Over-stress at work can make its way back to your home, acting through you and at your loved ones. Learn how to separate the two and return home with love.
It’s 3 o’clock in the morning as I slide out of bed after only four hours of sleep. I quietly get ready for work using only a single light in the bathroom, hoping not to wake my husband, Matt. Without saying good morning or giving kisses to my three children — Jordan, Ethan and Reese — I grab my lunch and workbag, making my way into the car. The highway, which should be filled with the typical southern California traffic, is deserted this early in the morning.
I arrive at the Starbuck’s parking lot, watch as the food deliveries wrap up, and wait for an employee to officially open for business. Then, after driving around the block to the parking structure, with latte in one hand and my phone in the other, I make the lonely walk into my building. I turn on the lights in my office and settle in as I prepare for a full day of calls, meetings, and presentations.
I show up today — just like I do everyday — as a rock star and invest 100% of my energy into my job.
Throughout the day, not one person has a clue that I’ve slept only a few hours: not my boss, my coworkers, my direct reports, and certainly not my clients. I walk the halls with an effervescent smile, greet everyone with high energy, deliver a killer presentation, and even offer to travel an extra day for another client meeting.
It’s no coincidence Matt calls me “The Machine.” He’s chosen it as a compliment because he knows I’m persistent and relentless on my path to success.
10 hours later, I hit the road for the long commute home. Exhaustion is setting in and this is when the questioning and self-talk begins.
“How could my boss give me that project when he knows how busy I am? How come my co-workers don’t have to travel and work as much as I do? I hate how Matt will never reallyunderstand what I’m going through. I’m so sick and tired of feeling absolutely miserable!”
I arrive home, amped up with a wicked combination of anger, jealousy, and drunken tiredness. I pause just outside the door to the house. On the other side, I can hear Matt with the kids, laughing out loud. They’re obviously having fun (the word I coined “the working mom’s f-word”).
Yet, when I turn the doorknob, it becomes silent inside. Matt later shared with me, “The moment you walked in, we were all on high alert.”
Of course they were… because they didn’t know which mom was walking in the door. Would it be the mom that’s going to welcome them with a big embrace, squeeze them and tell them how much she misses them and loves them? Or would it be the ‘other’ mom? The mom who shouts at them for the most insignificant reasons.
I drag myself down the hallway and as soon as I take an assessment of the house, I begin screaming and firing questions at my family. “Why are there dishes in the sink? How come there’s homework spread all over the kitchen table? Why is there a sock in the middle of the floor?”
I was that ‘other’ mom for an entireyear! How dare I show up to my office and give all of my energy, passion and dedication to my job yet not be willing to do the same for my family! My family, a group of people I’m supposed to love the most; the people closest to me, the people I’m going to spend the rest of my life with.
How are you showing up? Are you giving more to your job than you are at home? What type of person are your loved ones being met with at the end of the day?
No matter if you’re going through tough times, if you’re enduring long days in the office or you’re experiencing any other major stress, it’s vital that you show up differently for your loved ones.
The reality is that you are responsible for where you are right now in life and how you feel about it.
Look, I was the one who chose to be in my situation in the first place. With a focus only on my career, I had accepted a promotion that landed me with a heavy workload and long hours.
I was the one choosing to give all of myself to my job, leaving only the leftovers for my family.
But on the other side of this darkness was hope for change. If I was the one who chose to be there, I could be the one to choose to get out! That didn’t necessarily mean I was quitting my career or changing positions within the organization. While changing positions was a long-term goal, I needed to make changes immediately for my own sanity and my family’s quality of life.
I had to make choices in order to be a different person at the end of the day in order to show up as the better wife and mom. Instead of the self-loathing and ranting I’d succumbed to on my drive home, I put into practice new ideas to create a new me:
Long commutes are the perfect time to make phone calls to loved ones and friends. This is not an excuse to bitch about your day, but rather an opportunity to genuinely ask how the other person is doing, catch up, and maybe share in fun memories.
Whether it’s an audiobook, a podcast, or a comedy show, simply listening to something positive can create a major shift in your mindset. When listened to consistently, it can also improve your creativity and effectiveness in your job and other areas of your life.
If the first two ideas don’t seem to do the trick, then simply stay outside the house until your attitude changes. Take a few deep breaths, release the tension from your day, and think about your loving family waiting for you inside. Visualize the hugs, the conversation, the goodnight kisses. Focus on what matters most on the other side of the door.
I often say to Matt, “I still can’t believe you didn’t pack up our kids and leave me during that time.” I’m grateful for his patience, but I’m even more grateful that I realized I held the true power and took the steps to change. It’s important that you take on that same power and the steps between the time you leave work and the time you walk into your home.
Commit today that the doorway to your home is the threshold of what your life is truly about. Do this and you’ll see what it’s like to really show up as the best version of you.
You may also enjoy reading The Ultimate Guide To Stress Management by John Parrott