Living out a Family-Career Balance (Scholar’s Compass)

Faithful Is Successful Series: Daniel Roeber reflects on family and career in response to Matthew Cabeen.

Our careers and our families are both goods God has given to us that enrich our lives and can bring Him glory. Both are secondary to our relationship with God through Jesus Christ, without whose abundant and undeserved grace we can literally do nothing (not even exist). Neither career nor family is sufficient to fulfill the full range of our human needs. Without work, we cannot provide the basic needs that make family life possible. Without a proper view of family, our spouses and children can suffer unjustly. In the context of a life properly ordered toward God, work and family operate together and constitute the bulk of our life’s daily activities. They provide a full range of situations wherein we serve God and others and are ourselves served. — Matthew T. Cabeen, Reflections on Family-Career Balance

Reflection

Dr. Cabeen has provided us with an insightful chapter on a subject with which all driven individuals will be faced: the need to balance a scholarly career with family life. Such a balance takes on greater importance when we recognize both the high value Christians place on the family as well as the incredible demands of time and energy that are placed on those pursuing a career in academia. While this issue is not unique to those in academia, it is all too easy for the exigencies of academic life to crowd out all other priorities.

On this pursuit for balance Cabeen provides several ideas I found particularly helpful. We must consider what our definition of “success” is. Rather than focus solely on job titles, publications, influence, or the size of a paycheck, we can view success through the lens of those objectives that we’ve assigned to (rather than assume to be a part of) it. In other words, we do well to clearly identify our objectives for our careers and move forward from there.

Once we do this, understanding how to balance success in career with our idea of success in our family as well as recognize how unfavorable circumstances may be the hand of God guiding our journey rather than simply obstacles to be overcome. Such considerations can become more complicated when both spouses are engaged in academic pursuits. And yet, recognizing what success looks like with an eye to both career and family makes these personal, situation-specific decisions a bit clearer.

Children should be a factor in these decisions, even if they are not yet in the picture. Before children are involved couples should devote time to build their relationship, as some of that time will be lost when children are born. Career demands can stymie couples from having children, be it for their perceived interference with careers and not feeling ready for them. To this Cabeen helpfully notes again that our perspectives should shift. We do well to remember that children are one of the highest gifts in a marriage and part of our calling from God. With such an attitude change, as Cabeen notes, “begetting children is not seen as a burden that detracts from our other goals and enterprises, but rather as itself a worthy enterprise to which we eagerly desire to give our time and energy.”

I empathize with this point concerning children, as I have a 23-month-old daughter and am looking forward to welcoming a son into the world at the end of April. The rigors of preparing for comprehensive exams is currently weighing on me, and at times I think that 15 minutes playing with my daughter could be 15 minutes of studying or reading. But the interactions I have with my daughter and my future son are worth every minute; furthermore, recognizing this importance helps me focus more on studies with the limited time I have allocated for it.

I conclude expressing the same hope for myself and fellow Christians that Cabeen mentions: “that Christians who are just embarking on promising careers and who are considering marriage or children will pursue both callings with vigor, joy, and love.” Recognizing and defining success in both areas will help us achieve the balance between family and career that will bring glory to God.

Questions

What does success mean for you in your career? How does it differ from broader societal notions of success?

How does family life fit in with your concept of success? Which gets precedence?

Prayer

Heavenly Father, as a member of Your forever family, thank you for the dual callings of career and family. Give me the grace to walk in wisdom, giving my best to both aspects of life that You have called me to.

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Daniel Roeber

Daniel Roeber is fascinated by the intersection of theology, philosophy, and life. He currently is a doctoral student in the Department of Religion at Florida State University where he studies and teaches American Religious History under the supervision of Amanda Porterfield. His research focuses on religion and politics in the early republic. Dan lives in Tallahassee, Florida with his wife Sarah, daughter Emily, and dog Bailey.

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