I HAVE TO ASK A QUESTION. MOM, DO YOUR KIDS KNOW that your husband is the most important person in your life? Listen, Dad, do your kids see you prioritizing your wife regularly and deliberately above them?
Your kids will not feel this if you do not intentionally make the effort to reinforce it in your regular family life.
I believe one of the best ways to do this is to take a vacation together, every year, without the kids. We have figured out a way to do this every year for twenty-four years straight. And no, it’s not easy. There are things like nursing and pregnancies you have to work around. (Trust me, I know. Faith was pregnant or nursing for six and a half years of our married life!) There are also real difficulties like money and childcare.
But you must do it. Here are three reasons I believe your marriage can’t thrive without an annual kidless vacation:
- Life is crazy! Regardless of how disciplined you are with daily or weekly time together with your wife, life gets busy and stressed, and you need some extended time to reconnect with your spouse to get grounded again in each other’s love.
- Your kids won’t always be around. If you are not spending time together to develop your marriage relationship, one day, when the kids are gone, you will find you have nothing in common.
- Your kids need to see you making this relationship a priority. If they don’t see a healthy marriage at home, where will they see it?
I hear all kinds of excuses for not planning a no-kids-allowed vacation:
- DON’T BLAME IT ON MONEY . There are cheap ways to vacation. In our first few years of marriage (when our income put us right at the official poverty level), we committed to time away and left it in God’s hands. More than once, someone came along and said, “Hey, we have a cabin you can use if you want,” and we had a great vacation for the cost of getting there. Pray for provision, and keep your eye out for less expensive alternatives like camping or staying with friends.
- DON’T BLAME IT ON TIME . You’ll never have enough time for it to make sense. Decide what is important to you (answer: your marriage!), and get it on the schedule.
- DON’T BLAME IT ON THE KIDS . The greatest way to show your kids how valuable they are to you is to take time for each other. Work with another couple who is also committed to time away, and watch each other’s kids. Ask grandparents to step in and help, and don’t worry about how spoiled they will get in your absence. It only takes a few days to get everything back in line and on schedule.
- DON’T BLAME IT ON YOUR JOB . Are you still waiting until the work slows down? Or until you finish the big project? Or until you get the promotion and have more vacation days available? Wait long enough, and you might have a great job and no marriage. If you sincerely can’t get time off work, then plan a couple extended weekends.
What does all this have to do with leadership? Everything! A leader who is successful at work but a failure at home is not a successful leader. The first test of leadership is your ability to love, lead, and care for those who are closest to you.
Here is the truth. You will likely have many years of marriage after your kids have all left home. If you don’t work on your marriage during the parenting years, you might not have a relationship left as empty nesters. Be intentional.
This post is an excerpt from Chapter 11 of my book "Fairness Is Overrated & 51 Other Leadership Principles To Revolutionize Your Workplace."