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What My Dad Taught Me About Work-Life Balance

Success and balance are not mutually exclusive.

Photo by Michael Dam on Unsplash

Growing up, I fondly remember many weeknights around the family dinner table. My father would arrive home from work at 5:30 PM sharp and change out of his suit into casual clothes.

For him, that typically means a pair of Wrangler carpenter jeans and his white undershirt. If it was cold, he would don a flannel work shirt on top of the undershirt.

By 6 PM our dinner would begin. Usually, my sister or I would have set the table. Whoever didn’t set the table did the dishes afterward. I always wanted to set the table because I loathed loading the dishwasher.

Our dinner time was full of lively conversation, intellectual debate, and good clean fun. Sometimes my mom would tell stories of her childhood growing up in the Great Depression. Those stories were sad.

Other nights, my father would tell stories of how he met my mom. Those stories were full of love.

I don’t think it really mattered what we talked about. It just mattered that we talked.

After dinner, Dad would usually retire to his woodworking shop and mom to her sewing room. My sis and I did our homework.

At some point, both of my parents would be found in the living room reading books or listening to Sherlock Holmes mysteries on the record player.

I don’t remember my parents “playing” with us a lot, per se. I just remember them “being there” a lot for us.

Does that make sense?

I knew growing up that my parents would be available if I needed to ask a question or had a problem I couldn’t solve. I never once heard my dad say “Sorry Kate, I can’t help you right now because I’ve got work to do.”

If I needed my dad he was there.

  • Soccer games? He never missed.
  • Ballet recitals? Always in attendance.
  • Birthday parties? He hung every colorful balloon.

My father worked a corporate job for twenty-five years. And looking back at how he approached his career it couldn’t be more evident that Dad understood what successful work-life balance truly is.

We lived in a beautiful home…went to the top schools …and never wanted for anything. My dad provided for us well, but more importantly he was always present.

Here are three tenets my father lived by and that I now practice – and teach – others how to do:

WORK IS WORK. LIFE IS LIFE.

I never saw my father bring work home with him. Not once. And while it’s easy to say “boy, that was the good ole days!” I don’t believe that’s true. Dad understood his genius zone and he focused on that. He didn’t get caught up in all the excess busywork to prove his worth. He knew he was valuable and believed in himself. And when it was time to go home he left and picked up his work again the next day.

Today employers may seem to demand more and if you agree, you’ll never find the right balance for you. It’s entirely possible to enjoy a demanding career without being conjoined to your laptop.

STRESS DOESN’T DRIVE YOU. IT WEIGHS YOU DOWN.

My dad is the most placid guy I know. He didn’t get his feathers ruffled when work didn’t go his way. He accepted challenges and problems to be solved and did just that. Dad knew that worrying about the office wasn’t going to help him be any more productive. In fact, he knew that spending his downtime worrying about work would destroy his joy in life and in turn, burn him out. So he left stress at the door and refused to allow corporate pressure to invade his personal life.

Anxiety and stress is the number one reason that prevents most corporate execs from disconnecting and enjoying their life away from the office. Getting rid of the notion that stress comes along with the territory and learning how to disconnect is the very first step to a life of joy and well-being.

LIFE IS SHORT. FOCUS ON WHAT’S IMPORTANT TO YOU.

Dad didn’t know how fortuitous this particular belief would come to be, yet when Mom died at the age of 57 both of my parents knew they had shared a full life and a beautiful marriage. My mom never pined away after my father because he never worked late at the office. Nor did she wonder if she would ever be his first priority because she always was. My father’s commitment to his family was unwavering. So much so that he gave up two lucrative promotions in order to be fully present and available to us each day.

Today, we run around faster and faster in an attempt to “have it all,” yet no one really stops to think what that means. You can’t “have it all” but you can have what’s important to you…and you don’t have to trade off a nice paycheck to get it.

As I think back to how my father commanded his career it makes me pause. Dad really knew what was important and wasn’t afraid to create the life he wanted.

I wish I could say I benefitted from those lessons early on. I didn’t. I believed the myth that success requires a hefty trade-off to family, fulfillment, and self-care…so I pushed myself harder and harder in an attempt to be even more successful.

The only problem with that is once you start pushing, it’s hard to stop.

Can you relate?

Learning to recalibrate and approach life with joie de vivre, rather than success at all costs, often takes new skills our culture does not easily promote.

Do you know what I mean?

So as the holiday season approaches, take a step back and recalibrate! Do it now before any more “shoulds” and “need to’s” pile up on your plate. Women are especially susceptible to burn out because we have such doubt about our capability and fear of saying “no!”

And keep in mind…if my dad could do it…if I can do it…if the executive clients I work with can do it…so can you!

If you are a female executive or high-achiever teetering on burning out, feel free to watch my free master class here or book a complimentary career strategy call to learn what is possible for you.

Originally published at www.linkedin.com

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