When Work Is More Satisfying Than Home Life

Some men find work more satisfying that home life.

As a husband and father of a very busy family, I can understand: at work I get to exercise my mind solving complex problems on a daily basis and I get rewarded for doing so. At home, I referee petty disputes between three toddlers over a stuffed animal (and am usually rewarded by at least one child throwing a tantrum).

I’m an engineer, and at my work we prize efficiency and competence. I delegate a task to a coworker who, like me, has a four year college degree (at the very least), and he takes care of it expeditiously. It’s like we form a whirring engine with all pistons firing precisely. At home, it is often more like a chaotic train-wreck: potty training mishaps, rudimentary communication via garbled English, misbehavior, and toddler-clumsiness. Another strike against family life.

Is it any wonder that many men choose to work long hours, often leaving before the children wake up and coming home an hour or so before bedtime? The fact that most salaried jobs nowadays come with the expectation of working more than 40 hours per week only makes the decision to stay away from home easier.

How awful a feeling it must be to dread going home to spend time with your family, yet it is something that many men feel–some often, many at least occasionally. Is there a solution to this dilemma?

I would propose that the only real solution is a long-term one: growth in virtue via deeper conversion to Christ.

Before I married Katie, I had steeped myself in learning about the Catholic teachings on marriage and the family: John Paul II’s Letter to Families, Mulieris Dignitatem, Guardian of the Redeemer, Humanae Vitae, Evangelium Vitae, theology of the body, and so on. I made one or two weekly holy hours before the Blessed Sacrament and prayed for my future wife and children. By God’s grace, doing these things helped prepare me to more fully appreciate the gift of my vocation to marriage and the beauty of the family.

And now that I am married and have been blessed with children, I’ve continued to ask for God’s help: sometimes that means asking him for the desire to want to spend time with my family when I would rather be quietly reading a book, going for a walk by myself, staying at work to play Quake, or checking facebook.

Also, talk with your wife about your struggles: no doubt “she can tell” when you seem to always have to work long hours. It is hard to hide your reluctance to watch the children so that she can get a much-needed break, so be honest with each other. Try to figure out what, exactly, is difficult for you. Perhaps she has ideas to make your child-watching task easier. Many times Katie offers me a suggestion for an activity or a better way of handling a situation which helps me keep my sanity and gives the children a more engaging project. If nothing else, your wife can offer her sympathy and provide you emotional and spiritual support: she spends most of the day with the children and knows how challenging it can be.

Finally, don’t be harder on yourself than you need to be: God knows the difficulty you have and wants to help you grow in selfless love through it. Preferring a place where you get accolades on a regular basis and don’t have a little person spitting up all over you is understandable, but God has called us to be fathers, and that requires balancing the dual tasks of providing for our families and spending time with them to foster their growth in every aspect of life.

Any other husbands and fathers feel this way sometimes? What do you do to work through it?

Wives and mothers: do you have any suggestions for us?

Work on Friday

I ticked off a bunch of people at work Friday by making a computer game (to test our new software) where you try to “pin the Nobel Prize on the Obama.” Several people liked it, and it was intended in good humor (the screen flashed “Winner!” in big letters whenever you managed to pin it on him), but some people with whom I have had testy conversations about politics were not as pleased. Most people I work with love Obama and hated Bush.

One friend asked me if I thought it would be funny if he made such a game and put Jesus in it. I told him I thought Jesus should win the Nobel Peace Prize every year.