The hidden cost of workaholism

The hidden cost of workaholism

“Everyone knows that if a child’s parents dies, the child will suffer with sadness and loss.

No one thinks about this being the case when a child loses a parent to success.

These two sentences hit like a ton of bricks.

Success is usually paired with accolades, promotions and a financially “good life.”

Things that are all gained.

But what is lost in the process? What do kids lose?

Leaving my poopy-diaper phase

I’m currently in a phase of transition.

We’ve crossed the chasm of wiping poopy butts and the hell of sleep training.

The physical demands of parenting are declining (with the exception of non-stop drop-off and pick-up logistics).

And we are now moving into the emotional world of parenting.

One with Mean Girls, self-esteem struggles and the pressures of being a pre-teen in an achievement-oriented society.

As the saying goes:

Little kids, little problems. Big kids, big problems.

I’ve been doing a deep-dive on my own Attachment Strategies and stumbled upon the concept of Emotional Neglect from the book Running on Empty by Jonice Webb.

Dr. Webb is a psychologist who describes the common situation where a child’s emotional needs are not adequately met by their caregivers.

Unlike physical neglect or abuse, emotional neglect is invisible. This makes it much harder to recognize and acknowledge.

Emotional neglect is like high blood pressure – a “silent killer” of sorts that transcends socio-economic status, culture or education level.

And left unaddressed, it can lead to feelings of emptiness, difficulties with self-discipline, problems with emotional intelligence, and issues in personal relationships during adulthood.

12 Archetypes of Parenting

But first, a warning.

I’m going to show you 12 parenting styles (double-clicking into two of them). It’s very possible that you will see yourself and/or your parents in the descriptions.

Dr. Webb constantly reminds us that you shouldn’t blame yourself or your parents for Emotional Neglect. She argues that, in most cases, it isn’t intentional. In fact, it’s usually downstream from how your parent was parented – which perpetuates the cycle.

Next, she writes that this work is focused on healing – and not blaming. This self-awareness is a stepping stone to a deeper connection to yourself and personal growth.

Dr. Webb describes 12 Archetypes. As both a father and a son, it was a powerful exercise to notice which ones I identified most with:

  1. Addicted
  2. Depressed
  3. Permissive
  4. Workaholic
  5. Narcissistic
  6. Sociopathic
  7. Authoritarian
  8. Child as Parent
  9. Special Needs Family Member
  10. Bereaved: Divorced or Widowed
  11. Achievement/Perfection Focused
  12. Well-Meaning-but-Neglected-Themselves

The Workaholic Parent

The workaholic parent is a sneaky one.

A capitalist economy values hard work and high salaries. And unlike other vices (alcohol, drugs and gambling), hard work is categorically celebrated.

Further complicating matters is that children of workaholics “garner little sympathy from others, as they often have successful parents, plenty of money and nice things.”

Here are the characteristics of a Workaholic parent:

  • High Dedication to Work: Prioritizes work over family time, often missing out on important events or milestones in their child’s life.
  • Physical Absence: Spends long hours at work, on business trips, or engaged in work-related activities outside of normal working hours.
  • Emotional Unavailability: Even when physically present, they might be preoccupied with work, making them emotionally inaccessible to their children.
  • Limited Engagement: Limited involvement in the day-to-day aspects of their child’s life, including not knowing their child’s interests, friends, or emotional struggles.
  • Value System: Often places a high value on success, achievement, and financial stability, potentially at the expense of valuing emotional expression and nurturing.

Dr. Webb describes the implicit message kids receive from Workaholism:

By putting their work first, workaholics convey the message to their children that their feelings and needs are of lesser importance (damaging their children’s self-worth). By failing to be an active part of their children’s accomplishments and triumphs, they inadvertently convey a message that those accomplishments don’t matter (damaging their children’s self-esteem).

As a result, some kids act out with drugs or alcohol just to get their parents’ attention. Others grow up with “inadequate self-worth, low self-esteem and no understanding of how they got this way.”

And a devastating kicker:

Since they view themselves as privileged, not deprived, they blame themselves for their inner struggles.

The Achievement/Perfection Focused Parent

Hello Tiger!

via GIPHY

This archetype is categorized by expectations of high standards and intense pressure.

Once again, it usually comes from a well-intentioned place.

Some parents desperately want their kids to have opportunities that they didn’t have.

Others are acting out their own pressures to “be perfect.”

And some are just trying to live vicariously through their children.

As these kids enter adulthood, they develop of conditional sense of self-worth – heavily tying their self-esteem to their accomplishments. And then constantly seeking external validation to feel good about themselves.

Furthermore, the non-stop need to push harder (i.e. the When-Then Trap) can make it hard to appreciate current successes, leading to perpetual feelings of inadequacy.

And over time, the child can internalize the message, “Be good so that you can be successful.”

This can be fine during childhood, but Dr. Webb argues that entering adolescence and adulthood, one will feel that something’s missing inside: Self-knowledge, emotional awareness and self-love.

No judgement, just awareness

Reading these archetypes truly deepened my awareness around my own parenting biases – much of which are the result of my own lived experiences.

And again, please remember that these behaviors are rarely intentional.

After all, we’re just trying to do our best.

And hopefully removing some blind spots along the way.

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