When Work Dictates Your Life


By Margaret Colyn Sanchez

For many working parents, family life can often feel pushed aside to accommodate work obligations. While all working individuals understand the constant demands that work can have on a person, it can be very straining and stressful on a family when one or both parents are taking on a heavy workload. It can also be hard sometimes to recognize as a parent if you are too invested in your work rather than your family. There are ways to help parents focus on family when with family, rather than having work constantly being in the forefront of their minds.

Indicators of Work Dictating your Life 

There are several ways to determine if your work is running your life. Counselor Jill A. Lee MA, NCC, LPC-Intern of New Braunfels, Texas says that usually the indication comes in “the form of complaints or resentment from the people closest to you.” Hearing the people you care about most talk about your work interfering with your relationships can hurt, and sometimes make you stress even more. But Lee suggests, “trust those closest to you- their perspective is usually clearer than yours when it comes to this. Especially when it’s hard to hear.”

Another indicator of work running your life is when your job’s demands are constantly and consistently on your mind. Counselor Cheryl Duke MA, NCC, LPC-S notes that when “work is the last thing you think about at the end of the day and the first thing you think about when you wake up, it is most likely overwhelming you.” There are ways to try and avoid the issue of work leading your life and thoughts. Although work is important and necessary, at the end of the day we need our loved ones to know that they matter most. .



Personal Relationships 

Think of the people that matter most to you in your life. Schedule them into your calendar just like you would a meeting or deadline for work, or a doctor’s appointment. Duke recommends that “whether it be a date night with your spouse, a one-on-one outing with your children individually, or an evening with a friend, dates can be a wonderful way to reconnect with individuals.”  It is a great way to get away from work and to focus on other people and activities. This can be very healthy for everyone involved.

The key to making these dates happen without feeling stressed or guilty about putting aside work is to have a balanced life. “We all need work, rest, and play,” Lee says “to maintain optimal health.” It is important for adults to play and do things for fun just as it is for children. Reward yourself after a day of work or after completing a big assignment by going out with family or catching a movie.


Role Model 

A parent’s first priority is always their child, and because of that a parent does what he or she can to provide for their family. In order to provide for your child, work can sometimes be placed at the top of your agenda. It is common for one or both parents to miss their child’s baseball games, dance recitals or awards ceremonies because of work conflicts. Duke states that it is important for children to “learn the value of hard work and taking responsibility, as well as having a model of strong work ethic.” While it might not seem to make a huge impact at the time, sitting down and explaining to your child that your job sometimes requires you to work hard even if you don’t want to and that we have to follow through with our commitments teaches the child what it means to be devoted and dedicated to our responsibilities. Children learn many of their values in life from how their parents treat their responsibilities and obligations. By exhibiting a pleasant and solid view of your work ethic, you are passing that on to your child in their attitude about current and future responsibilities.


When Work Affects Your Mood 

If your job is affecting your mood outside of work, it is crucial to pinpoint what the issue is and prevent it from affecting your personal and family life. Lee suggests that if your “identity is closely tied to your job performance, you need to begin to base who you are on other things in life too, especially if your job performance is suffering.” Taking the time to focus on yourself can help with readjusting your attitude outside of work. Finding ways to decompress after work can help you to focus on the present and be less stressed when you are spending time with friends and loved ones.



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