Monday, August 8, 2011

Whose Time Is It Anyway?

I'll be blunt: I wish 100% of my time outside of 9-5 Monday through Friday were my own and my family's.

Before having a baby, I was kind of a live-to-work person. I thrived on working hard and being competitive at work. Now, I'm about 50-50 work-to-live/live-to-work. I am still driven to work hard, but I like to get everything done in 40 hours a week when possible to maximize my time with my daughter, and I have no need to prove my might to anyone at work anymore. I stress out when work demands that I take calls during the two hours a day I get to play with her. I groan at calls to my blackberry on the weekends.

I have tried to make my baby schedule clear to everyone I work with, but I can't expect my colleagues to memorize my schedule and sometimes I get sheepish calls on off-hours, or non-sheepish ones. Recently I had to choose between rocking my daughter to sleep and joining a conference call. I ended up doing both, and handling it superbly if I do say so myself. I still felt consumed with mama guilt and work guilt even though I was doing both things.

Sometimes I have to put my foot down and ignore a call or refuse a conference call invitation. The underlying message is: whose time is it anyway? The idea of "company time," being paid for a service you're delivering and the hours you put in, is obsolete. White collar jobs do not disappear when we go home at 5, 6, 7. We are Blackberried and emailed to the hilt, and it's up to us to determine what we can tolerate and what we're willing to risk to draw that line.

I came across a depressing little trend piece about the "workcation" where you basically go somewhere and work, maybe hit the pool for an hour and go out to dinner.

No. Absolutely not. This is not okay with me.

This whole work-life balance issue has been on my mind a lot lately since our own vacation is behind us. I am no psychologist, but I believe that the human body needs time to rest and recharge, and I'm not just talking about going to sleep. Humans need to retreat from the workaday world for a while, hang out with family, get lost in leisure, let someone else cover a client or a project. We can reciprocate with our fellow employees when it is their turn to get lost. A slogan for the 8-hour work week was 8 hours work, 8 hours rest, and 8 hours what we will. 8 hours what we will every day! Nice, right? In reality, it's likely something like 11-hours work, 6-hours rest, 2-hours stressing about work, 2-hours commuting, 3-hours what we will (preparing and cleaning up meals, and watching a Phils game, basically).

When I go on vacation, I like to disappear. It may not be possible for the project I'm currently assigned to, so I may need to take a few calls and do a little computer work, but I say a firm "no" to the idea of going to a beautiful destination and ignoring your family and the view. It's just not for me, and I don't think it's healthy or fair. Life is too short (and childhood too precious) to spend vacations with your mind (or your parents' minds) in constant contact with work.

And it's really hard to insist on that that these days with all the ways in which employers use advances in technology to creep in on our personal time and insist that we all be accessible 24/7, and at the same time laying people off and not creating any jobs. It's a risk. It may cost me my job, but I say "no." No to "workcations." Yes to claiming my own time, determining for myself how I spend it, and hanging out with my family on my own time.


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