Careers and Relationships
The importance of a career to each person in a relationship is important for establishing a balanced and healthy lifestyle. Some individuals have greater career orientation and motivation than others; this needs to be taken into account in life and career planning. How much time and energy will be taken up by each person’s career? What will the consequences be if the wife’s career is higher status or higher income than the husband’s? How important are family and children to each partner and what kind of sacrifices is each willing to make for the children’s sake?
Couples with different styles use different strategies for maximizing the career progression of both: accommodators have a joint strategy; allies have a cooperative strategy, in which both de-emphasize the work or home role; adversaries both have a high career orientation and want the other to perform the home roles; and acrobats both want to “have it all”.
As you explore, create a strategy that accommodates not just your professional/employment goals, but also your life goals.
- How do people define their job responsibilities and themselves as workers in the context of their family responsibilities?
- What is defined as core or central to the definition of job and career and what is defined as variable or peripheral?
- Under what conditions do these definitions remain constant and change?
- How do people define their family responsibilities in the context of their jobs and careers?
- What is defined as core or central to the definition of “our family” and what is defined as variable or peripheral? Under what conditions do these definitions remain constant and change?
- How do these definitions affect decision making about work, career and family?
- What must people consume and produce in order to have the kind of careers and jobs and to be the kind of families they define themselves as?
Deriving Meaning From Work Without Guilt
It used to be that only women experienced guilt associated with being a working mother. Today, more than ever, men are sharing those same feelings. Dual career couples have been told that they can have it all: a great career, relationship, and family. The reality is that only a minority of people can maintain all three successfully.
Consider the following scenarios to help you figure out your current priorities:
- You have dinner plans with your family and your boss asks you to stay late to complete a project. Which option do you choose?
- You are scheduled to go away for the weekend with your family, but you did not complete your portion of the project, which is on the critical path. You are the only one who can complete it and your team committed to work all weekend to ensure your company hits the launch date. Do you reschedule your getaway to go into the office?
Work or Family First?
When you choose to go back to work, you make a choice to put either your job first or your family first and then you must accept the consequences of your decision. If your career is more important to you, be prepared to spend less time with your children, spouse, and friends and expect to give up your private time and forego hobbies or exercise.
Conversely, if family is your greatest priority, you can expect slower progress in your career. You could be passed over for stellar work projects, miss important customer meetings, and be excluded from certain travel assignments and professional social gatherings. This is not a given, but you must be prepared for it. Sadly, in our work environments in the United States, many companies do not put priority on family and on work/life balance. It is up to you to decide on your priorities and then be comfortable with your choices and the consequences of those choices.
It is possible to work and have a family; however, each decision brings with it sacrifices and tradeoffs that are unavoidable. Some of the choices you make will bring some feelings of guilt or frustration. If you are prepared, based on your overall decisions and goals, then you can minimize these feelings and understand that they are part of the package for the path you have chosen.
When you are at work, you worry about your family and health. When you are with your family, you worry about work and getting ahead. You will always have the nagging feeling that you are not doing enough to satisfy both home and work obligations. As long as these feelings do not dominate your life, you will survive and prosper.
Let’s Be Realistic
- Recognize that your life will be filled with compromises and negotiations. There will be days when work is the priority and on other days family will be the priority. This is okay.
- Modify your expectations. Eliminate the phrases “should have” and “ought to” from your vocabulary. They only increase feelings of guilt.
- Set rules. Know what is important to you and set firm boundaries. Otherwise your life may get out of control. For example, if family night is every Wednesday, make it a point to never miss it.
- Understand the need to be more flexible. Without flexibility, everything remains constant and you and your family will cease to grow.
- Refrain from comparing your work/life relationship with others. Some people know how to paint a positive picture and communicate the ideals of their lifestyle while hiding all of the negative baggage.
You can have a career while meeting the demands of family. But you should remember that you must consciously choose your path, feel good about your choices, and accept the results.
Maintaining Work Boundaries
- In many positions, employers want to be able to reach you when crisis situations arise. They will use a mobile phone or pager to contact you, and may do so at any time of day or night. If you are in such a position, clarify when you are to be on call. When you are not on call, make it clear that your mobile phone or pager will be turned off.
- Many people have high speed Internet at home and are able to check their work email, project status, or check a dashboard at any time of day or night. It is important that you establish some limits on these activities. When you are at home, be at home. Set aside specific times during which you will be attending to work activities and stick to those times.
- While there will always be times when you need to take work home with you, these should be the exceptions, not the When you leave the workplace, leave your work behind. When you go home, be a parent, spouse, partner, friend, not an employee who is getting to take a break.
When you socialize with co-workers and superiors, remember that they are co-workers and superiors. It is easy to start perceiving them in a more social context and forgetting that they have impact on your job status and career. This is not to say that you should not be friends with people with whom you work. It is to say that you should never lose sight of the fact that they are fellow employees and what happens in social settings may – even if unconsciously – affect you at work.