The Night Kathy’s Dad Hung Up On Her

Anybody who loves to work and loves their family asks themselves the question, “What is work-life balance for me?” I know I did. This series explores the times I questioned my work-life balance.

We were newly married. It was late on a Friday night, and I was still at the office. Another meeting, another urgent deadline, each one a do-or-die situation. Then my phone rang. It was my wife.

Kathy said, “I called my father and told him I wanted to come home.”

We had been married for just a few months when she told me this. We were married in Denver after a whirlwind long-distance seven-month romance. After a one-week honeymoon in Hawaii, we loaded up the car her dad gave her as a wedding present and drove to our new life together in Atlanta.

That’s when the fun began, but that’s when the trouble began, too.

The fun was getting to know each other better. We were so in love. We enjoyed being with each other. We had so much fun together. And we were so attracted to each other that we couldn’t help but embrace and steal a kiss every time we were in the same space. That happened when I was home.

But after we returned, I went back to the startup.

There was no money in the business, so we were always on the edge. We had to build the product people wanted. With good products we could make sales. With sales we got money. When we got money, we could get paid. When we got paid, we could survive individually and as a business.

This took an enormous amount of dedication. I worked all the time. I would leave early and come back to our little home late. I tried to make it to dinner most nights, but many times I didn’t. I remember telling Kathy more often than not, “I need to run more compile on this program. I know it will be right. Then I can copy it to a diskette and put it in the mail to my client. I’ll be home right after that.”

That was 6:30 at night.

But it would be well after 10 pm when I got home. She would already be asleep with our dinner on the table. Hers would be eaten and mine covered, waiting for me.

When she told me she had called her dad, I was disappointed but not surprised. If I were her, I would have done the same. We loved each other, but I knew there were limits. Love takes time. Love is an investment. That is what I was learning about love, real-time.

“So what did your father say?” I asked.

“He asked, ‘Who do you think he is working for all the time? He is working for you and him. He has to succeed so he can take care of you both. Your home is not here. You are married now. Your home is there with Charlie in Atlanta,’” she answered.

“Then what did he say?” I asked.

“Nothing,” she said. “Dad just hung up on me.”

That was the start of my discovery of work-life balance. The good news, the really good news, is we stayed married.

We made it through.

We learned together.

We took on the challenges, the disagreements, the frustrations, and the disappointments.

But we stayed committed to each other and continued to love each other. We grew together through the dashed expectations and personal brokenness. And here we are 42 years later, more in love and committed to each other than the day we got married. All by the grace of God.

“So how did this happen?” you may ask.

A fair question to which I didn’t have a good answer until just the other day. But more on that next time.