I don’t like to run around and jump on bandwagons, but you probably saw the embarrassing stink that ESPN commentator Boomer Esiason caused when he railed against New York Mets outfielder Daniel Murphy. Murphy’s offense? Compromising his devotion to his team by missing two games to be with his wife for the birth of their first child. According to Esiason, Murphy should have insisted his wife schedule a C-section before the season started.
Public reaction was swift and strong about the imbalance between sports and family, but not against Murphy. Fans lowered the boom on Boomer, who also happens to be a family man (he’s been married to his wife Cheryl since 1986, and is a passionate dad). To his credit, Boomer quickly and earnestly apologized, particularly for unnecessarily thrusting this couple’s life into the limelight.
Boomer’s not the only one in sports, media, entertainment, or business who would strongly criticize someone for not putting their professional duties and organizational duties first, particularly if you’re paid huge millions.
But Murphy’s decision reflects a change he has undergone in the past couple of years. His world used to revolve around baseball and himself. He poured everything into “being the man” in his sport, but two injury-plagued seasons brought him personal struggles that caused him to re-evaluate his identity and priorities. At that point, he recommitted his life to Christ and vowed not to let baseball define him.
Acting like Boomer or Murphy?
It’s easy to criticize Boomer’s blatant disregard of the priority of being with your wife at the birth of your first (or any) child. You just don’t miss such a big event. But what about all the small things we do as husbands and fathers that elevate our jobs over our family?
I can’t tell you how many times I’ve failed to show up on time when I told my wife Stacy I’d be home for dinner, or just generally failed to show consideration for the one person who gives so much for me. The lowlight was when I came back from a celebrity ski race just long enough to drop off my laundry with Stacy and leave for a boxing match in Las Vegas. Not my best chapter as a husband.
On my wedding day, if you showed me a list of the ways I would put Stacy and my boys in second place behind my work or hobbies, I probably would have been as critical of myself as you probably were of Boomer Esiason for his extreme position. It’s easy to let the pressures of life swallow up the best resolutions made as a new husband or father.
I fully understand the pressures that an intense job in a tight economy can inflict on the types of family choices a guy makes. Athletes feel it particularly intensely because they have teammates depending on them, coaches breathing down their necks, the critical gaze of fans, and a big contract that could disappear with an injury or release.
Sometimes the conflicts between work and home are unavoidable. When I was with the Seahawks, I remember a great tight end (who was also a great husband and father) joining the team mid-season. The week he arrived, we flew with the team for a game against San Diego. We got phone calls from the airport that his wife was in labor. My wife was the only person she knew in town, so Stacy went with her to the hospital and was her coach in labor—what he would have been doing if he was there. The day-and-a-half road trip was just long enough to keep him from away from his wife as she gave birth in a brand new city 3,000 miles from home back east.
He hated it, but between the move, travel for the game and the timing of the labor, it was unavoidable. Daniel Murphy, though, was just exercising the right to a standard three-day league-guaranteed leave early in the season, when the stakes aren’t so high.
Bringing it home
Half the kids in America are growing up without the benefit of both parents at home, and there are so many challenges today to keeping marriage commitments front and center. It’s all the more important in this age to set an example and speak up to support the responsibility a man has, to be there for his family, even though some would say that’s shirking work responsibility.
So whether it’s something big like keeping your travel schedule clear so you can be with your wife when she goes into labor, or something routine like making family dinner time a priority, you have the opportunity to model priorities for your co-workers and your family. Take confidence knowing that your Father in Heaven blesses your decisions when you’re doing what He’s called you to do as a husband and father.
How about you? Have you had to make tough decisions to put your family ahead of your work? Are there things you need to do that communicate to your family that they are the priority in your life? I’d love to hear your story.