When my kids were little and just beginning their careers as busy students and athletes, my husband's boss told him something that gave us pause. "Put in the hours at work now so you can be there for your kids later - when they really need you."
In other words, work crazy hours now to get established and make a name for yourself. Don't bother coaching your son's soccer team or attending your daughter's preschool graduation or playing catch in the yard with your kids after dinner.
Often in life, we get so mixed up. Our list of priorities seems to start with our jobs, making money, collecting material things, participating in social media, keeping up with technology, traveling, playing and watching sports and other forms of entertainment and recreation. All of these pursuits are fine. Some are marvelous. But not when they distract us from our families.
How can we treasure our family relationships? How can we prioritize our families above all else, including our work and hobbies?
1. Love God
Attorney and religious leader Dallin H. Oaks reminds us of the second of the Ten Commandments - to avoid serving "graven images." He says, "More than merely forbidding physical idols, this states a fundamental priority for all time. Jehovah explains, 'For I the Lord thy God am a jealous God, ... shewing mercy unto ... them that love me, and keep my commandments.'" (KJV Exodus 20:5-6)
Oaks adds, "We offend God when we 'serve' other gods - when we have other first priorities."
It's those "other first priorities" that harm family relationships. God's commandments and teachings are clear regarding marriage and family. Steer clear of adultery. Don't covet your neighbor's spouse. Cherish your mate. Love your little ones. Serve others, including your family.
If we love and serve God and put him first in our lives, all else falls into place. When we put God first, we're less likely to break laws and commandments, chase worldly pursuits, and neglect our families.
"Commitment to our highest priority - to love and serve God - requires that we look to his law for our standard of behavior," says Oaks.
2. Hold your marriage sacred
Traditionally, a family begins with a man and woman who love each other and get married. When children are born to a loving mother and father who provide a positive and consistent presence in their lives, they're off to a promising start.
Unfortunately, life isn't always so neat and tidy. Many families aren't of the "traditional" mold. Cohabitation, divorce, death, single parenthood, and alternative lifestyles are the realities.
Whatever your marriage situation, do your best. If you are married, work hard to maintain a loving, lasting union. Make time for your spouse and serve him or her. Put your marriage on a pedestal and hold it sacred.
3. Be present for your kids
We learn from Proverbs 22:6 to "train up a child in the way he should go: and when he is old, he will not depart from it."
Ephesians 6:4 instructs parents to "provoke not your children to wrath: but bring them up in the nurture and admonition of the Lord."
Loving our kids means teaching them correct principles. It also means giving them our time and attention. For a few minutes each day, try to put aside distractions and just chat. Turn down the music or TV, turn off electronic devices, and show your kids that you want to connect with them. Encourage, instruct, play, hug and laugh.
Writer and religious leader Richard L. Evans said, "Children will not remember you for the material things you gave them but for the feeling that you cherished them."
Embrace your family ties and do the little things to keep them strong. Prioritize correctly. Take to heart Dallin H. Oaks' sweet reminder: "We look on marriage and the bearing and nurturing of children as part of God's plan and a sacred duty of those given the opportunity to do so. We believe that the ultimate treasures on earth and in heaven are our children and our posterity."