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Take control of your life - Part 3
Keeping the Home Fire Burning
“Work is the meat of life, pleasure the dessert” ~ Bertie Charles Forbes
We’ve talked about the work environment and some of the considerations there. Now, it’s time to open the Pandora’s Box and talk about your family situation.
Unless you are starting your career fresh, with no history, you probably have a lot of fence mending to do.
Your family and friends may be very discouraged and disappointed that you haven’t found a way to balance your life and spend more time with them.
If this is the case, you need to talk to your family and your friends and tell them what you have in mind. Tell them that you are going to dedicate yourself to achieving balance in your life and ask them for their opinion.
Remember, that you don’t have to take every suggestion anyone gives you, and make clear that you will do what you feel is best in the end, but you want his or her thoughts on the topic.
Listen carefully and be honest with yourself and with your friends and family about what you can expect to achieve.
Don’t promise what you can’t deliver.
If there are going to be issues on which you must compromise, if you will have to look for another job where you will make less money in order to achieve your goals, be sure they understand that sacrifice, as well.
There should be no surprises. Before you start this discussion, put some thoughts of your own on paper and think through what you can achieve, realistically.
Be prepared to talk to your family and friends and have some idea of how you will execute your plan.
You can change this plan and work with your family to adjust it, but you need to go in with SOME plan or you will face a chaotic mix of accusation, opinion and emotion.
Here's a link to get you started. After you look at these link, you may have other questions and ideas.
If you do your homework online, you’ll find many more links that are useful.
There are sites that target working womens’ issues, sites that specifically target stress at work and many other topic-specific sites to help you deal with your job and your family in a way that makes life easier for the ones you love.
When you come up some ideas to discuss with your family, be sure you preface your discussion by explaining that you want to change your focus and balance.
Tell them that you know that work has been pulling you away and you want to fix that.
Just knowing that you recognize the problem and want to work on it, will make them feel better.
If you have children, talk to your spouse or significant other before you call a family meeting.
Consider how you want to address this with the kids and remember that children will often take what you say very literally so don’t play fast and loose with your language.
Think carefully about what you want to say and the words you will use and only promise them what you can deliver.
Don’t lead them to think you are quitting your job to stay home with them and play all day.
It is likely that whatever plan you have to regain some balance in your life will take awhile to execute, so don’t promise that everything will be fixed by tomorrow.
You may have to look for, find and train in a new job.
You may have to cut back on expensive purchases and lifestyle.
Be sure everyone is on board before you pull away from the dock! Make sure the children understand how important this to them and to you and what they will get in return.
You may think that is clear, but depending upon their age, it may not be as clear to them as it is to you and your spouse.
As you make your plans for work/life balance, consider these things:
You may be trading long hours for financial stress, if you are going to take a job for less pay. How will that impact the family and your commitment to this process? Can you find ways to offset some of the impact of this financial decision?
If you are not changing jobs, but you are going to manage your schedule in a different way, how will you change your family schedule to accommodate that?
Can you eat dinner a bit later, so you can eat together as a family? Can you take the children to an early movie to spend time with them before you take that afternoon shift?
If you and your spouse work different shifts to be home with the children, include time in your plan for the two of you to get together. If you have to make a date to do that, don’t be shy about it.
Can you share a cup of coffee in between shifts? Get up a little earlier? Go to bed a little later? Don’t neglect that most important person in your life.
Whatever your schedule is, find some quiet time for yourself, and quiet time with your family without the TV playing in the background. Eat dinner together or play a game. When you go grocery shopping with the children, take a break and go to the back of the store for a cup of coffee and a doughnut. The kids will appreciate the time with you and it will make the shopping more tolerable. Find time to do something as a family at least once a week. Order a pizza so you don’t have to cook and spend the time playing a board game, or taking a hike.
Pick an activity that everyone likes and just do it! It sounds corny, but even a few minutes of this kind of activity will give you a lot more balance in your life.
Assuming you have done what you need to do to find more time away from work, or to change jobs, you may think you’ve now completed the transition. But, that is far from the truth.
The fact is that balancing work and family – in short balancing your life – can be a constant challenge.
There are lots of distractions and, that extra time you’ve carved out of your work schedule will not do your friends and family much good if you spend it parked in front of the TV or computer, instead of with the ones you love.
To complete your plan, you’ll need to develop two traits: Self-discipline and awareness.
Most of us suffer from the absence of both of these traits, but if you focus on them and on breaking bad habits that distract you and take you away from what you really want to do, you will be much happier.
First, let’s talk about self-discipline. The absence of this trait is what gets you off track. It is what pulls you to the computer casino game instead of out to the back yard to play a game of catch with your son.
It is what makes you put off those chores and tasks – whether they are home or work related – that then spring full-grown at 8:00 p.m. to remind you that you must complete them before morning.
And you spend another evening in the den or office crunching numbers for bills, or finishing that project you put off, instead of tucking your daughter into bed or visiting with your husband over a glass of wine.
When you catch yourself listening to the news anchor while your wife tries, in vain, to tell you about her day, reach for the remote and turn off the TV.
Self-discipline and breaking old habits go hand in hand. If you’ve gotten used to becoming a vegetable when you get home from work, it won’t matter how much extra time you get with your family.
You will simply fritter it away!
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Awareness is also important. Become aware of what you are doing, what you are saying and every time you catch yourself taking things for granted, remember that the little time you have with your family and friends is important and pay attention.
Listen to what your friend, spouse or child is saying to you.
Listen to your father when he calls you on the phone and wants to tell you about the fish he caught. And look for the opportunities to grab a special moment during the chaos of your week. Don’t just slide through life.
Make it happen!
There are two other things you may want to consider in your quest for balance at home. These two things will give you more balance and engender better relationships.
And once you’ve laid the groundwork, they will pretty much manage themselves.
The first consideration is: Rules!
Perhaps you are thinking that you hate rules. Most people do, but they are a necessary evil in life.
Think about it! Laws are nothing more than societal rules that keep the wheels greased and running and prevent chaos.
Rules in your work/life balance will give you and your family structure and, if and when the rules are bent or broken, the exceptions must be carefully explained.
Your family and you must know that you mean business and, only when there are extenuating circumstances, are the rules bent or broken.
But, Rules are never ignored!
Rules apply to when and how the family will get together and to things like whether your child can stay out late on a school night or whether they are expected to attend a family birthday party.
They also apply to YOU as they relate to when you’ll come home from work and whether you will attend the Friday night movie with the family or beg off and say you have to work. How often will you make it to the league soccer game or the lacrosse games?
Rules are for everyone.
A good way to establish these rules is to have the family sit down together and develop the list. Everyone can vote and everyone’s opinion counts. Some rules may be very simple and some may be temporary.
But if you have a set of rules printed or typed on your refrigerator, you and your family will feel more confident in your balance and will know better what to expect in a certain situation.
But, don’t expect the family to obey the rules, if you don’t obey them. You have to keep your end of the bargain too!
The second consideration is: Communication!
To keep your life and the life of your family in balance, you need time and attention. But you also need communication.
Even if your job is demanding, you can balance your life better with your family if you make them part of the equation.
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Your job and what you do when you are away from home on business should not be a mystery.
If you have to go out of town, tell the family where you are going, when you will be back and why you are going and use telephone, email and text messaging to keep in touch so they don’t feel like you are on another planet.
If you say you are going to call at a certain time, be sure to do so!
Don’t leave them hanging. Leave silly notes or messages to find while you are away and bring home little gifts.
You don’t have to bring anything expensive – some kids get a kick out of the small ketchup bottles that come with your room service order.
That is easy, and inexpensive and it lets them know you are thinking about them.
If you can have dinner together at night, do so and keep the conversation pleasant. Don’t choose dinnertime to bring up bad grades or that boyfriend you can’t stand.
Your kids will not want to have dinner with you, if you do that.
Make the mealtime conversation pleasant, and keep the distractions out of the dining room. No TV, music or other disruptions.
Family meetings are a great way to keep the lines of communication open and, again, everyone’s opinion counts and everyone gets the floor to say what they need to say.
Keep the meetings constructive and informative and talk about whatever is going on in your lives.
A twenty-minute family meeting will give you a chance to touch base and feel connected and, even if you are working long hours, you will not feel like a stranger in your own home.
Agree on how and when you will communicate throughout the day – even when you are not home. Is your child expected to call you and check in when he gets home from football practice?
Create a mail slot or an ‘in box’ for all the notices from school, permission slips and other items. A mailbox for each person in the family is even better, if you have the room.
Then, you can leave little notes for each other to keep in touch, or just to say hello, or ‘I love you’.
More to come!
Abraham A L
17th April 2016
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