"When my kids were small, I just pretty much said no to travel."
"I commit to be away from my family no more than 12 nights per year."
"My wife cooked dinner every night, and we ate around the dining table. Dinner isn't about eating - it's about talking. And there are conversations that will only happen at home, not at a restaurant."
"We just pretty much committed to no evening meetings while our children were home."
"If an opportunity conflicted with my child's event, then I just said no. I wouldn't be there. Anyone can do the work you're doing, but only one person can be a dad to your child."
It was Catalyst One Day. I was in a room filled with change makers, and we were listening to practical, pragmatic wisdom from two of the leading voices in leadership: Andy Stanley and Craig Groeschel.
I listen and take notes, well aware of my discrepancy between their guidelines and my reality. I mean, their principles are good, strong, important and solid. They're just not what I can do right now.
These guys said no to travel when their kids were small; I was watching the clock to board a plane to San Diego in a few hours. I had carefully scripted out the weekend with grandparents, babysitters, meals, playdates, and smooth transitions in my absence. Nonetheless, I would be gone for four days. (And as I recall this now, I would accidentally take each child's medication with me in my bag instead of handing it off before I left town. Which is a few things problematic.)
Last fall, I accepted an invitation to speak at a women's event this spring. Plans are underway, the event is moving forward, and then I received the boys' soccer roster: I'm going to miss their very first soccer game. But I didn't know, I tell myself, assure myself. I didn't know. I said yes to this commitment months and months ago. The soccer schedule just came out this week. Still, this mom won't be on the sidelines that morning when the cleats hit the field for the first time this season.
Andy and Craig talk about their cherished dinner hours when their kids were growing up, how their wives prepared such delicious meals everyone loved and the evenings began a pattern of conversations that have continued well into their kids' adult years. Last night at my house, we had hot dogs and cheese curls, and we watched Tom and Jerry from the table. The night before, we went to Fazoli's, and they played on iPads while they ate their pasta and I read my book.
These seasoned leaders' children are older than mine, much older than mine. And Andy and Craig have the vantage point that comes with empty nest; they can see what they did right, what led them to this place. But how do I reconcile their principles as a single mom? What does one do when she doesn't have a teammate to share the calendar of soccer schedules and gymnastics meets, teacher conferences and field trips?
Am I doing this all wrong?
During a break in the conference, my cell phone rang. It was Tucker calling on his teacher's cell phone from his second grade classroom.
"You doing okay today?"
"Yep. I just wanted to tell you that. And I wrote something great in my journal that I wanted to read to you."
Well, there must lie a piece of the answer: He called me, in the middle of his day, in the middle of my day, because he knew he could. He knew I would answer. He knew he held the trump card. He knows that this fulltime author is a fulltime mom.
His fulltime mom.
So maybe we're doing okay, doing this our way. And my kids know that there is no meeting, no book, no audience that means more to me than they do.
We're planning around the rhythms of our lives in this season, while we are a family of three in gymnastics and soccer and book deadlines and speaking opportunities and picky eaters and lots and lots of spaghetti nights with Tom & Jerry.
I look at all of my notes from the leadership gurus, and I draw a big bracket and an arrow to my own conclusion: Do What Works for Your Family.