Vanessa Gonzalez Kraft tries to balance her traditional Mexican-American cultural heritage and Catholic identity, personified by her grandmother La Lupe, with her roles as a young wife and mother.
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I am a workaholic. When I have a job to do I am almost obsessive about it. Especially working in education, there is just so much to be done. There are always so many things to figure out: how to better serve the students, how to better teach the students, how to better meet the students’ needs, how to better meet the families’ needs. In this line of work there is an endless amount of time and effort that could be put in. Each day it is hard for me to detach myself from my work and attach myself to the other important parts of my life.
When I wake up in the morning the first thing I do is check my work e-mail and then I’ll check it again right before I leave for work. Sometimes I find myself praying at night — Hail Mary, full of grace, the Lord is with, shoot, I forgot to submit that announcement I need read in the morning. Should I get up and send an e-mail right now? No, it can wait. The Lord is with Thee, oh, I need to stop at the grocery store on my way into work to buy supplies for our cooking club. Ugh, focus, Vanessa. Pray.
The other day I was talking to a co-worker. I told her I felt like I just couldn’t keep my head above water. There was so much work and I couldn’t get out from underneath it. And the harder I worked more work seemed to appear. I felt like every person I ran into reminded me of yet another thing I had forgotten to do. I had done a lot of work over the Christmas break to get caught up so that this semester I would be more organized and have a better handle on everything. But all that seemed to go down the drain because I was still drowning in stuff to do. This is when my co-worker said something really wise: “It doesn’t really matter how well you organize or work, there is always going to be more work. You could work every second and still be drowning in work.” She didn’t mean it as a way to justify slacking off and being disorganized. She was reminding me that we can only do so much.
That’s when I paused and thought about my work. Not thinking about it in a to-do lists sort of way, but thinking about what it means to me and how that fits in to what God wants of me. I love my job. I really do. I love the mission. I love the families I get to work with. It’s so easy for me to get wrapped up in it because it is obvious that I am doing good. But God is not only calling me to work hard at work. God is also calling me to be a good and present mother at home. A supportive wife even when my husband is talking to me about computer geekiness I don’t understand. A better Catholic with an intentional prayer life. A better daughter who calls her mother and doesn’t just text her saying I’m busy; I’ll call her later. A better friend who calls people back. And better to my own body, taking time to exercise and relax sometimes.
That’s why I realized it was so important to simplify work. I spent my days scurrying from task to task as if I was in a race. I usually ate my lunch hunched over my desk as I typed out e-mails with one hand and ate with the other. I never called home to talk to the girls because I was just too busy to “waste” time on that. I always stayed late at work because I just wanted to finish that one last thing before I left. I brought work home because I just couldn’t find the time to do it at school.
All of that needed to stop. Work is important and something that God wants us to try our best at, but it isn’t everything. It isn’t my final end. There are lots of facets to my life, and I am not doing God’s will by just focusing on work. So these are some changes I’m going to make. I will only do work at work (except for the rare occasion it is completely necessary to do at home). I will not work as if I am racing a clock. I will work quickly and efficiently but I will do so at an appropriate pace that doesn’t stress me out or leave me with my heart pumping as though I just ran a 5K. I will take a few minutes each day to call and talk to Brandon and the girls. I will take time to eat lunch with my co-workers and enjoy their presence. Or I will eat at my desk while working and instead take a nice walk in what would be my lunch break to get some exercise. I will not check work e-mail until I get to school in the morning. I will take the time to walk down to the Adoration chapel just a block away. I will not feel too busy to do this when really it is one of the most important things I could do for the school.
None of this will make me a bad employee. In actuality, it will probably make me a much better employee. One that is more focused and calm. One that is working in a sustainable way instead of one who is burnt out by April. One that is more efficient with my time. And I believe this is how God wants me to work. I don’t think I get extra heaven points for being a workaholic. But I do think simplifying the way I work will get me closer to being the person God wants me to be.