Choosing to Cheat

I’ve been reading a book called “Choosing To Cheat: Who Wins When Family and Work Collide” by Andy Stanley. It’s a realistic look at how your priorities in life are demonstrated by your actions — how many hours you spend at work, how many family obligations you miss, and so on. And that there will never be enough time to do all of the things you want to do, you need to do, or that you are obligated to do. As Stanley puts so succinctly in the title, you need to choose who you’re going to cheat out of your time and energy. Will you cheat your children out of time with their mom or dad, or will you cheat your boss out of an employee that works overtime anytime he or she needs it?

Thing is, I haven’t had time to finish the book, even though I bought it at Blossom Women’s Conference … way back in October. I chose to cheat myself out of finishing the book.

But I’ve still learned the lessons Stanley has for us, perhaps in a more concrete way, and especially during this week in particular.

I offered to work 3 weeks of overtime for a family in a bind. Yes, it involved more money, but not enough that I would drop everything else to do it. I offered primarily to be of service to this family. The overtime cut into the kids’ evening activities, our weekly family devotions, my errand-running time, and our Valentine’s Day plans. It meant that as soon as I was done work, our youngest would head straight to the bathtub and then to bed, which left very little time to actually spend with her.

But my family has always been very accommodating of my business decisions (perhaps not by choice …), and no one offered an argument when I told everyone this overtime work would be happening. Although at the time, I understood it to be two weeks, not three. But still, no one objected. I chose to cheat my family.

And I worked merrily along, as did my family, until one day this week I was hit with an awful realization. The overtime I was working was not being used completely out of necessity. I was working overtime and sacrificing my family’s space, time and activities, for the enjoyment of someone else.

I hadn’t been clear with my client. I hadn’t explained to them that I was offering my services for a specific reason. I had assumed that they would understand what my working overtime entailed. I assumed that they would behave similarly to other clients had in the past. But there’s no reason they should have. They were paying me to provide a service. What they did with that service was no business of mine. The gas station attendant doesn’t care what you do with the gas as long as you pay for it. The waitress doesn’t care if you eat your food, as long as you pay for it. Why should it matter to me? And why should it matter to my client?

And I realized that it does matter to me, because my family is being cheated. So I made a big, huge business decision.

I made a business decision to always put my own family first. I made a business decision to never work overtime again. And I made a business decision to always do what is best for MY family, not anyone else’s family.

This all sounds incredibly cynical and not at all Christ-like, and it really cuts me to have to put it in black and white like that. I feel terribly guilty for having to stop offering to help my clients out, especially when I know some of them really do need help and extra services. But if my priority list is God first, husband second, children third, there’s just no room in the top three for work. And here’s the thing — God’s blessed me with a waiting list, with families that lurk on my website, checking for a chance to get an interview, and with a sellers’ market in this little town.  My job is relatively secure.  So I’ve chosen to cheat. To cheat my business and my clients out of extra time, extra work and extra services, while still giving as much as I can during my regular work hours.

And so, I’m choosing to cheat.  I’m choosing to cheat the good things, to give to the better things.

And maybe one day I’ll find enough time to finish that book …

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