How to win at home and at work
A woman and her 17-year-old son had been fighting for days! What started off as something fairly insignificant had escalated into all out war! She was telling him he was useless and he was calling her Hitler in a skirt! Exasperated, the boy retaliated one last time, “If I’m that bad, why did you have me?” Catching his mother off guard, she replied, “Well, we didn’t know it was going to be YOU! We were hoping for someone with a job.”
An absurd as that story is – it’s actually quite true. Kids don’t ask to be born and parents don’t know what they are going to get – or how they are going to cope as parents. Throw in a high-pressure job and it’s easy to see just how many parents are asking that big question, ‘Can I really have it all? Can I have a big job and still be a good parent?’
We all have limited personal resources – time, physical energy and emotional capacity being at the top of the list when it comes to spreading oneself between career and family. Here are some of the principles I have found helpful to create family harmony and well-adjusted children and parents.
1. Love Intentionally (not just emotionally)
While parents naturally love their children with great emotion, this kind of love can be a real roller coaster and puts huge pressure on relationships. When things are going well – everyone feels good but when there is conflict or disappointment – emotional love can quickly be exchanged for feelings of rejection, bitterness and even abandonment.
Intentional love starts with the end in mind and looks to the future. Intentional parenting is concerned with what kind of adult I want my child to become and sets about instilling the skills and character consistent with the vision. And therefore, parenting becomes much more consistent with clear objectives. Children need a good balance of both emotional love and intentional love to feel secure and loved.
Beware of substituting money for time
Intentional love doesn’t become seduced or distracted by what is convenient, easy or popular. Watch out for parenting that substitutes money for time. Sometimes it’s more convenient to give money to keep your kids temporarily happy with outings or gadgets when what they really need is to be having a family night where you all cooked dinner together and played cards.
Likewise, it’s easy to give in to demands when you are so tired you can hardly string a sentence together. You don’t have the energy to argue or put clear boundaries in place – it’s all just too hard. But that’s not intentional love because it’s not growing your kids into men and women who understand delayed gratification or the meaning of the word NO! Instead it’s breeding entitlement and potentially narcissism.
Just as businesses or corporations have vision, mission statements and company culture, every family has values, beliefs and traditions. I call it ‘Family Branding’ – it’s what makes each family unique, gives us a sense of belonging, and a strong basis to make decisions. This becomes especially important for teenagers, when they face peer pressure.
When I grew up – our family brand was signified by hard work, excellence and service to others. Sadly, Mum and Dad separated when I was ten, but because that brand was ingrained into me, I have continued to use it as a benchmark for everything I do, with a couple of adjustments.
Our brand was all about ‘doing’ and not much about ‘being’. I have realised that any quality done to excess becomes a weakness. Hard work, for example, can lead to burnout, excellence can become perfectionism, and serving people can become people pleasing. So, I have added fun and enjoying people into the brand so that it retains balance.
Traditions and rituals
Incorporating traditions and rituals makes your home a safe haven where the family can be together and shut out the big, bad world. When our kids were little and we were building our business hard out, we celebrated Saturday family night, which lasted well into the girls’ late teen years. We planned it and make it a very special time together.
On Sundays (our day off) the girls made a colourful paper ring stapled together to make 6 loops representing Monday to Saturday. Each day the girls would rip off one of the rings before bedtime, meaning we were one more night closer to family night.
Eating around the table brings people together and encourages communication. In this 24/7 world where kids are doing activities every night of the week, there is little common time to eat together. If you are working late why not make breakfast your family meal? It’s not good to be away from home at both ends of the day on a regular basis.
If your children have a phone, check in voice to voice each afternoon. It only needs to be a short chat – but it’s an important part of their day. If they are coming home to an empty house, afternoon tea is a big deal. Leaving a kind note or something really yummy when they least expect it can really translate as a thoughtful gesture on your part. It says, ‘I’m thinking of you’.
2. Keeping your head in the business and your heart at home
The minute your children were conceived you were given the authority and the responsibility to lead them to adulthood. It’s a big ask, but also a strong reminder that no career can ever be more important than parenting. This is not to say that you can’t be accomplished in your work role – you just need to be deliberate about both roles.
One advantage of having a strong family culture and good routines is that you can train your kids to respect your work. When you are in work mode, you can’t be interrupted by trivial texts or to solve squabbles. If you think of things that are home related, then stop and send yourself a note and get back to work. Don’t try to remember things or use your head as a filing cabinet!
Contribution equals ownership of the home
A big job usually means big hours and big money. It’s tempting to pay to have everything done at home. On the whole that’s a smart idea except that it doesn’t help your kids mature. I suggest they do jobs, change their bed sheets every week or fortnight and be responsible for cleaning their rooms. Be fair, be clear and put it in writing so everyone knows his or her role.
Contributing is important to build character and to prepare them for eventually leaving home. Contribution creates ownership – a stake in the ground, which builds confident and capable children. Unfortunately, the enemy of paying for things to be done is that you may raise kids who don’t know how to cook or use a vacuum cleaner. This leads to your kids becoming useless flatmates, underwhelming employees and disappointing life partners because they can’t self – manage.
3. Looking after YOU!
Your children and you need to work, rest and play. Frequently examine that ratio in your life. In the hectic world of deadlines and demands, many people use coffee to wake up and alcohol to wind down. Eating whatever someone puts in front of you is inevitable when working on those urgent cases but how easy it is for this lifestyle to become the norm. The quality of your health will directly correlate to the quality of your family relationships. Don’t be so tired, unfit or fat that you can’t play with your children on your precious time off.
Get enough sleep, which may mean having a deadline to go to bed. It’s easy to look at social media once more or answer one more email. Next thing you know its late – very late and you are tired but still wired. Do you really need your phone in your bedroom? If you don’t have it – your kids wont resist when you tell them to leave it on the kitchen bench before they go to bed.
Know your limits
Being a corporate animal and a great parent will take just about all you’ve got. You still need time and energy to be a responsive partner or spouse if you have one, a son or daughter and a friend and sibling to a few other lucky ones.
Think about what else you are volunteering for. Be realistic and don’t be a martyr. I know families whose parents are adored by the masses but are emotionally distant from their own children. Is it worth is? Not in my book – but then again you are writing your own story. Make it one you will want to read in the future.
In conclusion – I champion you for reading this article. You are a parent who cares. You may have been challenged by it, but I hope above all that you have been encouraged!