Question: Hello, my name is Sean, and I am a senior at Marquette University in Milwaukee, WI. I am currently engaged, and will be getting married this summer, presumably around the same time I will be beginning my first full-time job in Accounting. I was wondering if you had advice for balancing both a new career and the newness of the sacrament of marriage. What are good strategies to balancing time and attention? What are some common pitfalls to avoid?
The idea of not bringing work home is something I want to strive for — would you recommend staying later at the office if necessary or would you consider that more of a case by case situation? Clearly being home on time and leaving work at work would be ideal, but as an entry level accountant, I know that busy seasons will demand a few more hours each week and I would love to have a good game plan in place before that becomes a reality. — Sean H.
Answer: Sean, we’re impressed by how much you’ve thought things through already. It will be great preparation for the future! It’s hard to know how to give God and our family top priority when we need to work 40 or more hours a week. But it can be done.
The most important thing is to devote all your attention to your spouse when you’re together. Especially if your time is limited, make it count! Little family rituals like sharing a cup of coffee in the morning before you leave for work, always calling at lunchtime just to say hi, and taking some time in the evening to talk can make a big difference.
You can combine prayer time with together time, too. In the morning, thank God for bringing you into each other’s lives. At noon, take a few minutes to pray the Angelus, a traditional Catholic prayer that combines Scripture and the Hail Mary. At nighttime, you can pray a decade of the rosary together or petition God for help in making tomorrow an even better day.
The most common pitfall to avoid is coming home later than you said you would, especially if your wife is cooking dinner for you! Sometimes work runs later than planned and coming home late is unavoidable, but let your wife know as soon as you can. Few things are more disappointing than having a hot meal ready on the table and then finding out that no one will be home to eat it for at least another hour.
Working in a field like accounting, which has a regular busy season, can actually be easier to handle than a field like law or medicine where emergencies can arise without notice. Ask your co-workers exactly when the busy season tends to hit and how many hours per day they usually work. If everyone else is working a 10-hour day, plan on working the same. If everyone else is working a 12-hour day, ditto. If your wife would prefer you home in the evenings, consider starting work at 7:00 or 8:00 a.m. so you can still make it home at a reasonable hour.
A lot of employers will take all the time you have to give and then some. “In the U.S., 85.8 percent of males and 66.5 percent of females work more than 40 hours per week,” says 20-Something Finance. Some employers won’t even keep you around unless you’re willing to work what seems like exorbitant hours. But in most cases, you can set boundaries. If you make it clear that you won’t work on Sundays, for example, and you work reliably and productively the rest of the time, most employers will accept that. You might also be able to set one night a week, even during busy season, where you’ll be home on time for dinner no matter what.
Working from home can be a blessing or a curse. If you’re a workaholic, work can take over all the time that you could be spending with your spouse. On the other hand, if it’s the only way you can get your work done and still make it to the out-of-town weekend you planned to spend with your in-laws, it can get you out of a jam. Just make sure you check with your employer first. Especially with sensitive financial data, your employer may not want anyone working outside the office.
Our last tip is to make sure you schedule a vacation when busy time is over so that you and your wife can spend some much needed time recharging and reconnecting. When you’re working hard it helps to remember that you’re working to make a better life for yourself and your family. Make sure you take the time to enjoy it when you can!
Catholic Moms (and Dads!), do you have any other advice for Sean? Did you struggle with work/life balance at the beginning of your marriage and was there a particular strategy that worked best for you?