When I was growing up, my dad sometimes worked three jobs in order to make ends meet. I remember my Mom working most of my life, including the times she took in extra ironing. But I never remember my parents doing their jobs at home. Their bosses didn't call them at home, their co-workers didn't stop by the house to drop off work and they never even talked about their jobs much, except to tell funny stories about customers or maybe gripe a bit about the boss.
Boy, have things changed. We all seem to be connected more than ever to our jobs. Because of cell phones, pagers and e-mails, our jobs never seem to be more than a heartbeat away.
Who hasn't witnessed the guy on his Blackberry at his kid's baseball game? Or the woman who can't get off her cell phone while dining with her family or friends? And, what about the e-mail that arrives at 3 a.m.?
When I interviewed Tom Stern about his book, "CEO Dad," he was quite serious for being such a funny guy. He didn't shy away from admitting that he thrived on work, and got a "high" from being a bigshot business guy. But,as we all know can happen, life smacked him upside the head. He faced a series of personal traumas that finally made him take a hard look at his life and his priorities.
It used to be so easy for me to turn on my phone's answering machine and close my office door at a certain time. But now, with this 24/7 world we live in, I find it much harder. It's like I'm afraid if I don't keep up with what's going on, I'll somehow fall behind. And, who knows when that next great opportunity will come along? What if I miss it?
And then, I try to stop what I'm doing and ask myself this question: "What is the most important thing going on right now?" On one hand, I have e-mail to check and phone messages to return. On the other hand, my family wants to play Frisbee in the backyard or watch "Sandlot" for the 10th time. Thankfully, I still have the inner strength to turn on the answering machine and close the office door. The day I can't do that anymore is the day I know I've gone to the dark side.
So, while I have found a way to balance my work and family life, have you? One way to tell may be if you answer "yes" to three or more of these 20 questions from Workaholics Anonymous (www.workaholics-anonymous.org:
1. Do you get more excited about your work than about family or anything else?
2. Are there times when you can charge through your work and other times when you can't?
3. Do you take work with you to bed? On weekends? On vacation?
4. Is work the activity you like to do best and talk about most?
5. Do you work more than 40 hours a week?
6. Do you turn your hobbies into money-making ventures?
7. Do you take complete responsbility for the outcome of your work efforts?
8. Have your family or friends give up expecting you on time?
9. Do you take on extra work because you are concerned that it won't otherwise get done?
10. Do you underestimate how long a project will take and then rush to complete it?
11. Do you believe that it is OK to work long hours if you love what you're doing?
12. Do you get impatient with people who have other priorities besides work?
13. Are you afraid that if you don't work hard you will lose your job or be a failure?
14. Is the future a constant worry for you even when things are going very well?
15. Do you do things energetically and competitively including play?
16. Do you get irritated when people ask you to stop doing your work in order to do something else?
17. Have your long hours hurt your family or other relationships?
18. Do you think about your work while driving, falling asleep or when others are talking?
19. Do you work or read during meals?
20. Do you believe that more money will solve the other problems in your life?