Q I'm the father and sole breadwinner of my family and I've been asked to transfer to the South. All of our family, including grandparents, uncles, cousins — as well as our friends — are here in the North. But the professional opportunity is better down there.
A Your dilemma about transferring shows the tension between work and family in a particularly dramatic way.
If we think only about our family and not about work, then we limit our future and possibly bring suffering to our family in the long run. If we decide to always opt for work demands, then we run the risk of alienation from our family and eventually a deep sense of loss and irresponsibility. Serving only the family on the one hand, or only the boss and career on the other, are mutually unsatisfactory options.
As theologian William May has noted: “Neither one can be the sole arena of self-realization.”
John Paul II wrote about the relationship between the two in his encyclical On Human Work: “Work constitutes a foundation for the formation of family life” (No. 42). He added: “The family constitutes one of the most important terms of reference for shaping … human work” (No. 43).
Before you decide whether to move, prayerfully remember that we are here to know, love and serve God. We owe our first allegiance to him. We often acknowledge the great interest God has in our families; but do we prayerfully consider his great interest in our work?
Here are some issues to consider:
Will the new position cause any moral compromises? If so, that's a sign it's not the will of God.
Are you being guided by pride — “I deserve this recognition, and finally I'll get to be in charge” — or vanity — “I'm afraid to say No; I might lose my boss's respect.”
Remember, work is for people and not people for work; so look honestly at how the move will benefit you and your family, and not just your career.
It may be that the benefits for your family, where the bulk of your responsibility lies, outweigh the difficulties for your extended family — unless there are serious responsibilities like caring for an elderly parent.
It is in our work that we not only change society, but develop ourselves and co-create God's Kingdom. Talking to a spiritual director, therefore, is also important in a decision like yours. A spiritual director can help you see which place would allow you to better serve God with the confidence that he will take care of you and your family?
Career dilemmas have no easy answers. They awaken in us our dependency upon the will and grace of God. The dignity we find in work and in family life comes from him. The most likely way to find the correct solution is in prayerful dialogue with him, in concert with a spiritual director.
Art A. Bennett is a licensed marriage and family therapist who manages employee support programs.
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