What can Thomas More can teach you about keeping a work-life balance?

In a recent poll conducted by The Sydney Morning Herald, 42.1% of respondents admitted that that their balance between work and life had become worse over the past five years.

Perhaps now, with the holidays coming to a close and people returning to work, it’s important to think about how to improve your own work-life balance.

Thomas More, a philosopher, saint, barrister, advisor to Henry the VIII and author of the political treatise Utopia was well aware of the stress work placed on a person, and how it disrupted their family time.

For More, however, family time wasn’t a luxury, but a necessity, and something that he committed to. In a letter sent to his friend Peter Gilles – the editor of Aesop’s fables and Chief Secretary of Antwerp Thomas More confided:

‘You see, when I come home, I’ve got to talk to my wife, have a chat with my children, and discuss things with my servants. I count this as one of my commitments, because it’s absolutely necessary, if I’m not to be a stranger in my own home.’

More’s solution was to treat his family life equally as important as all his other work duties – including that to the King, Henry the VIII who was a fairly hard task master to please.

Although More had work stresses, he acknowledged that had to focus on his home-life, and to ensure that he was goodnatured with his family. More made sure to never take his work induced emotional baggage home with him. In that same letter he wrote to his friend Peter in 1516, More stated:

‘Besides, one should always try to be nice to the people one lives with, whether one has chosen their company deliberately, or merely been thrown into it by chance or family-relationships – that is, as nice as one can without spoiling them, or turning servants into masters.’

For More, work stresses had no place in the home. Family was a commitment, and kindness was a moral obligation. Regardless of whether or not the family you have was the one you chose.

So when you get home from work, rather than viewing your time with your family as expendable, think of it as a commitment, and something worth improving and enjoying. At work, you focus on maintaining a polite exterior regardless of how tough your day has been – so take that same attitude of not letting things get to you to into your home, and don’t let the cubicle farm’s office politics pollute your time with your loved ones.

Jobs and careers will come and go. Your home-life is what matters. Don’t let projects and deadlines lead to divorce, and don’t let overbearing managers make you depressed.

– Thomas Green

Would you like to learn more about this philosopher? Why not read Thomas More’s Utopia?

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