When Family Comes First

istock_000003760371xsmall.jpgIt is incredibly difficult trying to balance a career, family, exercise, and personal enjoyment all at the same time. It can become a real juggling act, trying to devote enough time to everything and everyone on your list. It can seem nearly impossible to maintain a healthy work life balance.

Children are highly perceptive, and learn at an early age how to manipulate our emotions so they work against us. It is not unusual to hear the calls of, “You love your job more than you love me,” echoing down the hallways.

Stop for a moment to consider, though, if there is any truth to those cries for attention. Take a good look at how much time you have been devoting to your family, and how much of that time has truly been one-on-one interaction. Time spent with your family while you are worrying about tomorrow’s meeting or taking business calls does not count.

1. Listen to Your Kids

Children can, at times, be brutally honest about the circumstances of their lives, especially when they are young and not yet hindered by such things as manners, common sense, or worry over hurting someone else’s feelings. It is not to say they do not care about others, they just have no understanding yet of such concepts.

This is when your child can provide you with an open, honest assessment of your family situation…if you take the time to listen carefully to what they are saying. Take the time to sit down and really talk with them, without the cell phone, pager, or blackberry getting in the way. With children, a little goes a long way. Twenty minutes spent alone with your children on a regular basis means so much more to them than hours spent near them, but unaware of them.

2. Be Attentive to Your Marriage

Many times it is your spouse who bears the brunt of your success at work. Long hours and a plethora of responsibilities take a toll on time spent together. Not only do you have less time alone, but the quality of time you do have together suffers greatly.

Take the time to talk regularly – and privately – with your spouse. Be sure to include alone time together, and remember to keep communications open with each other. When each person feels their emotional needs are being met, it is far easier to work through the tougher times in a relationship. You need intimate time together to ensure your ongoing happiness and fulfillment from the relationship.

3. Be Supportive

In times of an emergency, you absolutely must put your family first. If ever there is a time and a place to kick the job to the bottom of the priority list, this is it.

Whether you have suffered a death or major illness in the family, have been displaced due to fires or some other natural disaster, or have a significant issue with an immediate family member (such as severe depression or suicidal tendencies), this is when you must drop everything – at least temporarily – and be there for your family.

This seems very obvious, but it is amazing just how many people are so wrapped up in the everyday stress of their careers, that they lose perspective when it comes to significant family issues.

Remember, there is no other time your family needs you more than in times such as these. Whether it is your guidance they seek, or just a shoulder to lean on, you must be there.
Since these types of situations are not only rare, but are usually quite serious in nature, most employers will understand if you are open and honest with them. In fact, many places allow employees to take emergency leave to deal with family emergencies, so be sure to put it to good use if the time ever arises.

In this crazy life where it becomes increasingly difficult to find work life balance, take a moment to listen to your children, your spouse, and other members of your family in order to check the health of the important relationships in your life. Be sure to really listen to them, and ensure you take appropriate action to maintain those relationships. Your family can be your greatest champion, and they can be your barometer you use to gauge the success of your work family balance.

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