Thursday, August 05, 2004

Halley's Comment at Worthwhile

There's an interesting post by my colleague David Batstone over at Worthwhile "Should You Be Allowed To Work Yourself To The Bone?" about never taking vacation and how Americans can overwork, check it out.

I couldn't help myself from leaving a comment. Here's what I wrote:
I don't want to keep tooting my old "kids/no kids" horn here, but a lot depends on if you have children and what age children you have.

Even if you have the best daycare or nanny arrangement in the world, most parents want to have a life with their families that includes something called ... let me think, let me think, ... oh yeah, DINNER. It's the last vestige of family life -- breakfast is rushed, lunch is at work, dinner is all there is.

Once you have kids you want to leave the office at a reasonable time (5:00-5:30) and be seated with your kids at dinner around 6:00. Most young kids would prefer dinner at 5:00 actually and they are forced to wait that extra hour.

I think American workers have been sold a bill of goods -- especially younger workers -- that your work should be your "family" which certainly was obvious during dot com days when hanging out with your cool work friends, playing foozball, having meetings w/excellent gourmet ordered-in food and all replicated a "family" setting.

Funny thing, your real family doesn't tend to wake up one morning and decide to reengineer you or downsize you out on your ass onto the street. Surely we learned a lesson there about whether a company is "home sweet home" or not.

Once you have a real family, you have no interest in making your co-workers your family, as delightful as they might be. (I'd venture to say many single workers, young and old, have no interest in making their co-workers their family either.) For these single workers who do want to make the workplace their "family", it creates resentment and hostility and a feeling of betrayal when you make it clear you just want to go home -- to your real home.

The toughest thing for women (at least it was for me) was leaving the office at a reasonable hour (5:00-5:30) with everyone making you feel guilty, as if you were heading out for a night of disco dancing or something, and then getting home to more familywork, housework, homework, babywork and as much as you love your family -- it is grueling.

If all the non-family work people would like to come home with me and really "play house" since they're so gung-ho to have me be their "family" at work, they could be my "family" at home. I would be happy to have them do my laundry, wrestle over idiotic busywork homework with my kid for an hour, run pick up my drycleaning, do my grocery shopping and I'd even install a foozball table if it made them feel at home.

Of course, what I'm REALLY saying is that once you have a family -- you pledge your allegiance to that unit -- not your company, no matter how fascinating your work might be, because this is your BLOOD, not your work-a-day sweat and tears.

I hate to generalize but I also wonder if this doesn't split to some extent along gender lines -- that men value work over family and women value family over work.