5 Tips for Walking the Career/Family Tightrope

When the job is causing problems—and because the job is vital to your family’s livelihood—you need to make it a priority to work together on this issue. The workaholic spouse needs to understand that he/she is wanted and needed at home. Approach each other with love and understanding—not blame.

Working spouses feel the pressure to make enough money for the family, so discuss together the family budget. Can you live on less? If you were to cut back in order to have more time, how can you adjust the budget to accommodate potential lowered income? If the extra time being spent is due to a temporary project that will soon be completed, communicate that this schedule isn’t always going to be the case. If the issue is a job that is too demanding, discuss how you’re going to handle that together. By all means, simply communicate.

Too often however, workaholism has nothing to do with an ornery boss or a need for more money. What can a workaholic do to overcome the constant need to be working and save some time and energy for the family? Following are a few suggestions:

Realize your acts of self-interest. Ask yourself a tough question: What are you doing (or neglecting) that makes your spouse or family feel distant? What needs to change in your schedule in order to restore closeness?

Affirm your family. Communicate the good you see in your family, and welcome the good they’ll in turn see in you. Let them into your work life by talking about what’s going on. Discuss your projects, even as you begin the process of cutting back.

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Learn what satisfies your mate and your kids. Respect your family’s needs by putting their needs before your own. They’re not asking you to quit your job (unless it’s really hurting you and them) and, depending on their ages, they don’t expect you to be with them every waking moment. Find out what’s important. It’s a no-brainer that you should be at your children’s sports or artistic activities. What else would they like from you? Your teenage daughter may just need a breakfast with you on Saturday mornings once a month. Your spouse needs a date night once a month. What else is important? Then get these on your calendar as appointments that you cannot change for any reason.

Even as you schedule, realize that spontaneity is important. You need to be available to your children and spouse. Do they know they can call you at any time? If they catch you in the middle of an important meeting, do they know you’ll call right back? Realize, too, that quality moments with family happen spontaneously. Be there at bedtime whenever possible. Take time with your kids to wash the car or work in the yard. The conversations that can occur during those times are insightful and invaluable.

Above all, remember that your kids are only there for a short time. Don’t miss out on them by being too busy. Don’t make your spouse bear the brunt of full responsibility—and don’t let him/her be the only one to experience the joys of that great race time, that soccer goal, that piano recital. It will draw you and your spouse closer when you experience all of these things together.

For more helpful marriage advice, check out The Great Marriage Q&A Book. It’s available in our online bookstore!