I know a lot of us do our work after what many deem to be working hours. We are guilty of sending a text or two and replying to emails when we should be finished for the day. But with the world in the palm of our hands, it is sometimes hard to step back. For some, it is worse than others. My husband? For him, it is absolutely impossible. He is a workaholic, and it consumes him.
My husband was a victim of COVID job loss in 2020. His position was furloughed in May. He lost all of his income, but was able to keep our insurance. I am a stay-at-home mom with a modest freelance income. It was certainly not enough to keep a family of six going. Thankfully for us, my husband had a side hustle. And it was pretty significant. He had long dreamed of quitting his nine to five to pursue his passion, and this seemed like the perfect opportunity. So he did.
Honestly, he didn’t have much of a choice in the beginning. We had a mortgage, tuition, student loans, cell phone bills, and a host of other financial obligations that needed to be met. He was all in from the get go. His steady stream of business was becoming steadier. The field that he is in actually thrived during the pandemic because it catered to people who were at home. With more and more people changing their work lives, it was a perfect marriage. He was lucky. Very lucky.
Because he was hungry, he never let a lead or a call or an email or a text slip through the cracks. He was on all the time. His brand is global. We are based in the US, but his clients in Australia aren’t in the same time zone as us. Not even close. Our Sunday night dinner time is their Monday morning. So if they are ready to talk business with a conference call bright and early, he isn’t sitting down for roast beef and potatoes with us. That sucks.
In the beginning, I didn’t mind because I was terrified. I didn’t want to lose my home or my car, so when he said he had to work, I understood it. But as things have begun to stabilize, work is steady, and we have a firm budget in place, I am starting to become frustrated. Not every moment of the day can be a working moment, right?
It starts the second he wakes up with the emails. Am I guilty of this? Yes. But I am more of a scroll, get an idea of what is there, and get back to it after I’ve taken the kids to school and had a cup of coffee. He has to get to it right away. Nothing can wait five minutes, it is all emergent. Text messages are the same. If he gets one, he has to answer it. No one waits for his reply. And the calls?!?! Don’t even get me started! You never make a client leave a message. You answer those calls.
Because he has made such a habit of being available 24/7, his clients take advantage of that. They will contact him at all hours of the day and night, weekday and weekend, and expect him to fulfill their needs. He has created all kinds of monsters. I hate it!
Our kids can never have his full attention at a piano recital or soccer game, because he is always checking his phone. He recently talked about getting a smart watch. I said, “Hell no!” Things would only get worse if his wrist was buzzing every 10 seconds with notifications. I cannot even imagine the distraction it would be.
He has become a bit obsessed with money. It is all about earning all of the time. Do I benefit from that? Yes, I do. But at what cost? Sure, it is nice that we don’t have to worry about paying our bills right now and we are actively building up savings. That is wonderful and I am thankful, but it is draining mentally to know that he is unwilling to take a break. He is a workaholic and has become addicted to “providing” as he calls it. If he isn’t providing, he isn’t successful.
This addiction has taken a toll on him emotionally. He always feels like he is overwhelmed and that he has to get everything done immediately, or the whole world is going to fall apart. His sleep is all messed up. His appetite isn’t the same. The obsession with working has turned him into a different person. It isn’t healthy and it worries me.
Being self-employed is a scary thing. You have to rely on yourself for everything and that can be overwhelming. But I have to believe that there is a balance there. My husband has been unable to find that balance. He is either working or he is sleeping, there is no other way. If I try to talk to him about it, he gets defensive and tells me that I don’t understand the pressure. That is true, I don’t. I don’t have the tremendous weight on my shoulders that he does. But, I do have responsibilities and I have learned how to turn it on and off. That is all that I want him to do. I want him to be able to give himself a break before he has a mental breakdown.
I worry about how much longer he can go at this pace. You hear about men his age having heart attacks all the time. I am legitimately terrified of that. He isn’t a gym-going health nut. No, he is a 40-something who likes to drink coffee and pop extra Halloween candy while he is answering emails. He is an average guy who has put a monumental amount of stress on himself. It is scary.
I am doing my best to be supportive and not nagging, but sometimes he gets the two confused. I want him to understand that his hard work is appreciated and that he is loved, but that he has to find some balance. The old adage is true, no one ever said that they wished they had spent more time at work. The cries of “Dad, watch me!” will be gone before he knows it. I don’t want him to live with any regret. He may not realize it now, but the text can wait.