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Ask The Good Enough Guy: My Husband Is A Workaholic!

workaholic man

 Dear Will,

My husband is a self-professed workaholic and hardly ever sees our kids these days – how can I get him to change?

Pete works long hours during the week, takes frequent business trips and often works weekends as well. His job is high pressure and even when he’s not working his head is elsewhere.

We have two daughters aged 6 and 8 and I hate that they don’t see their dad very much. How can I get Pete to slow down and spend more time with his family?


Annabelle, South Dakota

Hey Annabelle,

When my son, Malcolm, was three, I worked on the road for eight-day stretches. One day, as I packed, Malcolm came in with tears in his eyes and asked why I had to go. I told him that Daddy had to work to make money for our family. He walked away, and I continued to pack, assuming that he’d either accepted the answer, or lost interest in the question. Fifteen minutes later, my son came bounding back, wearing a smile that you can only smile when you’re three. He ran to me, holding out his hand. In his tiny palm were three pennies and a nickel.

“Daddy, I found “monies” for us!” he said, beaming that he’d solved our problems, “Now you can stay home with me.”

I didn’t know what to say but I guess my answer was on my face, because after a second, he closed his hand, his smile melted away, and his eyes filled with new tears. I hugged him. I welled up with him. And I’ve NEVER forgotten that look on face.

Do you know what the difference between eight cents and eighty thousand dollars a year is? The difference, to a three-year-old boy, is whether he gets to see his daddy. But I’m preaching to the choir, right Annabelle? We both know this. So how do we explain it to your husband without singing “Cat’s in the Cradle”? Here’s what (else) you might try:

Time for an intervention: A “self-professed workaholic” thinks it’s no big deal, and even takes pride in the label. They usually learned the behavior somewhere. Maybe Pete thinks “My dad was always working and never had time for me… and I turned out alright”. WRONG!!! Sit Pete down with your daughters and ask him what his top priorities are. If he says it’s his marriage and his family, tell him to prove it by giving you and your daughters a fair share of his time. If he says his top priority is anything else, you’ve got much bigger problems: get some professional help.

“Workaholism” is real… and serious: I joke a lot, but this is a real problem and can be just as bad as drinking or drugs, worse in some ways because it’s viewed as acceptable behavior. Nevertheless, it tears marriages apart, it leaves kids without a father (or mother), it can destroy a person’s physical and mental health, and it can lead to a premature death from a host of stress-related illnesses. These people NEVER really rest. Pete’s mind is still at work, even when his body is at home. Though you don’t need a PhD to know that ain’t good, you might want to have him talk to a PhD. Coming from you, it may just sound like a complaint; coming from your family doctor, it will sound more like a warning, and he’ll be more likely to listen.

Force the issue: Pete understands schedules and deadlines, so set some of your own. Tell him that by seven o’clock, he’s to be home having dinner with his family, PERIOD; his never-ending workload will still be there in the morning. Also, try making seven to ten o’clock on weeknights and all day Sunday “NO PHONE” zones; no cell phones, no checking messages, no emails, no computer, NADA. Will he cheat? Probably, but not as often, which is better than what you have now. To help enforce this, plan outings that hinder his cheating. Phones get lousy reception if your family is hiking in a park. There’s no place to plug in a laptop on a roller coaster. And a cell phone ringing during the latest “Twilight” movie will get him tarred and feathered by Team Edward AND Team Jacob. Who knows; Pete might even remember what fun feels like.

If all else fails… sic your daughters on him. It’s a dirty trick, but this is war, and we dads melt like cheap cheese when it comes to our baby girls. Have him try to explain to them why his work is more important than spending time with them. Have them explain to him why they don’t want more stuff; they want more time. Sometimes, dads just work so hard to make a living, they forget to live. Those beautiful little faces may be enough to snap him back to reality and help him find his balance again.

Annabelle, this won’t be easy. He didn’t become a workaholic over night so don’t expect him to change over night but don’t give up on him. Your daughters deserve the dad that’s trapped inside that workhorse, and I promise you, your husband and your daughters will be grateful to you in the end. Best of luck to all of you!

 Will Jones

William Jones is originally from the tiny town of Alton, Illinois, and now lives in the tinier town of Reisterstown, Maryland. He is a happy husband and a proud father of three, and writes as a hobby, in those few moments he finds between husbanding and daddy-ing

1 Comment

  1. m.e. johnson

    July 9, 2011 at 2:48 pm

    You’re right again, Will. Sometimes we forget how much we enjoyed something, or we try something new and find we like it very much.
    Two examples I can give: 1) I didn’t want to join a card game but finally gave in because they needed a 4th. I ended up being the most rambunctious player at the table.
    2) I didn’t want to go to a community meeting for support of a friend running for an office, I’d planned to watch “Car Wash” (again) on tv. My girlfriend literally dragged me out the door. I ended up being co-chair of his campaign committee (he won).

    I guess bosses don’t make you take your vacation anymore. What a shame.

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