How to Balance Work and Family (Answering My Son’s Questions – Part 4)

How to Balance Work and Family (Answering My Son’s Questions – Part 4)

Michael Gollin (with help from Max Gollin)

In 1994 Boston University law school awarded me the Young Lawyer’s Chair for public service.  I remarked that I had achieved a balance of guilt: when I was doing billable work I felt guilty for not doing enough pro bono work, and when doing pro bono work I felt guilty about not doing enough billable work. I figured if I didn’t feel guilty both ways then I was out of balance.  Maybe that’s my Jewish upbringing.

The same formula applies to work and family.  If you don’t feel guilty at work, you’re not spending enough time with family.  If you don’t feel a little bit guilty at home, then maybe you’re not working hard enough.  I always preferred the second kind of guilt.

At a certain point I had more worthwhile things to do than time. It wasn’t a question of wasting time any more but of choosing among worthy things.

To help me choose, I came up with an algorithm.  For any opportunity, I gave a score of 0 to 3 for professional factors like helping clients, developing new clients, helping the profession, and public interest, and for personal factors like Jill, kids, family, friends, exercise, and culture. A high composite score sent me to speak at a conference in Anaheim, stopping to see clients at UCLA on the way, after stopping at Vail to ski with Andy , and after the conference stopping at SLC and skiing with Mike Polacek and Henry, then on to UC Davis for more client work.  Even though the immediate family got nothing from it, every other factor was high for the 12 day trip.

Another factor is that I have been keenly aware that my success at work has been vital to the well-being and security of our family.  I am very deeply proud of the stability that I have been able to provide.

Editor’s note: this is part of a series of advice letters my dad wrote for me in September 2014 when I asked him for some guidance on the big things in life –Max

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