Burnout is a very big concern in today’s working world; family often helps up recover from that fatigue, but what about when family obligations actually worsen your stress and burnout?
When you’re early in your career or just breaking away from your family, it’s hard for loved ones to understand that you’re not available all the time.
Depending on your family and how they feel about work, it might be difficult for you to explain when your day job or your side hustles take up a great deal of your time. This can, unfortunately, also happen with very close friends.
The Harvard Business Review reports that 1 in 5 employees are at risk of burnout. You might have well-meaning loved ones, but they don’t see eye to eye with you. They think you’re free to come over for dinner or do small favors every weeknight and weekend. Having too much on your plate outside of work makes burnout a lot more likely.
If you’re going all in and working hard to achieve a goal, it’s quite possible that not everyone in your life will realize exactly what that entails.
This advice is really for a specific situation — how to set boundaries with loved ones who are a bit too involved or a little too overbearing. It’s really for when your loved ones, as much as they’re meaningful to you, don’t respect your work or your career very much or at all.
At the end of the day, our loved ones and our time with those people definitely matters more than the next promotion at work. You don’t want to lose sight of that, but if those loved ones don’t want to give you any time for your passions, that’s when you need to set a few boundaries.
Many families value the family unit’s integrity and closeness over career progression.
This is a very, very dicey subject. In one sense, what are we working for if we aren’t working to ultimately spend time with our loved ones?
Yet in another, what if a family is extremely close? What if your family
It’s something that you need to look at your personal situation and evaluate. If you’re doing endless overtime every week and that’s why you don’t have time for your family, then your family might just be right that you’re working too much.
However, if you’re just working toward your goals, keeping reasonable hours, but you just need time for you to recharge and your family is getting in the way of that, that is when you need to stand up for yourself.
Enmeshed families typically struggle with this the most. If your family simply doesn’t care about you progressing your career and working hard at your job (within reasonable hours), you’re going to have a hard time achieving work-life balance.
The most complicated thing about work and work-life balance is preparing everything you need to have a successful workweek. You still have to clean where you live. You still have to cook for yourself. You still have loved ones or perhaps pets to take care of when you aren’t at work. All of those things take time. Your “free time” outside of working hours isn’t as free and detached as some family members might think it is.
You need to work extra hard at some points in your career to set yourself up to have more time in the future.
This is the thing that many people forget; if you can’t make time for certain visits or events, it’s not because you care about your job more than your loved ones.
It’s because you want to do work you truly love and make a living from it.
It’s because you want to work hard so that you can achieve success and comfort in the future.
I’m not saying that you need to achieve a certain level of success then kick back and do nothing.
But at the very least, if you put the extra hours in now, there’s a good chance you can have a very normal schedule without too many extra hours later on.
Ultimately, your hard work will pay off. Loved ones may not be as certain of that as you are though.
Family is important too, but if those activities impact your work, then they’ve got to be scaled back a little bit. If there was ever a good reason to pass on something, work is that reason.
Saying no is very, very hard. A few months ago, when my life was positively chaotic, I had to say a very difficult “no” to one of my closest friends; a friend who I consider family. It’s painful, it might even make you feel inadequate, but you can’t throw yourself into circumstances that will break you.
But sometimes you just have to do it; you have to say no. You’ve got to say no to very important people in your life.
Overdoing things will lead you to feel burnt out.
Let your family know why your career matters to you in gentle and subtle ways.
In cases where your loved ones really can’t come to terms or agree with what you’re doing, try to gently remind them that your career is important to you.
Your reasons are uniquely yours. Give them some thought and decide which reasons would help your loved ones understand your motivations best. one way you could lead up to defending your time a little more and mitigate the possibility of offending family members would be to build up how much your career means to you.
Do it gradually. Bring positive things about your work up in conversation.
Some families don’t value careers as much as you do.
I love my family, but since many of my relatives are from the sleepy suburbs of southern New Jersey, I’m sure half of them think I’m insane for traversing New York City on a daily basis to carve out my place in the world.
If your family is from a small town, a very rural area, or doesn’t move around much, they might have a hard time understanding your motivations if you case your career to far off places and prioritize work.
There are a lot of people out there who are happier working at a job that doesn’t fulfill them but staying closer to home gives them the fulfillment they need. There’s no shame in that, but that’s simply not you. That’s not me, either.
You want more; you want to have a job you love, a job that gives you fulfillment. Obviously, we need peace and fulfillment from both work and our vital relationships, so we need to keep those things in balance.
Regardless, don’t be ashamed of your decisions. Don’t feel guilty about choosing to chase your career and elevate it to new heights.
We all create our own paths.
You need time that is simply time for you.
This might come off as sounding selfish but don’t let yourself think that taking time for yourself is anything but essential.
It’s important to make time to spend with your loved ones and their company can be very restorative. However, if you’re running yourself ragged and never have a weekend to yourself to recover and get ready for the next work week, you’re going to burn out.
Since I do live rather far from my family now, I’ve set some ground rules. I simply can’t attend any family events that happen on a weeknight or would run late on a Sunday night. Most of my relatives live two hours away from me.
Alternatively, you might live on the opposite side of the country from your family and face a lot of pressure to come home more often. If this is your scenario, the cost of travel becomes just as challenging as the time it takes.
Figure out what your ground rules need to be and be kind, understanding, but firm about them.
Keep your life balanced and periodically evaluate your priorities.
Now, here’s the big and very important disclaimer here. I’m not telling you to work all the time and ignore your family.
You may want to advance your professional development and work toward your major goals, but you also don’t want to get so immersed in the rat race that your priorities turn in the wrong direction. Your loved ones, whether that means friends or family, should always be high on your priority list.
At the end of the day, the people you love will always matter more than the next promotion or the next big accomplishment. You don’t want to lose sight of this.
Again, this advice is for people who have families who don’t really value having a career. This certainly isn’t everyone, but one of my dearest friends struggles with this. She comes from a culture where most women don’t have jobs outside of the home, so it’s very hard for her when her family thinks she’s free every work night and every minute of the weekend.
I also struggle with this situation, albeit to a lesser extent; there are plenty of working women in my family, but very few people in my family move for work. For me, my trouble setting boundaries with family is that some of my relatives think I’m selfish for not driving two hours south and then two hours back north for get-togethers that will only last an hour or two at most. It’s especially impossible on a weeknight.
That’s why I wrote this piece. If I’ve learned anything in my journey, it’s that if I see a few people struggling with something, then there are probably a lot more people out there with the same dilemma.
This story isn’t for everyone, but if you are facing similar issues, then I hope this is helpful for you.