Finding a balance between professional ambitions and the role of a loving and present parent can be increasingly difficult in a fast-paced world. With experts, we explore the consequences and strategies for those consumed by workaholism.
In the relentless pursuit of success in modern society, workaholism has become a symbol of dedication and something worthy of praise. Be constantly on the job, work on weekends and holidays and let work be your whole life. And actually be a little proud of it.
But the intertwined forces of workaholism and capitalism cast a shadow over the joys and challenges of parenthood. Balancing work and family life can leave many parents feeling like they are trying to balance the unbalanceable. Others do not admit wrongdoing. After all, he won’t hear the question asked during the joint dinner, “Why isn’t daddy at home?”
The article is part of a series MONEY OR YOUR LIFE, which is published on Refresher during the whole of November. We have prepared for you reports, conversations or a survey in which we observe how Generation Z relates to work, how they cope with their parents’ workaholism and whether they have perhaps burned out. Follow the tag and join the discussion.
What are the characteristics of workaholics? According to psychologist Adam Suchý, these are people who cannot rest and stop, work is the center of their world and most of their thinking and behavior revolves around it. “Their self-worth depends on performance, they cannot enjoy other joys of life, and because of these characteristics and the stress generated, their social, partner and family relationships suffer,” he explains to Refresher.
This is exactly where workaholism is similar to other addictions – it tends to completely negatively affect a person’s lifestyle. “Other qualities of life are sacrificed on the altar of work performance, career, growth, fulfillment of duties. In the end, a workaholic often destroys himself, but even before that, relationships bounce off, including relationships with his own children,” explains Suchý.
Parents who succumb to workaholism put their own children in a double danger.
First of all, they often do not have time for their children and, according to the psychologist, an excessive focus on work does not allow them to develop satisfactory and fulfilling relationships with them. According to Anna Kotková from the Gender Studies organization, high earnings and a high standard of material security are of high value to workaholics, which, however, stand above other values that ideally belong to parenthood, such as attention or time spent together.
“Dad likes us, but he prefers himself and his achievements.” How does it affect children when parents fall into workaholism?
November 8, 2023 6:00 AM
“Workaholic parents may also tend to compensate their children for their absence with expensive gifts, which teaches children the misconception that everything can be bought and compensated materially,” adds Kotková.
And secondly, according to the psychologist Suchý, such parents continue to pass on this destructive scepter to their children “as identification patterns”.
According to him, these children thus quickly adopt the belief that they will be accepted, appreciated and loved only if they perform flawlessly. Sometimes, until adulthood, they cannot distinguish where the fault lies and automatically attribute it to themselves. “So if my parent doesn’t pay attention to me, it’s hard for me to realize as a child that it’s because of his workaholism, but I live in the belief that it’s because of my own inadequacy. That I’m not worthy of interest, love, that I’m doing something wrong, or even worse, that I’m bad,” he describes.
In addition, as Kotková adds, children of workaholics can adopt the model “without work there are no cakes” and the mentality that rest and self-care must be earned.
In the eyes of these children, that flawless performance is the only way, the only way they can “deserve and win the attention and love not only of their parents, but metaphorically also of everyone else”. According to psychologist Suchý, some people thus spend their entire adult productive life trying to prove, for example to their father, that they are worth something or that they are as good as him.
Do you want to test skis or paddleboards for free? Become part of the Decathlon team. A community of athletes and many benefits await you
November 6, 2023 3:00 p.m
According to Suché, this will affect self-concept, self-confidence, and the ability to experience satisfaction in other relationships as well. “Until I find a way ‘out’, my own workaholism is the ‘key’ to earning love,” says Suchý.
There is another world
However, according to the psychologist, it is possible to work with this “inherited” setting, although it is a rather demanding work on oneself. How to begin?
“First of all, it is necessary to realize that I have tendencies towards workaholism and that I had to come to them somewhere. Oh, I do it just like dad. And maybe I don’t have to, maybe there is another world, another way of functioning and living,” he says, adding that people usually come to psychotherapy for a similar “aha experience”. Sometimes a borderline life experience or even meditation plays its role.
“But it won’t happen and it won’t change by itself,” warns Suchý and adds: “In further work, a person can become aware of deeper connections, how he evaluates or devalues himself according to his performance, how he views others, what demands he has on himself, etc. similarly. The big themes are acceptance and kindness to oneself and to others.” However, according to him, this is precisely what we cannot do in our culture.
We live in a narcissistic performance civilization that values or even takes for granted performance from an early age and punishes mistakes.
– Adam Suchý, psychologist
What is it
According to the psychologist, genetic equipment, education and environment can contribute to the development of workaholism. “We live in a narcissistic performance civilization that values or even takes for granted performance from an early age and punishes mistakes,” he says.
Johana Bázlerová aka I’m in the picture: I burned out and had depression. I already allow myself to be average
November 5, 2023 6:00 AM
Anna Kotková from Gender Studies thinks similarly about the topic. “We live in a society where wealth and superior material security are held in high esteem and where high work performance is a virtue. Culturally, we have a strongly rooted meritocracy, meaning that success has to be earned and that success can be achieved through hard work,” he explains.
Although, she says, this belief is slowly fading generationally, most of us still have a desire to succeed in some measurable way—how much we earn, how expensive a car we buy, how high a job position we reach.
“And it is important to realize that these criteria are set for external, social endeavors, i.e. the still mostly male sphere, rather than for the private. Women, who still mostly do more work at home than men, can also fall into workaholism, for example in taking care of the household, but their results and achievements are harder to measure. How do you compare a well and better cleaned bathroom? And most importantly, who will really appreciate it and how many people will see it?” he asks.
According to Kotková, this is precisely what is important and problematic in the context of our society – in a society set up like this, workaholism as a problem and addiction can hide for a long time behind “work commitment”, which is valued.
Who is at risk?
According to Suchý, people with higher education in higher positions, more often men, and people who work with people, have responsibilities or are in helping professions are most at risk.
He almost died of a heart attack, so he moved to a cave. Meet the man who teaches about life in the wild
November 4, 2023 11:00 a.m
Kotková also sees the gender aspect in the context of workaholism. According to her, why and in whom exactly workaholism breaks out can have a gender dimension, among other things, because the established social idea of the importance of work and employment is different for women and men.
“Although (at least in the context of our society) the model of the breadwinner father is slowly losing its power, men’s work, especially outside the home, and self-fulfillment in society are considered more important than women’s. Greater work performance is still expected from men and less from women, also with regard to their (potential) motherhood at a certain age, which is of course a potentially discriminatory barrier that is still difficult for women to overcome,” explains Kotková.
Although (at least in the context of our society) the model of the breadwinner father is slowly losing its power, men’s work, especially outside the home, and self-fulfillment in society are considered more important than women’s.
– Anna Kotková, Gender Studies
According to her, examples of workaholics can be, for example, fathers who are at work during the week, but the family does not see them even on weekends, because they have to repair the cottage. “They repair it for several years, and when they finally finish the project, they don’t sit down and read a book to the children, but throw themselves into another project, because maybe they are actually fleeing (even if subconsciously) from their parental role,” Kotková thinks.
How to prevent it
When asked what advice psychologist Suchý would recommend to parents to prevent workaholism and maintain a healthy balance between work and private life, he answers: “I wish it were that easy!”
Subsequently, however, he adds that in general it can be said that it is good to stop operating in the “until” mode – we will go to the cinema when I finish it, when it is over, until…
“Not to promote the image of successful people like ‘I worked 20 hours a day, gave up everything else, had three heart attacks and almost died, but look at the car I’m driving today.’ Don’t associate a person’s value with their performance. Teach so-called health literacy and the basic principles of self-care and well-being from childhood (i.e. applied psychology, not idle theory). To educate, to cultivate the soul, to be inspired in other ‘slower’ cultures. Teaching to set a boundary – it is good to realize, for example, that from elementary school the homework system teaches us not to distinguish where work ends and time for oneself begins, the boundary is erased and unclear from an early age. The child thus receives this image not only at home, but also carries a message from school: ‘Go home and continue your work. If you’re good at something, it’s fine, but try to break what you’re not good at.’ And then she glances at Instagram and gets another message, ‘It’s not enough, it’s still not enough, there are so many smarter, prettier, richer, more successful people’,” he advises.
As Suchý reminds us, space for oneself and one’s family does not come this way in our fast-paced performance world – it must be actively created. “Set a boundary, learn to disconnect from work, learn to listen to your own organism and body and respect its needs. Learning to stop, to have hobbies, to find joy outside of performance (I can go for a run without measuring time or kilometers). Learning to concentrate and notice only one activity I’m doing (when I’m talking with my child, I don’t answer a message on my mobile, I don’t look at work materials),” he advises.
According to the psychologist, not being a workaholic is a complex skill made up of many little things, “but they all add up.”