Are you working nights and weekends trying to make your business (or your career) a success? Maybe you should ask forgiveness from your other half.
I'm writing this post on a Sunday evening, and that's not unusual. If you're like me, you may spend many an evening and weekend hour sitting at your desk or at your office, solving problems, answering questions, and generally catching up on a list of tasks that never seems to get close to being completed. If this sounds at all familiar--and you have a spouse or partner at home--you may owe that person an apology. Your other half may be picking up the slack for you and putting up with less of a relationship than he or she deserves.
It's easy to feel like working long hours is a virtuous thing to do. After all, you're helping to make a successful company or a great career that will sustain your entire household. And it's not exactly like you're having fun--is it? But before you pat yourself on the back, consider taking a hard look at whether your devotion to work is leaving anyone else in the lurch. I did, and I wasn't entirely proud of what I saw.
If any of these statements are true for you, as they sometimes are for me, then you might want to consider extending an apology to your other half. And maybe a nice dinner out as well.
1. You're skipping some duties at home.
If you work anything like as much as I do--or if you're an entrepreneur of any kind--I can pretty much guarantee that this is true. Just to take one example, my husband Bill and I traditionally took turns putting dishes in the dishwasher and these days he does it nearly every time. I have a panoply of excuses: I'm working harder; I'm the one who takes the dishes out of the dishwasher most of the time; he's not so busy, and so on. But the fact is, it's a job, I ought to be sharing it, and I'm not.
The same goes for grocery shopping (he nearly always does this), feeding the cats, and more and more frequently, fixing dinner. These days, he's taking on the bulk of the work for our coming move to the West Coast as well. I have rationalizations for all of it, but the truth is he deserves my apology and my thanks.
2. Your children need more of your time.
While there may be some jobs you can harmlessly pass off to your other half, parenting shouldn't be one of them. Spending time with your kids, or more importantly being available for when they want to spend time with you, is not something you can delegate, replace, put off, or skip.
I'm not a parent myself, but I know this problem intimately because I was raised by a father who spent nearly all his evenings at the office, and part of his weekends as well. He paid for a lot of stuff and gave us a comfortable life, but it wasn't a substitute for his being there. I got well into adolescence before I felt I knew him at all. Don't let your work take you away from your kids.
3. Earning money is no excuse.
This is a particularly easy trap to fall into for me, since in my household I'm the primary breadwinner. My husband is a musician, a profession that's enabled in part by my making enough money to cover most of our bills. It's a little too tempting to remind him of this at moments when he complains I spend too much time "hiding" in my office: You want me to pay for stuff? Then this is what I have to do!
But the truth is, he never asked me to pay for anything. And the other truth, as he's reminded me a few times, is that I love doing this work, and I would be doing it whether he was in the picture or not. So while it's certainly satisfying to be able to support us, it's not something he should have to make up for.
4. You don't need to spend as much time working as you think you do.
Most mornings I spend some time checking out my social media mentions, especially on Twitter. These columns, as well as my other writing, often get tweeted or retweeted, and it's part of my job to be aware of those mentions and acknowledge them if I can. It's polite, it raises my social media profile, builds my readership, and it's kind of... fun. But is it truly essential that I do this? Every single day?
If you're like me, you want to not only do everything right, you want to do your level best at everything that you take on. But putting in your best effort, project after project, day after day, is taking you away from your home life at least some of the time when it doesn't need to be that way. Look for tasks that you can delegate, put off, or even drop altogether once in a while. If I ignore Twitter and spend time hanging out with my husband instead some mornings, the world won't come to an end.
5. If you don't take care of yourself, your partner will pick up the pieces.
Think you're only affecting yourself if you don't get enough sleep, grab fast food instead of a nutritious meal, or don't take the time to exercise? Maybe for now, but sooner or later, if you and your partner stay together, he or she will likely have to deal with whatever your state of good or bad health may be. (And you'll have to deal with your partner's as well.) Things can always go wrong, and it's impossible to predict the future, but the simple fact is that you're less likely to ever be an invalid--or a burden--if you take the time to take good care of yourself.
6. You're no fun to be with.
Even if you're in perfect health, and you're not dumping too many tasks on your other half, too many long hours of work has an unavoidable effect on your outlook, your mood, and your emotional availability. There are many times I've come out of my office, grumpy and exhausted, wanting to just lie on the sofa and watch something or other on television. Too bad for my husband, who'll have spent the last several hours waiting to talk to me! If you don't leave enough time for both relaxation and fulfilling your partner's needs, then your partner may be getting shortchanged.
7. You think your time is more valuable than your partner's.
If your partner has what seems like an easier job, or works fewer hours than you do, or makes less money, it can be very, very tempting to take this position. Don't give in to that temptation. Your partner's help at home is a support that allows you to do your best work, and those efforts are as much a part of your success as your own are. To assume anything else is disrespectful. It means you don't have a relationship between equals. And that won't lead anywhere good.
8. Working too hard can threaten your relationship.
This is a particularly good reason to apologize. If you're working long hours, coming home tired, and either working or recuperating through the weekends, there may be something very important missing from your schedule--fun with your partner and family! While this may be OK on a temporary basis if you're getting through a crunch time, if it goes on for too long your relationship itself can suffer.
So make sure to build some time in soon for a fun outing, or a lazy afternoon, or whatever you and your partner like to spend time doing together. Make sure to make him or her feel special. And while you're at it, apologize for not doing it more often.
Like this post? Sign up here for Minda's weekly email and you'll never miss her columns. Next time: How to get past a plateau.