“How do people decide to slow down professionally for their family?”

Dear Heather,

I’m hoping you can help me. I’ve got a crazy busy job in the tech field. It’s been going really well. I am exceeding expectations. The higher ups seem to like me and I am being included in meetings that talk about the future of the company. They see me as part of the future. I could be a manager for them by the end of next year, I think.

I also am married with two kids at home and things are not going well. My 7 year old cries in the morning because I have already left for work before she gets up and I missed my 4 year old’s Christmas pageant. I keep missing things because of work and it seems like I am disappointing them every single day.

I’ve gained a lot of weight, am tired all the time, and haven’t seen the inside of a gym in ages. I love my job but I feel like I am unraveling at the seams a bit. How do people decide that they want to slow down professionally for their family?

Thanks, Alex

Hey, Alex

Thanks for writing in. It’s awful when success comes at such a high cost. I am sure that part of what contributed to your success is that you are the first one in and the last to leave. Bosses love that kind of commitment but as you’re learning, families don’t.

Most people find themselves in your predicament because they’ve said “yes” to a lot of things without thinking. They were asked to come in early and because they could they did. People tend to say “yes” simply because they are physically able to do so. They go to work for 7 am because they can physically just get up early. They never stop to ask themselves if they want to and they rarely take the time to see what they are compromising by being so available for work.

Suddenly, without realizing it, you’ve given yourself away.

The only way to get out of this mess is to look at it differently. This is going to sound harsh and I apologize for that but it’s important to challenge your thinking here.

What would happen if your wife was suddenly diagnosed with cancer?

What if she couldn’t get up with the kids in the morning? What if she needed help getting to doctors appointments? What about your schedule and mindset around work would change or shift? What would you prioritize? What would you let go of?

Strange things happen when people have a personal crisis…they suddenly find the time because the crisis has forced them to.

The trick here is to live like you want to before a crisis forces you to.

What’s the deal with being at work before school? Are you super productive then? Is there a meeting then? If you need to be there so early, are you able to leave early? Is it required of you to be there early every day?

How much of your home time is occupied by work?

When you are with your family are you really with them or are you partially distracted by work emails and planning your following day?

If a crisis were to hit your family, what shifts would you make in your priorities? Are there tasks that normally take you forever that you’d be more committed to doing faster? Would you take fewer breaks to get home earlier? Would you find yourself delegating things that you don’t necessarily need to be the one doing so long as they get done? Would you ask anyone for help?

You feel trapped at work because you are used to looking at your role and responsibilities with the same lens. You’ve made your decisions around saying “yes” to things by deciding that physically being able to do it is the only qualifier.

You’re also probably afraid of rocking the boat at work. After all, it sounds like you’re being fast tracked and you don’t want to lose that status. I know I wouldn’t.

Before you even think about having to slow your professional progress, look critically at what you do, what you say yes to, and how long things take to get done. Also, take a moment to take a look around and see if it really has to be you doing everything. Can you share the responsibility?

Are you unplugged when you’re at home?

Families tend to complain less about your absence if you’re really with them when you’re with them. If you must check work messages and emails from home, have a scheduled time when you do that and schedule that at a time that works for you and your family.

Start to envision your future as being balanced between work and home. Make your decisions about your time and energy so that they are consistent with your vision for how you want your life to be.

Thanks, Alex. I hope this helps.

I also put together a bonus quick tip sheet for you and others in your place: Ten Hacks for Better Work-Life Balance.

If you’re struggling with an issue and want my two cents, Email me and I’ll feature your query in an upcoming post.

Originally published at www.choosetohaveitall.com on December 22, 2015.

Originally published at medium.com