Ask any parent and they will tell you all the things they have sacrificed for their newborn, toddler, child, teen, or young adult. When Mark and I were in the thick of parenting, we often sacrificed our time, energy, finances, and more for our family. We still do at times even in the empty nest.
But we also made some other sacrifices that were not always good for our family in the long run.
When we talk about sacrifice, we are talking about how we surrender something of value for the sake of someone else or choosing to live with less to get more of something else. Jesus modeled how sacrifice can be an example of love by facing the ultimate sacrifice through His death on the cross for us.
As we examine our family’s priorities (what we value and spend our time doing), there may need to be some sacrifices along the way. If we want to spend more time together as a family, we may need to sacrifice the individual hobbies that we love. If we want to prioritize less stress, then we may have to sacrifice the number of sports our children participate in or reduce the number of social events we commit to.
Summer can be an especially difficult time as sports schedules pick up, extra free time for your children means you may set-up more activities to keep their minds busy, and vacations are on our minds. You may even be considering if you should travel for vacation or plan a more budget-friendly staycation? Should you place your children in sports or help them discover a new hobby?
Before you decide, we want to share with you both sides of sacrifice: the things we should be willing to give up to give our families more and the things we should never sacrifice because they will negatively affect our family’s life. We’ll call these constructive and destructive sacrifices:
Sacrifice may be a part of a parent’s job description, but there are three things we should never sacrifice. Doing so could result in more stress, less relational intimacy and connection, and possibly even low self-worth. As you consider redefining your family’s priorities, make sure these are three destructive sacrifices you avoid:
#1: Your relationship with God – Sacrificing your time with God is not wise. You need God’s wisdom. You need His knowledge and understanding. And you need His strength for the long haul. Be sure that you are not committing to things that take away from your ability to connect with God regularly.
#2: Your marriage – The best parenting strategy—the one that will benefit your children the most—is to make your marriage a priority. Sure, the temptation is there to say, “Hey, we’ve only got a short season with our kids. There’ll be plenty of time for us after the kids are grown and gone.” But the truth is, your kids need you to make your relationship a priority now. When you put your marriage first, it sets a healthy example for their lives and future marriages, but it also gives your children the security they long for. When Mom and Dad love each other, your kids’ world is okay.
#3: Your identity – Parenthood will tempt us to redefine ourselves. We can work so hard to help our kids that we’ll unknowingly sacrifice our own identities on the altar of their success or failure. But doing so will hurt our families. We need to define ourselves by the only thing that never changes in this world: Jesus.
In the same way that we sometimes receive constructive criticism—helpful, needed, lovingly offered—these five constructive sacrifices can be made to benefit the health and well-being of the family unit:
#1: Comfort – This may look like choosing to live in a small house, having your children share a bedroom, or delaying upgrading your mattress. It may also be sacrificing your own comfort to care for your newborn child or sitting in freezing temperatures to watch a child’s soccer game. This kind of discomfort—the sacrifice of our comfort—is a necessary part of parenting.
#2: Sleep – Long after our children were sleeping through the night, the sleep sacrifices continued. As toddlers, there are the occasional unwelcome but unavoidable sicknesses. As teenagers, you’ll set curfews and it’s wise to remain awake at midnight to provide much-needed accountability. Of course, sacrificing sleep over the long haul can become a destructive sacrifice if we’re not careful. But when it is necessary to sacrifice our sleep, our habits may have to change to protect our health.
#3: Hobbies – While parents don’t want to lose themselves in the midst of parenting, they may have to make adjustments in their hobbies to better fit the needs and finances of the family. This may mean opting for a cheaper avenue to enjoy a hobby or giving it up altogether for a season.
#4: Entertainment / Recreational Activities – Our family went without cable television (way back before there was streaming!) for nearly seventeen years. Every year, we’d sit down and look at our budget to see if there was any way to fit cable into our monthly expenses. Because we’d chosen to live primarily on one income, the reality of our choices stared us squarely in the face. We weren’t willing to sacrifice what we felt was best for our family so we could have cable television. This one may mean a commitment to find other, less expensive, and less time-consuming recreational and entertainment options. It may mean opening your home to a group of teenagers when your PJs are already on, to provide a safe place for them to enjoy.
#5: Career – You, like many families, may decide that working a non-salaried job and paying for daycare for children just doesn’t make any sense. And so it may be necessary for one parent to commit to parenting full-time or passing up a promotion and reducing hours to devote more time to be the stabilizer at home. Both parents need to consider what career sacrifices will help you design the family environment you desire. You may decide that family dinners are non-negotiable, so if a promotion would mean late nights at the office, you may have to pass it up.
Constructive sacrifices help both to improve the family and to develop young people into responsible, contributing adults and citizens. Making those sacrifices will help, not hurt, the family. Let’s commit today to make the constructive sacrifices we need to make while protecting the areas of our life that we need never forfeit. This will give us the necessary balance in sacrifice as we redefine our family priorities.
Before adopting some or all of these constructive sacrifices for your family, consider…
…what destructive sacrifices have we practiced?
…what constructive sacrifices have we already been doing well?
…what is one constructive sacrifice we want to start practicing this week?
Like what you read? Read more like this in Living With Less So Your Family Has More.
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