLY parent who still thinks this way. I wear that insult like a badge of honor. The hardest part about putting family first is that sometimes it hurts the people we love. But in the long run, it’s worth it.

It sometimes looks like you’re neglecting your family… I used to have a rule that I wouldn’t hire a babysitter to volunteer at school or church or elsewhere. I felt strongly that I shouldn’t have to leave my role as a mom in order to serve in a volunteer role. My thoughts have changed a bit now that the kids are older. I leave them all home alone to fend for themselves at dinnertime so that I can serve on the Board for Girls on the Run. I’m sure some mothers think that looks like I’m neglecting them. Or choosing volunteer service over family responsibility. But I’m raising them to be adults who contribute to their community. I’m raising them to value charitable works. And – bonus – I’m raising them to be able to make dinner on their own once a month!

It always looks like love… No matter what it looks like to others, when we put our family first, it looks like love. And that is pleasing to God. The Gospel reminds us that we should not concern ourselves with pleasing others:

“Woe to you when all men speak well of you.” – Luke 6:26

God wants us to focus on pleasing him. And caring for your family is pleasing to him. So, from one mom to another, I want to encourage you in whatever way you are showing your love by putting your family first. Even if I don’t recognize it when I see it.

So tell me, what does it look like when you put your family first?

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  • This is such a timely post. I completely agree that moms have the tendency to quickly jump to conclusions and comparing other moms’ activities to what we are doing. You are right that we are all experiencing motherhood in various, unique ways. Spending time with my children today looks very different than it did five years ago. Time, age, and circumstances change a variety of things in life and there is no room for judgments. We need to support one another. I enjoyed reading about how you concluded that you wouldn’t micromanage your child’s education and how you were willing to trade in time at a soccer game practice for time at the family dinner table. It’s all about what works for us at any given season. And the main important thing is to be lead by the Holy Spirit and he’ll lead us into all truth. Thanks, Theresa!!

    • Thanks for sharing, Demetria. You are so right about how our different seasons of motherhood change the way we view things. And to follow those promptings from the Holy Spirit!