Neil Tambe

I'm a Detroiter who happens to enjoy writing, national parks, orange juice, the performing arts, and fanciful socks. More than anything though, I aspire to be a good husband, father, and citizen.

Putting Family First

For a long time, even though I said "family comes first" and I tried to live by that principle, in my heart of hearts I thought it was wussing out. You know, something that people who fell short on their careers and ambition said. I thought making family the center of one's life, though virtuous, was in a way, the easy way out.

As it turns out, I was epically wrong about that. Putting  family first is the hardest possible path. Luckily, it's also the most rewarding.

Putting family first - which right now for me means investing in my marriage - takes everything I've got, every day. First, it takes an enormous amount of time. And by time, I mean time with intense focus, energy, and undivided attention. From what I've heard, this gets even harder when kids enter the picture.

Second, it takes an incredible amount of sacrifice. Sure, some days you lean on your partner and family more than they lean on you. But for it to work in the long run, everyone has to give more than they get - and find pleasure in it. Put simply, "the team, the team, the team."

Finally, it takes an incredible amount of trust, faith, and vulnerability. Even on the easy days you have to dig deep and keep your mind and soul open to love - and that's taxing, scary work.  More than that, you have to trust that your partner is going to do the same.

Putting family first is so hard, in fact, it's essential that we all help each other build our marriages, families, and by extension our collective community. Luckily, all this is so fulfilling it makes the hard, hard work feel easy in retrospect.

Don't get me wrong, my most difficult days at work are really challenging, and require a considerable amount of cleverness, plus a lot of hard work. But nothing I do for my job is as audacious as building a marriage and family. A career is a series of goals that you must chase with dogged persistence. A family is a series of shared dreams you bring to life with devotion and unconditional love. That puts family in an entirely different league.

When I was a younger man, I don't know why a focus on family made me feel inferior, soft, or professionally inadequate. I don't think any of us should feel that way, because building a marriage and family is not an easy path. Putting family first is not settling. It's actually quite the opposite.