What comes first between family and career? This is an age-old question that many men and women struggle to find an answer to.
Talcott Parsons, an American sociologist, advocated for functionalism theory on families where the adult male is the only family member who has a functional role. Yet in today’s society, we see women also taking up key leadership and management positions in organisations.
How does one get the balance correct when they have to work and meet the basic needs of the family such as shelter, food and basic education for the children?
What if we looked at work life integration instead of balance?
Here, there is need to factor in importance of the presence of the parent or parents in the child’s life for the healthy socialisation of the child.
On the other hand, the parent needs to also self-actualise in achieving their own career goals. Abraham Maslow considered self-actualisation as being the ultimate desire of an individual after meeting physiological, safety, sense of belonging and self-esteem issues.
Of what use is it to spend many years gaining education in a relevant profession and then abandoning the goal of reaching your ultimate peak of being a leader of repute?
Yet leadership at the workplace has its responsibilities which will at times create conflict with family life.
Another perspective is to consider the role of support from the family in helping you attain these goals at the workplace.
The Narrative Approach to Family Therapy considers the effects external factors have on individuals and families.
For instance, supposing a parent decides to let their work take over and controls their behaviour to the extent that the family takes a back seat?
This means the parent allows the work to control his every waking moment at the expense of his family. He identifies himself with his career and nothing else.
The danger in this behaviour is that the job expectations influence his whole life which may negate his social relationship with family.
Seeking psychological support through counselling can create new perspectives and help in work life integration.
HOW TO COPE
One of the ways to cope better with the career challenges is to externalise the pressures from work.
A counsellor can assist the client facing work-family challenges to refer to the problems at work as though it existed outside the client.
Open-ended questions such as “What would you be doing more of in your family if your career did not dominate your life?” would move the individual slightly outside the problem and help them consider more independent action or behaviour which would help them enjoy their families.
Once the client acknowledges this viewpoint that the work is external to his achieving happiness with his family, he can work with the family therapist as a team to overcome the behaviour that denies him family time.
Externalising also considers having the family therapist being considered as a partner in attempting to find solutions to clients facing work-family challenges.
This means the career demands which are causing strained family relations can be seen as the common foe and the desire of therapy is to need to change.
This will involve negotiating without necessarily letting go of the career; self–actualisation at the workplace can still work together with prioritising the family.
What about the home maker who realises they are not fully utilising their professional talents? It has become evident that the home-maker needs to focus on a career that brings income to support the financial needs of the family.
Family therapists will help create a new reality for the individual who feels they can never escape the family responsibilities of raising children.
In this instance, the problem pattern of being a home maker has become extremely influential in the person’s life and their family life together.
It would help the individual be aware that families can take huge amounts of time and energy and assessment through counselling will be extremely helpful.
Amani Counsellors Milly Njuguna, Christine Mutingu and Faith Gichanga Osirowork at the Amani Counselling and Training Institute which strives to promote mental health in the society through clinical services, training and tailor-made workshops and seminars. Do you have a question for Amani Counsellors? Please email: [email protected]