By Matthew Hooper
Right now I am on break. Which means I am only working one job. Come the 16th of January I will also be back at school. Then a week or so later I will also resume my work as a photographer. So youth pastor, masters level student, and photographer, three jobs that take up a large amount of time. Then on the other side I have a wife, a three year old son, a two year old daughter, and a five month old. I can honestly say this is not the current reality I thought I would be living in.
When I graduated from college I took a job at a grocery store near the college. I thought that I would only be there for a few months then my wife and I would be off to Africa for her internship. After that we would find full time ministry positions. It wasn’t an unrealistic plan, my college at the time boasted a 95% posting rate for graduates when I started. Then the funny thing happened we didn’t go to Africa, and we didn’t find a church after my wife’s internship. We were kind of stuck living in a small town next to our college. Also Kim was now pregnant. We really couldn’t survive off of the grocery store anymore, so I got another job. It was our first attempt at doing two jobs. 7-12 as counselors aid, then from 1-9 at the grocery store. We pretty much hated it. There was no down time or life. Which really doesn’t work as your wife needs more help as pregnancy progressed. It wasn’t long into this where we started to look for a single job that could sustain us. When we found that job we thought we would never have to go back to the reality. Well flash forward to now, and we are back in that reality. This time the stakes are a little higher. I work as a photographer which with drive time it can be near 60 hours, then I am also a youth pastor which you can round to 20 hours, and I am student on top of that working on my masters which is supposed to be around 16 hours. Then you have sleep which is usually only 6 hours a night, taking up another 42 hours. This leaves 30 hours a week for my family. 30 hours over 7 days divided by 4 people means they get next to none of my time. This makes life extremely hard on anyone.
It was in the way I was raised that you were to work hard. My Grandfather taught me you do not work the job you have you work the job you want. He was someone worth following that advice for, in his 20’s in one week he went from from a minimum wage job on Monday, to making $10 more at the end of the week, by switching jobs every day. Hard work was taught as value because it was what would provide for your family. On some level this was the most important thing ever, somewhat an old world sensibility with an ever present truth. The problem is that money doesn’t provide everything for your family. If you work to the point you give your family nothing, it doesn’t matter where they live, what you drive or what they are eating. Even with money in hand you can still bankrupt your family.
Proverbs 12:27 says “Whoever is slothful will not roast his game, but the diligent man will get precious wealth.” (ESV) Diligence is a great word for things. It encompasses things better more than just work hard. Diligence is to push for something better. Even more precious wealth gives you the idea of something more than just money. Precious is for me knowing that there is never a doubt in my families eyes that I am for them. Something that is really hard for them some days when I leave my kids before they wake up and don’t come home until after they are in bed again.
This summer we tried to make a new church work. We were in a spot that the first priority for us was a church family to come around us. So when the opportunity came up to join an awesome family in Grove City, OH, we decided to take it. The problem was there was no pay, and no housing. So I went up ahead of my family, to find other work and a place for us to live. I’ve only been away from my family for a few days at the longest. By the end of things it was six weeks. My daughter didn’t even want to come to me at first when I finally got back. We ultimately decided when I got back this wasn’t the place for us. Having to choose such a large sacrifice for our family was never going to provide something better. This changed a lot of our views on how our family is to work. My wife and I view family as a top priority, but this helped us focus how that priority is to work. And it doesn’t work if we are this separated. No matter how many jobs I have to work to provide for us financially I need to make sure that it is not separating us.
To many men think they need to just earn money. Man being a slave to money has to be one of the biggest lies we by into. If you can control your wants you can live like a king in this country even at the poverty line. But our heart is prone to sin and selfishness and we always think we “need” more. So we work. Then we get more, but now the more isn’t enough, so we work more. By the end of it we have money, but no satisfaction, and no family. We think this and it leads us to the horrible uneven lives that multiple jobs bring.
So what should you do? What should we do? Quit a job? I’ve thought about it. After a really long week it seems like a good idea. For some of you that may be honestly what you have to do, make some sacrifices and lose a little income. But the job isn’t the problem. You are. The problem is how we act in the face of limited time with our wives and kids. Right now as I am home, if my kids come up to me they get me, unless my wife has my attention then they wait (wife always trumps kids). I do everything not to shut down on them. I know soon they will barely see me, let alone have a chance for my attention. I actually weep in fear for them thinking of this long season where they will barely have their Daddy. Can I keep it together during that time? It so easy for me to give them scraps. Men we have to choose better. If I didn’t choose better I would miss dancing with my daughters, and having adventures with a 3-ft Red Ranger. My kids would grow up knowing me as absent and I wouldn’t know them at all. Grabbing them up in my arms is one the greatest joys of my day.
Here is the hardest part in this. Choose your wife. Remember when you were dating her. You probably had no time for her then. But you made time, you made as much time as you could. And when you were together, she never got left overs she got your best. You were always trying to win her over. Us multi-jobed men need to date our wives. For the most part forget your married, she’s your girlfriend, and everyday you have to find time to woo her again. Challenge yourself every morning to be a man that loves her so much no one even has to check you finger they know you are off limits because how much you show your love. For me this making sure to have meaningful conversations with my wife, where my eyes and ears are engaged with her. She is an intellectual and wants to know that respect and connect that comes from a good conversation, thats a love moment for her.
Now lets make this even harder on you, as I encourage you in our reality of multi-jobs. Do not just make sure your kids have your attention. Do not just love you wife like she is your girlfriend. Also be the spiritual leader in you house. As easy as it is to check out on your wife and kids when you work multiple jobs, it is even easier to check out on God. I beg of you do not check out on Jesus. He is what will hold all of this together. You’ll want to try to, we’re men we think we can fix anything, but it is Jesus that will give you the strength to hold your world together. Pray over and with your family constantly. Let all of them catch you in the word. How will they know you are a man of God if they never see it. Share God with them, read the bible with your wife and kids. Biblically the man is put as the head of the house, that means you are responsible for the spiritual up bringing of your family. Do not push that off on the pastor, or excuse it because you are busy. Love your family in this way by making sure they are centered in Christ. You have to do this.
Working multiple jobs is the worst. You are tired constantly, often super stressed. It almost feels like drowning at times. It is easy to come home and check out. Some of you reading this probably did that already in the last 24 hours. Your family would like you to come back. Put this book down and go hold them. Kiss your wife. Pray. And thank God that he is the one that is in control, and that he has given you your family. It’s time to do this better.
Matthew Hooper is a husband to Kim, and father to Joey (3), Meira (2 years), and Amelia (5 months). He serves as a Pastor at Dixionville Wesleyan Church in Clymer, PA. Matthew also journeys around Pennsylvania as a photographer. And whenever he has spare time, he works on his Masters in Leadership. Matthew’s a huge comic geek.