How do I keep my job from eating up my time and energy to the point where I have nothing left to give my family? I'm a high-level executive with a large corporation, and my struggle to balance work and family is made worse by the fact that business concerns tend to dominate my mind even during off-hours. Over and over again I come home at the end of a hectic day, determined to spend some quality time with my wife and kids, only to find that Vice President X, Manager Y, and Client Z are still carrying on a heated conversation inside my head. I'm afraid I've lost the ability to jump off the treadmill and leave the rat-race behind. Any suggestions?
Perhaps you've already considered the possibility of making some major lifestyle changes. Things such as downgrading your position, readjusting your financial requirements and standard of living would certainly be life-altering and reduce the demands currently upon you. Short of this, however, there are several tricks and strategies you can use to gain some ground in the battle you're waging inside your mind.
The key is to learn what it takes for you to shift gears, slow down, and mentally change locations. When you get home, you want to be present in the moment with your wife and children. Though the struggle is psychological, you can fight it effectively with a few very simple physical weapons. Remember, the mind and the body are one. If you can get your body moving down a particular pathway – a pathway of your own conscious choosing – it can sometimes be easier to persuade the mind to follow.
The next time you find yourself driving home from work with the echoes of that afternoon's business meeting replaying in your mind, consider pulling off the road a few blocks from your house. A nearby parking lot may serve the purpose. Shut off the engine and take five or ten minutes to regroup. Close your eyes, take a deep breath, and utter a simple prayer. Say something like, "Lord, take me into Your hands. Grant me Your peace. Prepare me to focus on the task of loving the people who are waiting for me at home."
Then get out of the car, walk around to the passenger side, and open the door. Ask Vice President X, Manager Y, and Client Z to step out of the vehicle. Let them know that while you respect them and value their contributions to the workplace, they haven't been invited to come home with you. If necessary, speak these words aloud in a determined, forthright tone of voice. Then shut the door, walk back to the driver's side, take your seat at the wheel, and drive off.
When you get home, see if you can arrange to spend ten or fifteen minutes alone with your spouse. Do this first – before engaging with the kids, sorting through the mail, flipping on the TV, or tackling the clogged drain in the bathroom. Sit down with your wife and have a quiet talk at the kitchen table. After that, go upstairs, take a shower, and change clothes. Hang up your suit and pull on your jeans. Assume the attitude and demeanor of a loving husband and caring father just as you would put on a comfortable old shirt. Perform whatever personal "rituals" you need to in order to shake off your work-based identity and leave your "office self" behind. Make yourself at home – one hundred percent. Concentrate on the moment and let business worries take care of themselves.
If you think it might be helpful to discuss these ideas and suggestions at greater length, call us. Our staff counselors would consider it a privilege to speak with you over the phone. They can also provide you with a list of referrals to trained therapists practicing in your area.
When You Can't Let Down and Relax: Gary Thomas looks at the struggles encountered by driven personalities and offers suggestions for dealing with these challenges.
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When Work and Family Collide: Keeping Your Job From Cheating Your Family
National Center for Fathering
The Involved Father