Flexible work arrangements

For a lot of my working life, I have worked in the male dominated area of horticulture. This meant that at various points I experienced a lot of macho bullshit, endless discussions of sports that I still don’t understand, frankly disturbing names for female genitalia and a lot of advice about my driving. But one thing in favour of such a pack of unreconstructed blokes was the fact that I never heard the term ‘work-life balance’ and I never had to fill in for them because they wanted quality time with their children. This isn’t a good situation on so many levels – I feel for their partners, I believe that couples should parent equally, I’m sure that there were times when they were at work when they actually should have been fulfilling their family obligations. On the other hand, I only occasionally had to work a seven-day week myself and last-minute calls to cover for someone else were rare.

I’m not saying that it’s easy, being in the work-force and raising a child or several, juggling time and schedules and making sure you actually eat and sleep yourself. Eating and sleeping is good, and we don’t want your children to take up crack or start voting Liberal, so you’d probably spend some time with them too. However, mummy-bloggers and daddy-bloggers do need to be aware that if they start banging on about ‘taking time for yourself’ I am probably going to bite them. For example, this extract from her blog illustrates why I would hate to have Sarah Caputo for a work-mate: ‘I guess for me work-life balance means that I am taking care of myself and taking the time for me that I need to feel grounded and supported without guilt and without hesitation. I know that when I do this, I show up better in all areas of my life.’ That’s lovely, Sarah. I’m glad you’re taking time for you. Are all your workmates getting that privilege as well?

What I am objecting to is the cult of the child, and the expectation that those of us without children are there purely to take up the slack when Possum gets sick or Pumpkin has to play soccer. Just to clarify: we’re not there so you can get some ‘you-time’. We’re not there because we love work so much we want to work twenty days in a row, or to take all the shifts over the Christmas break so you can be with your family. We’re doing what you’re doing – earning a living and trying to fit some other stuff in around the work obligations. Just because it doesn’t involve parenting doesn’t mean it isn’t important. I want to study, to write, to help out with political campaigns, to see my family and friends, to catch up on the reading list that R & J have been adding to when I’ve been too busy to read. I want to go bushwalking and play with my animals and test S’s Anzac biscuit recipe that is guaranteed not to spread. It’s not like work is what you do when you don’t have children. Trust me, I can entertain myself really well on my days off, when I get them. Work is what you do to finance the other things you want to do. If those other things include child-rearing, great. If they don’t, they are still important.

Really, internet, stop encouraging people to pursue their self-actualisation until they actually have the time for it.’Chucking in your job to follow your dreams of running your own business is good in theory, but it’s hard work. Start slowly. If possible cut back your working hours to four days week and use the extra day to build your business at home’ burbles Women’s Health & Fitness (http://www.womenshealthandfitness.com.au/lifestyle/motivation/503-how-to-achieve-a-worklife-balance, if you’re looking for tips). Who do you think is doing that day you’ve just relinquished? What were they doing before they were asked to fill in for you?

It’s not just the parent-bloggers that are on-board with the whole delegate-it-to-the-childless movement. The Queensland Government relates the joys of delegating here: http://www.qld.gov.au/health/mental-health/balance/lifestyle/index.html – ‘Enlist a good support system — learn to delegate, we all need a little help sometimes’, they suggest. Everyone is just hanging out to be your support system, obviously. I can’t think of anything I’d rather do than back up someone’s decision to procreate. I’ve got nothing better to do than work every day of the week as I head towards a lonely, bitter old age.

The website Time Management Success points out ‘Your children are a 20 year plus ‘project’; but they’re this age just once. When your children leave home, they’re a long time gone – but there will always be more work to do. No one looked ever looked back at their life and said, ‘I wish I’d spent more time at work’. It is quite possible, however, that people wish their workmates would spend more time at work.

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One comment on “Flexible work arrangements

  1. What a hearfelt exposé of the unchilded life and the demands placed on it by the childed. I had four children and I actually feel guilty, although in my job, casual teachers rejoiced to be called in. My absence in fact created their working life. I’ve never worked twenty days straight – 6 maximum, but usually over five days. I yearn for the day when you work 9 – 5 four days a week. Would that do? The world needs all the other things you want to do.

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