The Bureau of Labor Statistics reports that Americans work extreme hours, averaging 50 or more hours per week. Compared to 1976, the average American works about one month more a year...leisure and sleep time have fallen steeply for those with college degrees...Gallup estimates that 70% of all workers are disengaged from their jobs, costing between $450-$550 billion each year in productivity. Most employers voluntarily grant American workers two weeks of vacation, and in a telling annual report called the "Vacation Deprivation" study, travel company Expedia found that Americans didn't use 577 million vacations days at all last year.
So we're not really all that driven as a whole, we just work a lot. And so I ask again, for what?
Having a kid and working a couple of jobs right now, I think a lot about what I'm doing and why I'm doing it, particularly when I'm sitting in traffic for two hours a day (gives you a lot of time to think). Of course it's to keep my family alive, fed and with good health insurance. But when I'm away 11 hours a day to accomplish that, I have to wonder if there's a better model...
Father and son fishing (photo by Gregorius Suhartoyo)
During the pre-industrial period, a man’s home was also his workplace. For the farmer and the artisan, “bring your kid to work day” was every day. Father and son worked side by side from sunrise to sunset. Fathers taught by example, not only apprenticing their sons into the trade, but subtly imparting lessons on hard work and virtue.
I think that's the ideal -- the family working together for the survival of the family; everyone contributing through hard work and time spent together.
The flip side of this system, though, is that children are pigeon-holed into the family trade, leaving little-to-no room for creativity or exploration. I don't want to do that, but I would like to be able to work alongside my family, if for no other reason than spending more time with them. I guess there has to be some kind of balance between work and family life, ambition and down-time with those I love. I haven't found it yet...have you?