Saturday, December 5, 2015

Do we working mums actually have more time than we think?

A little while ago I blogged about a book that argues working women have more time than they think, entitled I Know How She Does It. In my earlier entry, I kept the red haze of rage at the very idea of having more free time than I realise at bay by deciding to actually read the book myself. Which I now have, and here are my thoughts: 

1. We all work less than we think!

The author argues that most people aren't as busy as they think they are and have more free time than they realise. When asked, most people will say they are busy. But, when they actually log their time, they forget about the hours they spend vegetating in front of The Block - during which time they clearly are not busy at all.

Of course, there are different levels of busy. We've all worked with that person who moans about how busy they are while drinking a cup of tea in the work kitchen, without stopping to think that if they really were busy, they would be at their desks, doing work. Some people think being busy means you can't have a sneaky internet surf during the day and pop out for a decent shop in your lunch break. To some people, though, busy means not finding time to eat lunch until 4pm.

I take the author's point. Sometimes it's easy to think I'm too busy to do something productive, but if I combined all of the time a spent on Faceook over a week I could probably do something worthwhile. BUT - and this is where I didn't totally agree - sometimes being busy makes me so knackered my brain seeps out my ears and I am barely coherent. I often need to do nothing, to give me the energy for being busy the next day. I might not be at work, but if work renders me useless, the time spent in a post-work blob haze isn't exactly leisure time as such. I don't think of it as free time.  It's recovery time.

2. Look over a week, not at each day.

The book argues that you shouldn't look at how much time you spend with your children each day, rather over the entire week, as for most people it evens out.

I really like this idea. When I thought about it, I realised that some days I might not see as much of my kids as I'd like, but I do little else than spend time with them in the weekends. When I was a stay at home Mum I was with my kids more in theory, but didn't necessarily spend more quality time with them - when home I spent more time doing laundry, cleaning the house, and obsessing about weird housekeeping things I don't even think about now. Looking at things over a week, rather than each day, makes me feel far less guilty, and anything that reduces Mummy Guilt of Doom is a good thing.

3. Let work and life bleed into one another if it makes things easier. 

I've always been as careful as I can to keep work and the rest of my life separate. Before kids, this was easy.  If I had a deadline to meet at work, I'd just stay later, then go home to my work-free house. Sometimes I worked weekends, but I did this at work, not home. Home was my sanctuary, declared free of work related cooties. Technology in terms of remote working has also improved a lot since the Times of Before, when I didn't have a Blackberry or work laptop.  But, that was fine. After all, isn't it conventional wisdom that keeping home life and work as separate as possible the path to that Nirvana of Work Life Balance? Isn't that what everyone says?

This book, though, changed my mind. When you leave work early to pick up children, work has a way of bleeding into the rest of life, and this just added to my stockpile of Things I Feel Like I am Doing Wrong in the  working-mum juggle. This book pointed out that if you are spending time outside of working hours doing work that you actually enjoy, it'll increase your overall job satisfaction. Work satisfaction can only be a good thing, especially if it makes the Sunday Dreads go away. And nothing brings on the Sunday Dreads more than that feeling of things spinning out of control due to falling behind at work.

The book also pointed out that we notice the hour or so we might work from home in the evening once the kids are in bed, but forget about the personal appointments we may take during work time. We also forget that one is often a trade off for the other. And, that's OK. Working for an hour in the evening is fine if it's the price for meeting a friend for lunch, or run an errand. Especially if it's an errand that can't be run at night time.

I do maintain, though, that we still need to have some boundaries between work and life, for our own sake. I may work in the evenings, but try very hard not to do anything moderately work-related when with my kids, and don't use my Blackberry when they're in the room. I don't want them to ever feel like they come second to my job, because they don't. But, maybe doing the odd thing in the evening isn't the end of the World if it makes for a nicer working day the next day.

So - my thoughts are that this book is worth a read. While I didn't agree with all of it, it still contained some real gems. And if you don't have time to read the book, well - apparently we all do have more free time than we think, so maybe you will have time after all!

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