At Work

What Does It Take to Manage Your Faith, Work, and Family?

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Editor’s note: Today we introduce Diane Paddison, the newest contributor to the IFWE blog. She is the founder and president of 4word, a national/global organization with the mission to connect, lead, and support professional women to reach their God-given potential. 

Imagine being in one of those extremely important meetings at work that kept you up the night before mentally going over your presentation. Your boss is there. Your CEO is there. This meeting is a big deal.

Then, just as things are getting started, your cell phone rings, and it’s your teenage daughter.

What do you do?

I take the call, every time.

I answer my phone because my daughter knows not to call unless it’s truly urgent. I answer because my coworkers (and CEO) know that while I’m fully committed to my job, my family ultimately comes first. Furthermore, I’ve built up a relationship of trust at work, establishing myself as someone who works hard, produces results, and who exercises good judgment.

I’ve always known that God made me to work. I started when I was just five years old, folding crates and operating the cash register at my family’s orchard and fruit stand outside of Harrisburg, Oregon. From that humble start, I went on to serve as an executive in two Fortune 500 companies, sit on multiple corporate boards, raise a family of my own, and launch 4word, a nonprofit ministry for Christian working women.

It certainly hasn’t all been easy, but I’ve learned a lot along the way about managing faith, work, and family with grace and joy.

When you’re in that important meeting and your phone rings, you should take the call too, but not before you’ve laid some important groundwork.

Seek Out the Right Work Environment

Whether you’re single, married, have kids, or not, it’s important to seek out a family-friendly work environment that will allow you the flexibility and freedom to build healthy relationships and habits outside of work.

Pay attention to the cues while you’re interviewing. Listen carefully to how people talk about their work and what it demands of them. Look closely at the salary and benefits information, too. Something like a “dinner stipend,” sounds good in an HR packet, but think twice about taking the job if you get the sense that employees are expected to be using that stipend to eat dinner at the office most days.

Be clear about the amount and types of travel that are expected. Ask questions! You can approach them delicately, asking about hours, travel, and flexibility, or you can take the direct route and ask your interviewers “what do you think about family?” How they respond to that kind of direct question can be extremely telling; if the question makes them uncomfortable, you have reason to be concerned, even if they say the right kinds of things.

Is it harder to find a family-friendly job? Maybe so, but the payoff is more than worth it. That said, it’s not always going to be a realistic option.

If you really need a job and the only one being offered will require you to be away from your family a lot, be up front with your family and let them know that until you can find a better job that meets your priorities, they will have to make some sacrifices. Do keep looking though, because eventually the clash between your values and your work will take its toll.

Work with Integrity

If I’m going to establish boundaries between my work, my faith, and my family, I need to make sure that when I am at work, I give 110 percent. Part of that comes from growing up on a farm, where I never wanted anyone to think the boss’s daughter got off easier than anyone else. But working hard is also part of honoring God’s calling to work.

It’s been my experience that people at work are much more likely to respect and support my boundaries around family and faith when they have seen me demonstrate a commitment to working hard and getting the job done.

Communicate Well and Often

Boundaries are much more effective when the people around you know and understand them.

My loved ones know that they can count on me to be home every night by 6:00 for dinner. They know they can call me anytime while I’m at work. It’s important for the people you care about to know that your job isn’t more important than their needs.

They also need to understand that you have God’s work to do that benefits the entire family, and that calling you just to chat or ask what we’re having for dinner makes it harder for you to honor your commitments.

At work I let my team know that I would be leaving in time to make it home for dinner, but that I would be available (and working as-needed) for a few hours after the kids went to bed if they needed to reach me. If I have to take a personal call on my cell phone, my colleagues know that it’s not just a chance to chit-chat with my kids.

I’m also open about special situations that might demand extra attention. Like telling my kids when there’s a really important presentation coming up at work, or letting my colleagues know that a family member is seriously ill. Life has a way of getting messy, and boundaries can flex when needed. The key is to make sure those occasions are few and far between.

By communicating clearly in both directions, you’ll help everyone to understand and support your priorities.

Manage Your Commitments

As you probably already know, your career alone can consume you, especially when you’re just starting out. Add in family responsibilities, volunteer requests from your children’s schools, clubs, and sports teams, charitable organizations in your community, and all the ways your church would like you to get involved, and all of a sudden you’re more than spent.

If you say yes to everything, you will get burnt out, and you won’t be putting in your best efforts anywhere. In order to make your commitments count, you must learn to say “no” to a lot of worthy causes and endeavors, and instead pick a few key areas of focus that provide the most value.

Be a Good Steward of Yourself

Your health and sanity are resources God has given you, and they should be stewarded accordingly.

Maintaining balance between work, family, and faith requires energy, creativity, determination, and a healthy dose of optimism. A half-hearted or crippled effort simply won’t do. That’s why it’s crucial to take good care of yourself.

You must guard your physical, emotional, and spiritual health if you want to succeed. Exercise regularly, eat well, and set aside some precious time for your own enjoyment and relaxation. A little investment in “you” will yield huge dividends. You’ll have more energy, a clearer head, and the emotional capacity needed to balance all that life throws at you.

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