David Bennett worked hard climbing the corporate ladder and found himself in a great position where he could influence and serve at a high level. His wife and three sons were doing well. Life was great. Then it all changed.
"My wife became ill," said Mr. Bennett. "For three years we went from one doctor to another trying to figure out what was wrong. No one could give us a firm diagnosis. All the while, my wife was going downhill fast. One physician thought she needed ionic (salty) sea air to breathe and detox her body. He encouraged us to move as soon as possible."
Willing to try anything for relief, Heather Bennett loaded up the boys and headed to Michigan for a month to see if a change in environment surrounded by her extended family would help.
"Toward the end of the month, I started feeling better, but when we returned to Atlanta I tanked," said Mrs. Bennett. "I was ready to move anywhere for relief from whatever was attacking my body. If it meant packing up the family and moving to Florida, I was ready to go, David was more reluctant."
Angry and defensive, Mr. Bennett thought the physician was completely irresponsible in telling them to uproot their family and move when he didn't know if this was truly a remedy.
"I was thinking about how hard I had worked to get to my current position," said Mr. Bennett. "I wanted my wife to get better, but I wanted to keep my career momentum going. I also thought about the challenge of selling our house in a down economy."
After speaking with several mentors and wrestling with the situation, Mr. Bennett realized his identity resided in his position at work instead of his calling at home.
"If you ask most business people where family falls on their list of priorities, they would say first," said Mr. Bennett. "Until your back is against the wall, you don't really know if that is true. I had to step back and realize that my identity is a husband first, dad second followed by work. I will never earn enough money to make up for losing my family. I want to be the only husband Heather will ever have and the only father for my children."
The Bennetts decided to make the move. In addition to knowing that this was the best thing for Heather, they also thought this was a great opportunity to model what it meant to take care of their family. Recently, Mr. Bennett's oldest son said he thought it had brought their family closer together.
"I was scared to death of what this was going to do to me internally," said Mr. Bennett. "It has been 10 months since we made the move. We sold our house, downsized significantly, and I took a different position in the company. Best of all, Heather is symptom free. We have much less today, but at the same time we have so much more. It is times like these when you really find out what you value."
E-mail Julie Baumgardner at firstname.lastname@example.org.