Among the pantheon of Hollywood couples like Bogart and Bacall, Tracy and Hepburn, Gardner and Sinatra, few would probably include Sandler and Barrymore. But they should. Neither outstanding in their own right, when they collaborated in movies like The Wedding Singer, 50 First Dates, and Blended, they were dynamite. Those films have likely led to their extremely high popular likability ratings even while they are part of an industry that usually doesn’t ingratiate itself to the American public.
Along those lines, Barrymore just authored a widely-read piece on her work and specifically how it impacts the relationship she has with her daughter Olive. Overall, I found it encouraging. She wrote:
“I always explain to her that I love my Job. I don’t say ‘I have to go work’ with a grimace on my face, because I fear it will make her feel negative about something a lot of moms must do to provide. My friend once said ‘never make your child feel like work is the bad thing taking you away from them’ and I realized a lot of us tend to do that to try to make our kids feel better and that work is the yucky thing taking us away. It’s a good intention, but I am convinced I need to take a different approach. I want to empower my daughters to think work is good and necessary. And can even lead them to road of their dreams. I feel guilty as hell for being away (and what mother doesn’t?!) But i try a way to empower me and my kids into something more positive. I don’t blame work, i own the responsibility.”
Though this could easily slip into a conversation about working moms, I’m not a mom. But I do work outside the home as a teacher, I travel frequently for speaking engagements that take me away from my family on the weekends, and I find that I grapple with some of the very same things Barrymore is talking about – the unending dilemma of loving what you do, feeling called to it, loving my family, feeling called to serve them, and struggling to find the balance between providing for them financially and providing for them with my presence in the home.
I concur with Barrymore that it’s important not to train children that work is misery. As humans, we were made to work. Work is part of the character of God, and therefore it is part of the character of beings made in His image.
Still, I do find disagreement with her premise that work can lead anyone to fulfillment, or as she put it, "the road of their dreams." It can certainly provide us an avenue to feel as though we have a purpose, and it can give us a sense of identity. But it won’t last. There’s so much wisdom in the conventional awareness that no one has ever laid on their deathbed and wished they had spent more time in a board meeting, or diligently working on their next PowerPoint.
Few will ever climb the corporate ladder of success like the late Steve Jobs. Though he was extremely private, towards the end of his life, Jobs hired a biographer to come and document his life. His reason for that was heartbreaking:
“I wanted my kids to know me. I wasn't always there for them, and I wanted them to know why and to understand what I did.”
This isn’t to dog pile on Jobs. We all face the same challenge of work vs. family. We face it whether we are a Silicon Valley titan, a leading Hollywood actress, or a high school teacher and speaker from central Indiana.
By the wisdom of Scripture and the grace of God alone will we pass its test.