“The butterfly counts not months but moments, and has time enough.” – Rabindranath Tagore
Many of the South Asian moms and dads I’ve spoken to say their kids mean everything to them. While many of the ones that came from India envisioned a better life for themselves, most were more concerned with providing a better life for their children.
These parents work hard so that their children will have a roof over their heads, enough food so that they never go hungry, all the new toys so that they will have plenty to play with, and all the nice and fashionable new clothes that they can wear out at school or when they are with friends. And while they work very hard to provide all of these things, what they sometimes aren’t able to provide – because they are working so much – is quality time with their children.
It’s a tough balance that many people struggle with – and there’s a name for it: work/life balance. Generally, in this fast-paced, high demand world we live in, if there is an imbalance it’s usually tipped towards working too much.
In some cases, it’s not easy to make changes. Some bosses expect their employees to work extra, and if these employees don’t, the bosses may find someone else. However, in my experience, these kinds of bosses are not the biggest reason why many South Asian men and women have work/life imbalances.
No, the biggest reason is many people just can’t say no to extra work. After all, extra work means extra money, and these well-meaning parents see the extra money as a means to a better life for themselves and their children. When asked, they will say, “I didn’t have these luxuries, but I want my children to have them.”
While their hearts are in the right place, what they do not realize is that while they are out working, their children do not have their parents (who are by far their most important role models) in their lives. And research shows that children without a connection to at least one positive adult role model are more at-risk of problem behaviors such as alcohol and drug abuse and sexual promiscuity.
So for the sake of your family, try to get back in balance! Some tips on achieving work-life balance:
• Say ‘no’ to overtime. By saying ‘no’ to overtime, you may not be able to afford as many luxuries in life, by you will have more time to spend with your children at home
• When at home, make the time count. Turn off the TV and spend time speaking to your children. Ask them how their day went. Help them with their homework. If the homework is all done, just sit with them and say nothing – they will just be happy knowing you’re there!
• Eat meals together. Decide what meal it will be – can you all sit down together for breakfast to start the day, or is it easier to sit down for dinner at the end of the day? Families that eat together stick together!
• If you have a work cell phone or a work e-mail, don’t use it during the time you are at home. Let calls go to your voicemail, and then you can listen to the message and decide if it’s important enough (for example, if it’s an emergency) to call back or if it can wait until you are at work
• Let people at work know that you are not available 24 hours a day / 7 days a week
• Use your vacation time – don’t just keep banking it or getting paid out.
You need to actually go on vacation or spend the time off with family.
It’s not easy to achieve a work/life balance, but it’s generally understood that the further tipped it is towards work, the less satisfying life becomes … you don’t want life to pass you by while you’re busy spending it all up at work!