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Work-life Balance

July 19, 2009

Geez, where have I heard this before?

I was EQ president for a while and remember attending regional leadership meetings where we would get telecast talks from the bretheren. There were so many talks emphasizing how we needed to have less meetings, prioritize our lives and learn to delegate (the irony of having a meeting to say we need to have fewer meetings still gives me a chuckle). Then we would hear from our stake leaders about putting ourselves and family before the church etc. It all sounded good, but then came a visiting apostle or authority or someone other high ranker to the stake and it was a complete reversal of everything they had said publically [sic]. For instance, “PPIs are only being done every 3 months? Every Elder (there were 85 in my ward) needs to have one every month!” “Elders, why are your hometeaching numbers dipping down into the 80%?, Do you think you could spare some of your 20 hour a week TV time to do some home teaching?” The snarky remarks went on and on.

Currently the mantra it is getting to the temple more and more, and if the members do so, there will be 11 specific blessings that will follow (I love mormon reciprocity). Nothing says quality family time like the temple.

So my experience is that the church organization says the right thing from the pulpit, or even believes it offers plenty of time for self and family, but the translation of that on the ward level just doesn’t happen. Talks are given, but then pressure is put on behind the scenes and we end up with the staus quo, or even increased zealotry.

Change the acronyms and goals, and instead of the average Mormon ward, you have work-life balance at a professional services firm! Ta-da!

I dunno, when they talk about Millennials/Generation Y or whatever our new generation is demanding more work-life balance from an earlier age, maybe it’s because we’ve been pampered. Maybe. Or maybe it’s because we’ve seen what not having that stuff is like, or seen how it has affected our friends, and we aren’t having that. Taking a different story, of set of children and teenagers who confronted their fathers (who were Bishops in the church):

“You two are a couple of liars,” they said. Both men were taken back and offended by that and said so. Then the boys started in with a litany of broken promises. “You promised you’d take us fishing, you promised you’d take us camping, you promised to come to our soccer games, you promised this, you promised that, you promised, you promised, you promised. And you never did ANY of that. You always broke your promises because you had to do CHURCH stuff. You guys LIED to us.”

As I listened to him and nodded sympthetically [sic], I clearly remember thinking, “Well, those boys just didn’t understand. Of COURSE they were second priority. Of COURSE the church was the first priority.” You can maybe put that down to the fact that I was a missionary at the time and drinking a very concentrated version of the kool-aid, but I think it’s more than that.

As that memory of my mission, and my strange reaction came back to me, it suddenly crashed in on me that my childhood had been EXACTLY like that. And instead of clearly seeing it and confronting my parents, like those guys had done, I simply accepted the fact that the church was more important than me, and unhooked all my emotions from any reaction to my parents putting it first ahead of us. Don’t get me wrong. My parents weren’t churchy fanatics or abusive about it (and neither were either of those Argentine families, for that matter). In fact, they were pretty low-key and relaxed about a lot of things compared to what I saw in a lot my mormon friends’ families growing up. But reliably, if there was a conflict between us and a church meeting or function that my parents had to go to, the church thing came first and we were fitted in around it, if at all.

The impact of this story (which is actually a part of  a longer story) was that the people who commented remarked that even if this wasn’t the case for them with their parents in the church (for example, my dad was never a bishop and the worst that happened was staying at church an hour or so after), this often became the case for their parents in their jobs.

So, again, if we change some words…doesn’t it sound like the rationalizations we would make? “Well, those boys just didn’t understand. Of COURSE they were second priority. Of COURSE work is first priority.” (Especially with justification like: work is for the family to live.)

Sometimes I read about people who will say that generational research is overrated. The Millennials aren’t actually different from Gen X or the Boomers…and some will say that everyone has the same desires, but Gen Y/the Millennials are simply those who are more willing to speak out for what they want. So then, can’t we see that the boys who confronted their parents are like Millennials, and the missionary who acquiesced was like a Gen X? It transcends physical generation and is about mindsets.


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