Just Feed the Cat

For at least 20 years I have had the opportunity, now and again, to work with a brilliant and eccentric pharmacist and friend.  For now, we'll call him Carl.  Quite some time ago Carl shared a story with me about his son and his cat. 

Carl described this scenario to me that started with him coming home from work.  Day in and day out, as soon as he got home from work he would immediately look to see if the cat had been fed. Invariably it had not, which would then turn into a discordant conversation with his son about feeding the cat.

We are not concerned about the discussion of family chores and responsibilities; but rather, the emotional feeling this left Carl with after having an unharmonious interaction with his son. 

After discussing this particular interaction with his counsel, Carl was informed that he may have a better chance of brining harmony into the home after work if he just committed to feeding the cat himself.  Perhaps the specific lesson in family chores and responsibility may be better suited for an alternative set of circumstances.

Interestingly, around the same time that Carl told me this story, I was working through a similar issue with my children.  I would find myself going into their room for some reason, either to read with them, tuck them in, or some other happy situation. Then, I would follow my actions, as I became upset because they had their shower towels from the last couple days hanging on their chair or thrown on the floor. 

The towels on the floor would distract me from my goal of having a thoughtful interaction with my child.  After listening to Carl's story, I just began picking up the towels myself.  Amazingly, my interactions with my children, in this particular arena, improved immediately. As I began to model the behavior of picking up towels and hanging them back in the bathroom, my children eventually learned to do this as well.

Of the many similarities both Carl and I have, a few of the important ones are that we are both pharmacists, we both have children (one boy and one girl), and we are both in loving relationships with our wife. 

Anyone who has worked in a pharmacy knows, without a doubt, at times the workload may become unduly stressful for extended lengths of time. Without being aware, we may bring these emotions home with us and unintentionally share them with our family. 

Managing this workload in the pharmacy may require the pharmacist to exert some control over what needs to be done right now, what can wait 10 minutes, what can be postponed for a couple hours, and what can be left until tomorrow.  As pharmacists, we also know that when we leave the work place, we should do our best to leave that control at the pharmacy, and not bring it home. 

Of course, we all know, this description of controlling our work environment is not specific to pharmacy.  Many, if not all, professions come with their share of stress, anxiety, pressure, difficulty and tension that all need to be controlled at some level. 

The key to managing a successful family life along with your professional life is understanding the difference.  What tools do YOU use to help you leave the stresses of work at work and not bring them home to your family?