Coming off of his MBA program, Ed competed hard for and won a coveted job with an investment bank. The hours and the demands, he was told, were crushing, but the financial rewards, said the same sources, were fabulous.
The “sources” were right! Ed left for work before his two preschool-age children were up and got home after they were in bed, but he was making more money than he had dreamed of, and his wife, while complaining about his hours and neglect, seemed pretty happy with the money.
Rod had a similar story. Out of law school, he landed a position in a famous international law firm and was sent to the London office. Fifteen-hour days were the norm, but that was what you had to do for 10 years or so if you wanted to get on the partner track, which is where the real money comes. His commute from the closest suburb he and his wife could afford was almost an hour each way, but he occasionally was able to put away his work for a while on the train and call his wife and kids before they went to bed.
Sarah loved her job and the satisfaction and recognition it brought, and she and her husband enjoyed the big apartment and new cars and stylish clothes that their double income allowed them to have. Though they both wanted kids, they decided to delay their family until Sarah’s career could flourish. Though in her mid-30s, they felt they had another five years before they had to “settle down” for family life.
Mark turned 60 on the very day that his last daughter left home for college. He and his wife, who had lived largely separate lives as he pursued his career and she raised the kids, were looking forward to spending more time focusing on each other.
But once the children were gone, they found they had little in common. They had grown apart even as they lived together: He pursued his interests and she hers. They struggled to regain a sense of romance and excitement in being together. Mark told his younger brother Larry not to make the same mistake.
The stories go on and on. We hear them as we meet people on book tours and speaking tours. And they have a simple common thread: Too many people spend most of their time and mental energy on achievements and have little leftover for relationships.
And yet, when asked what is more important, achievements or relationships, virtually everyone says relationships.
No one, as the old saying goes, lies on their deathbed saying, “Oh, I just wish I had spent a little more time with the business.” It is our relationships that determine our happiness, both now and in the future.
Making some priority adjustments can make a huge difference.
For example, Rod, from the story above, found that while leaving work earlier to get home before his kids were in bed was frowned on and took him out of competition for advancement and promotion, he could arrive a little later in the mornings and not miss much or be missed much. He developed a routine of having an early breakfast with his wife and family and walking his kids to school before leaving for work. His family relationships began to flourish rather than deteriorate.
Larry took his older brother’s advice and started having a Friday night date each week with his wife and spending an hour or two together each Sunday night planning the following week and reviewing the progress and needs of each of their kids. They started feeling more like a partnership and appreciated each other more.
As we begin 2013, this column will, over the next few weeks, focus on some of the “new norms” that are destructive to our family relationships and discuss ways that we might combat them.
Because the best New Year’s resolutions are about relationships.
Richard and Linda Eyre are New York Times No. 1 best-selling authors who lecture throughout the world on family-related topics. Visit them anytime at www.EyresFreeBooks.com or www.valuesparenting.com. Their latest Deseret e-book is “On the Homefron