Updated: Aug 24, 2022
When you love what you do for a living, life can feel so much less stressful. We enjoy checking off the list of things to do, the creation of projects, and the leadership of a team. There are even times when work feels so much less stressful than home, and so we spend more time there.
Have you ever:
Remained at the office, or in your home office, for longer than you actually need to so you don’t have to go home?
Completely obliterated work boundaries to avoid spending time with your family?
Returned earlier than needed to work after a death or traumatic event in your life?
Most of us can probably relate to spending more time at work than we do with our families at some point in our lives. Sometimes, it’s what is expected so we can do our jobs well, but sometimes, we’re simply avoiding home. And, that’s not always intentional.
Work can be a respite from the chaos of our personal lives. Why? Because you can control your work life much differently than at home.
Boundaries are much clearer at work.
Boundaries can be challenging, but they’re much easier at work. We all have well-defined position descriptions that tell us what our jobs are, and what they’re not. When a co-worker or employee steps out of their role, we can efficiently and effectively have constructive discussions to remedy the issue.
Boundaries at home are way more difficult. We are more emotionally involved with our family members and this leads to vulnerability. Our partner and our kids can trigger our emotional chaos from childhood (and we all have it because parents aren’t perfect) like no one else, and we don’t even realize it’s happening. Reactions then lead to stress, and then we start avoiding home because we don’t know what to do differently.
Goals are more well-defined and celebrated.
We are a goal-oriented society. We like to know where we’re headed, the steps to get there and the time it will take. At work, we have a team of people that are on the same trajectory and on the same page. Then, we celebrate when those goals are met.
Just try to do this at home and watch the chaos ensue. I’m certain there are some families that make this work, but I would imagine this is rare.
Why? Each family member’s emotions get in the way of reaching the goal. If you are a family with kids, the brain development of each child can be different, and therefore the ability to not only understand the goal but to keep the reward in sight is completely dependent upon their brain development.
Why is this so hard? Goals aren’t emotionally driven, they’re data-driven. And, honestly, your family isn’t getting “paid” to be invested in that goal.
You can control work way more than at home.
Control is a facade, but there are more things we can control at work than at home. We can control our calendars and time better without families encroaching on our day. We can control our emotions more effectively because we are less vulnerable in the workplace than we are at home.
The list of things we can’t control at home can feel overwhelming:
And on, and on
The reality is that there are very few things we can control, or even should try to control, other than ourselves. But, controlling others is often an instinct and a reaction, not a decision your brain is making.
So, what’s the answer?
Stop trying to control home like you control work.
Again, control is a facade. We wield control like a sword to protect ourselves from vulnerability and being hurt. Our brains tell us something is emotionally uncomfortable so we go into control mode.
A kid fails a test and we go into control mode instead of looking at it as a learning opportunity. I have said “you will study 3 hours a day” many times in reaction to a failed grade. But, this is really a reaction to me feeling like a failure, not my son’s one failed test.
Partner doesn’t do a task so we go into control mode. How many times have you done the task yourself instead of asking your partner again to do it. Yes, it’s frustrating and there are lots of emotions involved, but is it possible it wasn’t their priority that day or you didn’t communicate the importance of the task?
Dinner time (if you even have dinner time) turns into a checklist of the chores that need to be done or a review of all the junk on the family calendar. Control can be very subtle and we can focus on tasks when we feel emotionally overwhelmed instead of just saying “I’m stressed. Can we talk about how we’re all feeling?”
You talk to your family like you do your employees. It’s so easy to go into delegation mode and start commands. Here’s a tip: your family is not going to respond as well to this, if at all, like your employees.
All of these things take time, practice, and intentional change. Control is a habit of the brain that has developed over time to protect us from difficult emotions and experiences. What are your next steps? Have a friend that checks your control issues (I have several - super annoying but essential) or find a coach or counselor that can walk you through the intention of change.
Letting go of the control at home can be scary. But, being intentional and present with your family creates a joy-filled life that is so worth the effort. For not only yourself, but your family, and the generations of your family to come.
Mattie is a counselor, coach, and CEO of Cerebrations, LLC. With over 25 years of experience in understanding how the brain affects our emotions, reactions, and our experiences, she is passionate about empowering women to harness the power of their brain and body connection to create intentional action and deeper connections with their families. You can reach her at firstname.lastname@example.org or by scheduling a free consult chat.