What are you broadcasting to your kids about work?
Perhaps you love your job and regularly share accomplishments around the dinner table. Your kids are used to seeing you energetically tackle the workweek, coming home with plenty of energy for family time.
Or, work is a black hole that you disappear into each Monday, stumbling home on Friday exhausted and disgruntled.
Whether you love your job or hate it (and everything in between), what do you want to teach your children about work with your attitude and behavior? And if you have an unhappy relationship with work, can you really isolate that from your family? How much energy do you have for them when you are shut down over something that went wrong on the job? What are you teaching them about how you feel about them?
Maybe you don’t have the perfect job. Maybe your boss can be a pain. Maybe you don’t love those long hours or the encroachment on your weekend time. Maybe you even have the worst job ever. Yes, these are challenges, but they can be just practical challenges that you can tackle and resolve in the best way you can. But when they become emotional challenges as well, they can drain your inner resources, your joy in everyday living, and wash over into the important relationships in your life.
How can you begin to change this for yourself and your family?
First, observe yourself for a week and take note of the things you say to yourself about work over and over again. To the extent they are negative, resolve to take steps to deal with the issue. If it is a practical issue, such as too much overtime, for example, figure out what you want to do about it. If you don’t know what to do, get help. If the issue is emotional (and it may be both), find a way to resolve it for yourself. The Option Method offers a simple, yet extremely effective way to get to the root of the issue and move beyond it.
Perhaps you don’t notice any issues at all or they don’t seem significant to you. Find out what your family thinks about your relationship with work. Why not ask them to observe you over a period of time and share what they see. Also ask them to share how it affects them. You may think that the things you are experiencing and feeling are only inside you. Like the old song says, “Nobody knows the trouble I feel.” How likely do you think that is? Having this discussion is a great opener to going deeper to help each other resolve issues. Perhaps you’ve found that your kids are often disappointed when you’re late for dinner. Perhaps they’re afraid to ask you to help with homework because you’re too tired. Wouldn’t that be great to know? Tell them how you feel about it and help them to deal with their issues as well.
I asked the 12-year old daughter of a close friend what the most important thing her parents taught her about work with their behavior. She thought about it for a minute and said, “I see that my mom works hard and is very dedicated. She has her own business so she has to be there for it all the time. I know that the good life we have is because of that. I want to have a good life too when I grow up.” She didn’t say (because it just isn’t true) that “My mom comes home angry and exhausted every day. When the phone rings she gets mad that she has to spend more time with her employees.” And yes, even though her mom may get angry from time to time, most of the time she is just simply determined to make her business work. Even more important, her mom has made the decision that she isn’t going to let anything that goes on at work affect her happiness. When it does, she works it out for herself. What a fantastic role model! Not only is this mother creating a happy life for herself, but she is modeling self-possession, empowerment, happiness, engagement, success and so much more to her child.