Finding the Right Balance for Family and Work

April 2, 2024

Does every day go the way we planned? Especially if you are married with kids at home, there will come a day when you will be tested. Your priorities will be called into play and you, not someone else, must answer the call.

Most of the time we can go to work and earn a good living, come home at night, rejoin our families and enjoy what family brings us. If your day at work was productive and not totally insane, our mood can be altered quickly on the ride home so we can meet our loved ones with a smile, hug and energy for listening. Some days are better than others.

Hopefully you work a five day week but in the busy season six days may be the norm at your dealership. 

No matter what your off-work routine is — sleeping in, visiting the relatives or cooking a great meal — it is the balance in life that makes work "work." So life goes on day after day and we think we have it all together until you get that call.

In November of 1992, the phone rang at my shop. Deb, my wife, broke the news that Mike Landy, her father, had a heart attack and life changed in an instant.

Keeping herself together, she made the flight arrangements and I headed home to pack while she drove to the airport.

We were both at work that day. My dear friend, Terry Barter, a business owner himself, took over running Van Batenburg’s Garage, my business,  for the week I was away.

I didn’t have a very good emergency plan at work but I did have some great friends.

After the funeral, life was different, as it always is after the loss of a parent.

On March 31, 2005, I was scheduled to teach a class in Boston, Mass. an hour from my home.

Two weeks earlier I had alerted Peter Orlando that my mother, Shirley, had taken ill.

On the morning of the class I reviewed my notes, packed my car early and went off to see my mother before I headed to Boston. She didn’t look well, so I stayed a few hours.

The doctor said “Go onto Boston as your mother is stable.”

A gentle hug, a kiss goodbye and out to my car.

One hour later my cell phone rang and the nurse said, "Turn back."

I called Peter. He taught our Boston class and I held my mother’s hand as she took her last breath. It was, as you might imagine, a moment I will never forget.

I missed the next two weeks of classes. None were canceled as other trainers I knew stepped in and took over. This time I had a plan, this time I was as prepared as one can be.

On Nov. 29, 2007, Lillian Landy, my wife Deb’s mother, finished her journey on earth. Just as before, Deb and I put our jobs on hold and attended to more pressing matters.

My son, Mike, learned on the fly, without an adult, at age 15 that "Make sure that when the family calls you are ready to leave your daily duties behind." 

My father, Raymond, died in a violent car crash at age 50. I was 20 years old.

On Feb. 2 of this year my older brother, Scott, died of cancer. That one still hurts.

The staff at my current company, Automotive Career Development Center, stepped up and I was able to stay away from work most of February.

It is with the wisdom of age that tire store owners and managers have learned - or will learn - that small business ownership is a gift. But you need a plan when you get the call.

Life comes at us - the good and the bad - sometimes all at once. Over my desk is a handwritten note that says “Success at the expense of faith, family and friends is failure.” These are good words to live by.

If work is taking up the time your family needs, slow it down a bit. Delegate one more thing. Leave your desk or workbench a little messier at the end of the day so you can get home. Clean it up tomorrow.

Watch less TV or watch more with your kids. Make Friday night date night for you and your loved one. Get a babysitter. Figure out ways to spend a little more time at home.

Make the changes in small steps but make them.

As with Mike, Raymond, Shirley, Lillian and Scott, we only have a finite time to live. Don’t waste it.

Learning better ways to manage your business will allow you more financial freedom and availability. With that you can be there when your family needs you.

There is no greater gift on earth.

About the Author

Craig Van Batenburg

Craig Van Batenburg is MTD's monthly EV Intelligence columnist and the owner of Van Batenburg's Garage Inc. dba Automotive Career Development Center, which provides training for facilities that service - or want to service - electric and hybrid vehicles. For more information, see or email Craig at [email protected].

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