Reasonable Expectations

A few weeks ago my friend Jenn over at Randomness and Lunacy wrote about her intention to start weeding out all the things she and her husband don’t really need in their lives. She dared to ask the question, “Why should Matt have to work 50 hours a week, me at least 45, just to make the money to pay for all of this stuff we don’t really need?” She decided she’s not going to buy into the perceived notion of what they should have and how they should live, and instead just focus on the things that matter to them.

Go Jenn and Matt!

I’ve got a related problem. Several times now I’ve kept a time log so I can see what I spend all day doing. It’s been helpful, but I’ve realized lately that my focus has been off. Not in what I’m doing, but in how I’m doing it.

I’m a workaholic.

I remember the last time I was analyzing my time in preparation for my post Time Spent I was concerned that my final numbers would reveal that I was a slacker. I’m well aware that there are many single parents out there holding down a full-time job and running a household and taking care of the kids, and I know I’m incredibly lucky to be a stay-at-home mom. I guess I also feel a little guilty about that. I remember thinking: I hope I’m working at least 60 hours per week, because that would put me on a level with someone working a 40 hour paid job plus 20 hours for house and kid stuff. As it turned out, I was working 62 hours per week.

I complained that it was too much for me (because in our culture, if you don’t complain that you’re too busy then there’s something wrong with you) and that I wanted to aim for 50-55 hours per week. And let’s stop there for a minute. 50 to 55 hour work weeks every week was my goal??? In what world is that healthy? I understand it’s necessary for many people’s survival, but it’s not for mine. Who am I serving by having such insane expectations of myself? Single mothers are widely recognized as being grossly overworked; why am I using their reality as my goal? Is taking on such a heavy load myself going to somehow ease their burden?

Of course, I quickly concluded that 50 to 55 hours was unrealistically low for me based on what I want to do, so I shifted my focus to how I could better utilize my leisure time. And yes, it’s always good to not waste time on things that aren’t necessary and don’t bring satisfaction. But do I really need to hang onto 60+ hour work weeks?

So I’m going to do another time log. (What is it with me and spreadsheets?) In addition to trying to cut down my work time, I’m also going to intentionally increase my leisure time. I want to spend at least 1 hour each day reading for pleasure or watching a TV show I enjoy. (I’m still trying to catch up on last season’s episodes of CSI before the new season starts–I just finished Criminal Minds last week and I’ve got a few episodes of this summer’s installment of Under the Dome to finish.)

And if by some miracle my work week is less than 40 hours, I’m going to be proud–not embarrassed–to share that.

What do you think is a reasonable work-week (both professional and house/family management)? I’d love to see your thoughts in the comments.

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