Caught Between Work and Family

When we get overwhelmed in family life, we often point to the lack of time due to work and family responsibilities, but is that really the issue we need to address?
When we get overwhelmed in family life, we often point to the lack of time due to work and family responsibilities, but is that really the issue we need to address?

Do you feel that you are caught between work and family?

  • Yes, that is why I am reading this.
  • No, but I know someone who is.
  • No. I feel like I have a handle on things.
  • None of the above.
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Finding a balance between work and family is a challenge, no matter what our current marital status. Whether a two income household, a traditional family with only one paycheck, or a single parent, struggling to make ends meet, there are times when we have to make some difficult choices. How do we go about it in such a way that we don't sacrifice the wrong thing? Is it possible to be and do everything when it comes to work and family? How do we resolve the conflict we feel over this issue?

We work long hours on the job, and then turn around and work long hours at home. In our state of exhaustion and stress, our emotional health ends up in the basement. We get overwhelmed, criticize ourselves for our weaknesses and imperfections, and before we know it, the conflict between us and other family members escalates.

As most of you know, coping with the complex and diverse challenges of everyday life, which is not an easy task, can upset the balance and harmony we seek. Many good people who care a great deal are trying very hard to maintain balance, but they sometimes feel overwhelmed and defeated.

— M. Russell Ballard

Being a parent and working full time is like have two full time jobs, but we can't just stop going to work and spend all our time taking care of our family! We need an income to provide for their needs. Yet, it seems that the demands of running a household are never ending!

Just like the dirty laundry that accumulates, the stress of running a family can be overwhelming. The harder we work, the more exhausted we get. There is so much that needs to be done, and there just don't seem to be enough hours in the day.

If we stop and think about it, any business requires a system to run smoothly. Our homes are no different. Without a management system, we are living from crisis to crisis. The longer we wait, the worse it gets. Now is the time to take action. We can get a handle on it when we use the following steps:

1) Pile - Categorize, Sort

Laundry and dishes multiply if we don't deal with them on a daily basis. Stress is no different. Before we can put a batch of clothes in the washer, we divide them by color and weight. Putting our red sweatshirt in with the white underclothes has dire results!

Getting a handle on our stress starts by making a list of all our roles and responsibilities. What is it that we are doing? When does it happen? Where does it happen? Why are we doing it? As we make a list, we grow in our understanding of how things have gotten out of hand. We are able to pinpoint problem areas where conflict is occurring.

Allowing the issues of one role in our lives to spill over into others wreaks havoc with family life. Yes, there will be crisis situations where this happens in spite of our best efforts, but these are the exception rather than the rule. Putting our responsibilities in a table might look like the one below:

Do Laundry
Mail processing
Choose songs for choir practice
Pay bills
Maintain computer files
Recruit choir members
Prepare meals
Set up and confirm appointments
Direct choir performances
Take care of garden
Record keeping and filing
Prepare meal for family with baby in hospital
Car maintenance and repair
Policies and procedures
Pay donations
Child care
Boss and colleague relationships
Plan service project

2) Prioritize - determine what is most important

Looking at our various roles and responsibilities in black and white helps us to see what we need to accomplish ourselves, and what we can delegate to others. Many times, we see ourselves as a one man or one woman show when it comes to our family responsibilities, thinking that is the way it is "supposed" to be.

Unfortunately, we don't often discuss these expectations with our spouse. We simply plow forward thinking that we know what has to be done. Then when conflict arises and we get over stressed, we make assumptions and blame others that things are not going well.

Stopping regularly to take inventory gives us a chance to determine what is most important, set our priorities, discuss things we can do differently, and make minor course corrections before major catastrophes require them.

Just like sorting through the laundry gives us a chance to spot check the clothes for stains, take things out of the pockets, and put like colors together, sorting through the roles we play and the responsibilities associated with them gives us a chance to combine, cull out the unnecessary, and adjust our daily actions to better fit our priorities.

When we prepare for things ahead of time, we give ourselves less stress.
When we prepare for things ahead of time, we give ourselves less stress.

3) Prepare - put routines and schedules into place

There are certain things that happen in the family on a regular basis. Like clock-work, they come and go daily. We eat, we sleep, we bathe, we get dressed, and we go to our various places. The routines and schedules we put into place are the means by which daily activities happen and our family's needs are met.

When there is no food on the table and people are hungry, they get impatient and frustrated. Conflict increases. Feelings are hurt, and the delicate balance of trust within the family is damaged. The time we take to communicate with one another about who will do what and when is less time we spend later getting upset with one another.

Teaching children to do basic household tasks allows us to instill vital life skills in their portfolio of development, as well as freeing our time for other things. It is much to our advantage when children are young to have them helping at home rather than spending our time taking them to lessons and activities outside the home, and then expecting to do all of the work ourselves.

Parents must resolve that teaching in the home is a most sacred and important responsibility. While other institutions, such as church and school, can assist parents to “train up a child in the way he [or she] should go” (Proverbs 22:6), ultimately this responsibility rests with parents.

— L. Tom Perry

4) Prevent - keep unwanted influences at a minimum

While we teach our children household responsibilities, we also teach the values of love, respect, honesty, and integrity. Children only learn what they experience when they are with us. The time we spend together is less time that they are involved with outside influences that take them away from values we hold dear.

As parents, we set boundaries on the activities we and our family members are involved in, and the people with whom we associate. Our influence is paramount in how our children end up as adults, and we cannot be too careful in this endeavor. Children under the age of 18 thrive under positive parental involvement and the environment in which they reside has a direct bearing on what they become.

Allowing children to do as they please, without thought of the consequences, is a sure ticket to open rebellion, involvement with less than desirable characters, and the use of alcohol, tobacco, and drugs. Active parental involvement and instruction is the only available deterrent to these social ills.

Our family is our most prized possession. Our greatest joy and happiness will be the time that we have within the walls of our own homes.
Our family is our most prized possession. Our greatest joy and happiness will be the time that we have within the walls of our own homes.

5) Protect - a house of trust

Having a system for the solving of problems within the family provides protection. We build a house of trust around family members, letting them know that we will always be there and they can turn to us for help.

It takes a great deal of commitment and courage to keep the family together through all of the bumps and bruises that come with life. Spending time in spiritual development, the teaching of life skills, and the sharing of love and unity help the family to feel a sense of belonging and protection within the home.

Conflict resolution does not happen overnight, in our marriages or with our children. It is something we work at continually. Couples enter a marriage from different backgrounds blending cultural, religious, educational, economic, and social practices. Conflict will happen. How we deal with it determines the quality of our home life and the trust our family members have in us.

Perhaps the most universal regret dying patients expressed was that they wished they had spent more time with the people they love.

— Dieter F. Uchtdorf

On the surface, we think that it is our work schedules that encroach upon our family life, and we wish we could find a balance between the two, but in reality, no matter our situation, conflict will be present.

There will be times when we have to sacrifice our personal wants and desires for the good of our families. The system we put into place within our family to resolve conflict allows us the opportunity to look at our long range goal of raising children who become contributing members of society.

The time we spend teaching and involving them in household responsibilities pays great dividends in preparation for their future. It will not be long before children are grown and gone, and the time with them at home will be only a distant memory.

When that time comes, they will look back at us and say, "Thank you, Mom," or "Thank you, Dad, for giving me the foundation I needed while I was in your care. Then, we will know that it has been worth it. Take the time with your family today, for your emotional health!

©2016 by Denise W. Anderson, all rights reserved. For more information on emotional health, see

Comments 12 comments

Ericdierker profile image

Ericdierker 5 months ago from Spring Valley, CA. U.S.A.

This is wonderful. Wow we sure can blow things up in our mind and make mountains out of mole hills. Just taking the time to break it down and have a plan is wonderful.

billybuc profile image

billybuc 5 months ago from Olympia, WA

It is a very tough juggling act, one I do fairly well, but I've hurt feelings in the past and I suspect I'll do so again.

David Milberg profile image

David Milberg 5 months ago from New York, New York

This is cool!

ChitrangadaSharan profile image

ChitrangadaSharan 5 months ago from New Delhi, India

Excellent hub on a topic that is so close to my heart.

Family has always been my first priority. We need to balance the two--work and family. You have rightly pointed out that a little bit of planning and organisation can help us to fulfil our responsibilities and duties towards both our work and family quite appropriately.

You have made some very important points here. Thanks for sharing this important and engrossing hub!

denise.w.anderson profile image

denise.w.anderson 5 months ago from Bismarck, North Dakota Author

It is so easy to do, Eric, making mountains out of molehills, especially when we are stressed and overwhelmed. Breaking our responsibilities down and looking at them more closely, we can see that sometimes our expectations are certainly not realistic! As we give ourselves room to breathe, we can come up with a doable plan. Thanks for your comments!

denise.w.anderson profile image

denise.w.anderson 5 months ago from Bismarck, North Dakota Author

You are right, Bill, it is a tough juggling act, and if you think you are doing well with it, you are ahead of most of us! It is easy to have hurt feelings when we don't talk about what is happening and work with each other in getting issues ironed out. Communication is such a vital part of family life, it helps us deal with many issues we experience. I appreciate you sharing your experiences!

denise.w.anderson profile image

denise.w.anderson 5 months ago from Bismarck, North Dakota Author

Thanks, David. I appreciate you stopping by and commenting.

denise.w.anderson profile image

denise.w.anderson 5 months ago from Bismarck, North Dakota Author

I am glad that you enjoyed it, Chitrangada. Family is important to me, and having raised seven children, and been through both the working world and the stay-at-home mom phase, I know that it is tough, no matter who we are or where we find ourselves on the spectrum! The time we take to be with our family while they are young will pay big dividends when they are older. I cannot emphasize this enough! You are right in that planning makes all the difference in the world! Thanks for your comments.

MsDora profile image

MsDora 5 months ago from The Caribbean

Denise, I affirm from my own experience that listing assignments on paper make them more manageable. I also like your suggestion to include the children, in the process of which, we prepare them for productive lives. Really good counsel all around. Thank you.

DDE profile image

DDE 5 months ago from Dubrovnik, Croatia

When I worked I was caught up in between work and family. My son and husband cooked meals and had other work to do of their own. At 14 it was a good lesson. I am self-employed and have time for everyone including myself. Interesting hub and worth the read. Most people are caught up in work and forget about living with family and enjoying their time together.

denise.w.anderson profile image

denise.w.anderson 5 months ago from Bismarck, North Dakota Author

Thanks for sharing your experience, Dora. No matter who we are, a bit of organization and delegation will improve our family life. Our families are such an important part of us, and worth our best efforts. There will be time enough for our own desires and pursuits when they are grown and gone. I appreciate you reading and sharing your wisdom.

denise.w.anderson profile image

denise.w.anderson 5 months ago from Bismarck, North Dakota Author

Many people have turned to self-employment as a solution to the work vs. family issue, Devika. That way, they can set their own hours and working conditions, and be available for family responsibilities. Your experience of sharing household duties is a great example to all of us that we need not do it alone. Our families are our most prized possession, and when we treasure them, we find peace and happiness. Thanks for sharing your experiences.

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