Beyond 9 to 5: Thriving with Family and Career

I told the interviewer I wasn't going to travel, and if that was an issue, we should end the interview right now.

The interview continued.

I was leaving a job that required weekly travel. That meant I was only going to see my kids every other weekend.

During my divorce I fought for every minute I got with my kids.

Have less time with them?

Not going to happen.

Time to find a new job.

Work-Life Balance Isn’t a Thing

I learned early on as a parent that "work-life balance" is a myth.

Balance means an equal distribution.

To have work-life balance would mean you have as much time for your family as you do for work.

I know few employed people who work 40 hours per week.

In my previous job, the one I had to travel for, I covered 40 hours in 3 days. Those weeks were more like 60-70 hours.

If you sleep for 7 hours (my average), you have 17 hours left in the day. Assuming you need an hour on each end for various life things, like taking a shower, you now have 15 hours left.

If you work 12 or more of those hours, how much time do you have for your family?


What about the weekends?

Unless you're super human, by the time you get to the weekend you're exhausted. And you need to recover from the week to do it all over again.

With many jobs there is no balance.

What's a parent to do?

Today I'll provide you with strategies that make work a lesser part of your life. I'm not saying it's not important. We all need money to live. What I am saying is that work shouldn't be everything, and it doesn't have to be.

Keep reading and find out how.

Let's Address the Myths In The Room

When I talk about prioritizing my kids over my job, people tend to get a bit flustered. There's 5 myths they've bought into that usually come up.

See if any of these sound familiar to you.

Myth 1: You lack ambition

When I tell people my priorities they think I lack ambition. This is false. I wouldn't have started 3 businesses if I lacked ambition.

They mean they don't get how a person can succeed without working super hard for someone else.

This is narrow minded.

It's also comes from what society is telling us is important - professional success. We're told that without professional success we as people are worth less.

This is also a false choice.

You don't have to choose career advancement over your family.

You may need to find a new employer, but you don't have to trade.

Myth 2: You'll end up poor

The next thing I hear is I may not be financially stable.

People worry that if they spend less time focusing on their career, it could lead to:

  • Having less income

  • Progressing slower in their career

  • Potential financial instability

You will hear this one if you live in an expensive area. It also comes up when people expect you to maintain a certain lifestyle.

Myth 3: You'll miss out on career opportunities

People think by not focusing on work, you'll miss out on career opportunities.

I've found this to be true. But, there are tradeoffs.

If I wanted to be a partner at the big consulting firm I worked for, it would take all my hours for 2-3 years. That's a lot of mornings, nights, and weekends not spent with my kids.

I'll be honest - missing out on career opportunities is a possibility.

But let me ask you this - what's more important?

As you're reading this I'm assuming your kids.

Let's keep going.

Myth 4: You need to put in the hours at work

Some jobs, like at big consulting firms, expect you to work a lot of hours and always be ready to work. You may also run into a lack of support for work-life balance.

In this scenario I'm not surprised if you don't think you can take time away.

If this is your situation, finding a new job may be your only option.

I found myself dealing with this.

My divorce was very contentious and stressful. I was trying to parent my kids through it while getting as much time with them as possible. Until then, I had been pulling well over 40 hours per week at my job. I started doing a "normal" 40 and got a bad performance review because of it.

Did they care I was going through a divorce? Not so much. They wanted the "old Rob" back, which wasn't going to happen. I found a new job.

Myth 5: You won't be productive at home

This usually comes up when you talk about working from home.

Some people think you have to be in an office to be productive. In the U.S., the COVID pandemic showed us this isn't true.

We still see this attitude from some managers. Facebook and Amazon told their workers they need to go to the office some days or look for a different job.

I'm more productive at home.

If you're self-motivated, which I assume you are, working from home is a productivity boost. You have fewer distractions, and you can work in the way that works best for you.

With those myths out of the way, let's look at five things you can do at work to reclaim your time.

1: Prioritize and Say No

Start saying no more often.

Prioritization can be hard. You might feel you're letting people down. You may think if you say no they'll stop asking.

You can handle these fears. One of the best ways is to start small.

You can free up a lot of time by saying no to things that aren't important.

If you're super freaked about saying no, let people know when you can get something back to them by. Don't offer an explanation. Offer a time that's a little outside your comfort zone.

Many times it'll turn out fine.

2: Put Family Time on Your Work Calendar

Pick certain times for family activities, and put them on your calendar. Be sure to mark them as private, and "out of the office".

I do this with the times I take my kids to/from school. There may be a little buffer in there as well.

3: Set Boundaries for Work Hours

Establish clear boundaries for work hours.

Unless you're in a job where lives are on the line, that work email can wait until tomorrow.

Setting expectations from the beginning is important. Let people know when you're signing off for the day and stick to it. Stick to it!

One previous colleague told us she was leaving at 5 and wouldn't be available until the next day. She wasn't kidding. She walked out at 5pm and was unavailable until the next day. It worked. I didn't think our boss would be okay with it but he was, because she set expectations early.

If you can't start with the expectation, as I couldn't, start dialing things back. Over time be less and less accessible after normal working hours.

4: Make Yourself More Productive

Use tools and methods like task batching to increase your productivity.

Focusing for short periods and taking brief breaks can make you more efficient and free up time. And yes, those breaks are important. Magic happens during those breaks.

Aggressive prioritization comes into play here. Do the important work first, and the hardest when you're fresh.

5: Leverage Remote Work or a Flexible Schedule

If your job allows it, and I hope it does, work from home. Or if you can do a flexible schedule, do that.

I've known people who drove an hour-and-a-half to and from work. That's 3 hours per day, 15 hours per week! Imagine what you could do with your family with an extra 15 hours each week.

BONUS: The Leap Frog Method

My uncle and his wife have an awesome set up. Every two years they trade who will focus on their career.

So years 1 and 2 she focuses on her career while he takes a majority of the parenting duties. Years 3 and 4 they trade and he focuses on his career.

Using this method they both get to focus on their careers and share parenting duties. This is partnership in action.

Craft Your Own Path

I encourage you to think long and hard about what your priorities are, and where your kids sit.

Having kids completely changes your life. You're no longer living for you - you're living for them too.

I've found it possible to pursue a fulfilling career while getting to spend max time with my kids. Our relationship is much stronger because of it.

Doing the internal work to get over my fears - worth it.

Taking the time to find a job that met my criteria - worth it.

My kids - worth it.

Keep in mind perfection is not the goal. I've made many mistakes on the way. It's taken time to find what works and doesn't for my situation. It'll take you time too.

It's worth it.

I can promise you it does get easier.

Remember - you aren't alone in your desires or struggles. The Pathfinder community is here for you.

Reach out. We're here.

Your kids need and want you. Be there for them.

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