When we physicians discuss “work-life balance,” we often imply that our dedication to our work is so consuming and imbalanced that we end up sacrificing time with our families. To achieve a better balance and promote a healthier family life, we strive to limit our work hours to make more time for our home lives.
I wonder if the reverse can also be true. When our home life becomes overwhelming or isn’t going smoothly, do we intentionally or unintentionally spend more time at work? Do we seek solace, support, and comfort in our professional lives?
I must admit that during my 40-year career as a physician, this very thing happened to me. I encountered rough patches in my home life, marriage, and relationships with my children. When my sons were teenagers, they had “issues” that sometimes affected my marriage as well.
There were moments when I eagerly anticipated weekend call duties. On regular workdays, arriving at my office as early as possible, the melodic sound of my computer starting up felt like a sweet symphony. During those challenging times, I would often search for additional clinic tasks to complete before heading home: one last check of the inbox, a patient phone call, or a lab test to follow up on. Anything to delay my arrival home, where I hoped the daily family crisis would have subsided by the time I got there, or at least my wife would have borne the brunt of it. Work might have been hectic, but it was a place where I had some control and received respect, both of which I felt I lacked during those dark days at home.
Fortunately, for me and my family, the issues we faced with our children, marriage, and life eventually worked out. Despite the rocky times in the past, I consider my life to have been truly blessed.
So why am I sharing this now?
I want my colleagues to know that if they are experiencing something similar—if they find themselves repeatedly opening their inbox for the “last” time before leaving work, lingering over borderline lab results before heading home, or feeling an odd sense of satisfaction when their computer turns on …
You are not alone.
You’ve got company.
It happened to me.
And if this is happening to you, here is my prayer:
May you soon find the right balance between work and home.
And may you no longer linger at work, scrutinizing those borderline chloride levels.
Scott Abramson is a neurologist who blogs at Doctor Wisdom.