Finding the best partner in your life: work or love?
Sigmund Freud– “Love and work are the cornerstones
of our humanness.”
This week I am going to change my perspective on work slightly. My question
to you this week is how to maintain an effective work/life balance with that
special someone in your life. Yes girls, it does come from bitter experience,
and no, I’m still “unavailable”!
I am a worker. I was born to work. I was brought up by my mother to believe
that nothing comes for free, and by working hard and to the best of your
ability, you can expect to succeed in most things you do. This has stayed with
me through school, college, saw me through university and now in work and
business. My day has always been long, and varied. I’ve always had things
buzzing round my head at various times of the day, according to the task at
hand. It’s me, it’s how I am.
Recently, especially, I have been working a fair bit. While not divulging too
much about how much, I will say that those close to me have been neglected
somewhat. By neglected, I don’t mean forgotten about, taken for granted or
actively ignored. I mean my ability to socialise with those close to me has been
significantly curbed as a result of a major project I have been involved in. For
instance, my day is spent at the office of my employer, then continues when I
get home; while I just add and fix issues that have come up. Weekends have been
invariably spent on major tasks that require focus and attention, without
distraction. It’s an unfortunate side-effect that this reduces the amount of
time available to actively socialise with people. Sure, we talk over meals, we
spend time watching TV and spend time with friends. What really suffered is the
ability to be able to allocate time for people.
Wait a minute, I remember being told in no uncertain terms that “allocate” is
not a great word to use. No, I mustn’t “allocate”, I must “make time”. A subtle
difference, I appreciate. In the midst of deadlines, requirements and
expectations (both personal and from others), it can be a challenge to
affectively maintain the balance between work and …. love.
It’s like a fellow blogger previously said on this site; you need the ability
to say “No”.
So we know I am involved with a fair bit of work, but what of other, more
“normal” people? People who are required to work long hours in their normal work duties? How can they say “No”? Overtime quickly becomes expected and family life can become just as stressful as work. While more fathers are becoming
increasingly more involved with their children’s lives, in terms of working from
home and “spending time with the kids” after a hard day’s work, there are also
Dads who struggle to eat before crawling into bed after work. Is it not
unreasonable to say “Stop!”?
It’s a question of priority. Previous to this big project, we used to go
walking, bike riding and spending time with friends. When we moved to the Isle
of Man, we promised ourselves to walk much more than we used to and take
advantage of the facilities and attractions the island has to offer. Now, three
years on, it seems that we have forgotten this promise. Luckily, the major
project on which I have been involved was spent over winter, so opportunity for
outdoor pursuit was limited. While that was brilliant for giving me more time
for work, it did result in my neglecting of people close to me. I developed a
sort of “tunnel vision”. I knew what my targets were, and I worked hard every
weekend to meet them. If I didn’t meet them, then my evenings during the week
were spent “catching up”, or fixing issues as a result of the weekends work.
Unfortunately, this excluded much else. And not only those humans who are close
to me …. indeed, a beautiful Mexican lady I bought last year has also been
neglected, who cost me a small fortune. No, I did not procure the services of a
Mexican lady, the beauty of whom I speak is my Fender Stratocaster guitar!
So, after a weekends hard slog over Easter, I have promised myself, those
close to me and my guitar that I will make time for them. My workload has
lifted, partly as a result of completion of tasks, but also because of making a
firm commitment not to “over-do things”. This will mean that I can guarantee at
least a day a weekend for leisure pursuits or other “quality time. (Disclaimer:
I can accept no responsibility in weather conditions which may or may not cause
my workload to increase according to project requirements; or to external
factors or emergency situations which may require workload increases at short
notice).But this is a decision I could take myself. It’s coming into summer, the
island is starting to restore to its summer beauty and even the busiest of
people cannot fail to feel invigorated by this time of year. I am in charge of
my own destiny, to some extent. What of others?
How do those people who have to put in extra hours say “no”? It may be due to
project commitments at work, or due to the increased workload as a result of
tourism – or in the Isle of Man’s case, the upcoming centenary of the TT Races.
Whatever the reason, other people cannot be as flexible as me. Those who work in
tourism may have some flexibility in their shifts, so they get time off with
their children every other weekend, or only work 4 of every 6 days. But what of
those who feel obliged to work hard? Slaving away at their desks as the sun
beats down around the office outside?
Despite what I practice, I do preach that individuals should be in charge of
their work, not the other way round. When an individual is ruled by their work,
it ceases to become a job – more a prison sentence. Any sensible or considerate
employer should be able to not only accommodate employees who need to temper
their work commitments, but also be able to detect that problems may be at hand.
I love to work, and I would hate for my personal life to suffer as a result of
my work. But this is a choice I can make for myself. If you are working over
summer, be sure to ensure that your family life does not suffer. Your family may
question the value of the salary that pays the mortgage when they don’t see you,
particularly if you return from work stressed and frustrated. Much better, in my
opinion, to take active steps and step away from the work requirement. The value
of your salary can be more than outweighed by the value of your family.