Managing Work & Family Life: What Really Matters in the End?

The cost of being busy

My parents were always busy when I was young because they ran a family business together. It provided for a nice life and a great education at a prestigious school. They wanted to provide the best life for me, because they endured a lot of hardship and loss in their lives. They made a lot of sacrifices in the present to secure a materially comfortable future.

But I missed my parents all the time. I saw them everyday, but we rarely actually spent time doing things together, feeling connected. I longed for that so much.

They were distracted and stressed a lot of the time and I often felt in the way. So by the time I was eight I became quite self-reliant and solitary.

Occasionally family friends would encourage my parents to have another child so I wouldn’t be alone. I dreaded that idea, that would have meant even less of their attention!

 

Putting things off until it’s too late

My dad was planning to retire early at the age of 50. The dream was that then we’d all finally have more time to enjoy as a family.

But he died suddenly at the age of 49. I was 13 years old.

As you might expect, I was devastated. I felt so many conflicting things at once that I became emotionally numb.

I had a lot of (suppressed) anger for my parents, because all I ever wanted was their love and quality time and I rarely got it. I do have some great memories, but I would have gladly swapped our nice life for more quality time with them.

I also felt sad for my dad. After all those years of putting in extreme hours to save money, he never got to enjoy the things he was dreaming of doing when he retired.

My mother, now raising me on her own, spent the rest of my teenage years working long days in a job she hated, even though financially we were fine.  She doubled down her efforts to ensure my material needs would be met, well into the future when it would actually be my own responsibility. She was terrified that we’d end up in ruin. I constantly felt her stress, frustration and anxiety, which was often directed at me, and our relationship suffered as a result. I always wished she would quit the job and take better care of herself so that she would be happier and enjoy life a bit. As she would constantly remind me, she was working hard to pay for all my nice things, but none of it was worth the stress it caused both of us if you asked me. The only reason I didn’t run away from home was to get a good education.

Reflecting back as an adult

It took me so many years to heal from all that.

My parents did the best they could. I have a lot of respect, gratitude and compassion for them. Of course the death of a loved one is out of anyone’s control. But that’s the moment when it was clear to me what was most important and the opportunities we had missed.

Putting work and material success before our family life resulted in a lot of unhappiness – for all of us.

After my dad died, I often sat alone in my bedroom staring at my things feeling that none of it mattered. It was all worthless. The most precious thing to me was gone. I clung to the happy memories like a lifeboat because those were priceless and no one could take that away from me.

I don’t have children myself and it was largely due to my lack of capacity and resources in my own life to make space for parenting. I did not want to repeat the same mistakes my parents did.

Not being a parent means I often hesitate to share my thoughts and experiences when I don’t experience the challenges of parenting myself. Yet, many adults walk around with their own wounded inner child that needs love and healing. My parents included.

My 13 year old self would like all parents/guardians to know that kids want and need regular quality time with you. Especially in those early years. The teenage years brings the start of the exploration of their own identities and they may not always want to spend time with parents at this point, but if they know you are there for them when it really matters, that goes a long way. Sadly, I never felt I could depend on my parents for my emotional needs so I gradually became very independent and resistant to them.

Defining quality time

Quality time is about your level of presence and engagement and no amount of money can buy that.

It doesn’t require ALL your time, or even a lot of time. It certainly doesn’t require wealth or money, it can be totally ordinary moments at home.

It involves putting phones, computers and all distractions away. Losing yourself in play, or story time, whatever enhances a sense of connection.

Kids need to feel seen and valued, it’s a universal human need.

They also want you to be happy as much as you want them to be happy. Parenting is hard, I know. Especially on top of a career. But when you nurture your own needs for self-care and wellbeing it nourishes them also.

 

Reflection

I know all too well how work and career can become all consuming. But what really matters most to you when it comes down to it?

What are the sacrifices worth making?

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Welcome

  • CHRISTINE WEHRMEIER
  • Life & MindBody Coach
  • Somatic & Arts Practitioner
  • B.A. Psychology, PgDip Journalism
  • Currently studying Creative Arts Therapy

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