Scenario: Your boss offers you 3 weeks paid bonus cash at Christmas time or you can take two extra weeks leave during the holidays. You have a mortgage, 3 school age children, a house half renovated, health problems and aging parents.
Which option would you take?
I know without a doubt at this point in my life I would take time back. I’m craving more and more time each and every day. Don’t get me wrong we could definitely do with the cash but, time appears more precious and rarer then hen’s teeth at the moment.
Now I probably wouldn’t get a job as a trend forecaster, nope I’m just not that trendy, I didn’t see the return of acid wash denim coming back.
However of late, I have tried a little harder at predicting what might be on horizon. This has probably been due to having a teenager and feeling like I need to keep up with the times and all that, (how old do I actually sound?). I think what is on the horizon for me is the idea that time is my new currency.
Now I know that this post won’t resonate with all of you. There’s a good chance some of you will say I don’t have a choice. I have to take the money to pay the rent. I get that, choosing time seems like a privilege that. I want to acknowledge that as a white woman with a job in a free western country – I am very lucky and very grateful. However where I am at this precise moment in life has its challenges too. Not in any way comparable to those suffering in poverty, in violence and from a lack of freedom and human rights. I just wanted to acknowledge and get that out of the way first before writing this middle class western world conundrum.
Time is the only thing that is constant; we all have the same amount of time – 60 minutes in an hour, 24 hours in a day and so on. The quandary for me is how I use my time, how do I get the best use of time so my needs and responsibilities are met?
Although more money would make things easier, I am more than ever craving time. Time to myself, time with my kids, time to clean the house, time to follow my dreams, time to give back, time to connect and time to be a reasonable partner; I could go on and on. The thing I’m thinking is that I’m not alone in this. Many people who are working crave more time over more money. In fact the more time I have seems the more I crave it.
The media tells us workers across the globe are working harder and longer than ever before, but are we really? It may not be so much the hours we work that are causing us stress and a need to escape; instead it may be our expectations and our employer’s expectations that are causing us to be stressed. As Professor Wooden, of the Institute of Applied Economic and Social Research, says, “People only become stressed by their working hours when they want to work more or less than they currently do.”
I think I’m in the work less group and perhaps this is why I’m craving time. I feel I should be working full time to earn the money I need for our debts and lifestyle and because I have a good job that many don’t have. Whenever there is a “should” there is always a layer of guilt and resentment.
The Australian Work and Life Index (AWALI) survey measures how work intersects with other life activities. The survey randomly selects representative groups of 2,690 working Australians to consult. The 2013 Survey highlighted that work life responsibilities affects a wide range of workers, their families and communities. Its affects fall particularly hard upon women, mothers and other working carers. Time strain appears to be a common stress for these three groups of people, coincidently these three groups are also the lowest paid individuals in Australia today.
As a women now 40 I fortunately, thanks to feminism, have been given more choices and freedoms that has allowed me to work, have a family and basically do what I want to do. However in that choice I sometimes feel overwhelmed with doing it all and that’s because nobody else has picked up the slack of women working full time. We still do the majority of the caring for children, the majority of household chores and the majority of domestic life tasks. Had women gone out to work and men picked up the slack with regards to children and the household then maybe women would be less likely to crave more and more time to escape the treadmill of thankless chores. Controversial I know but I guess it’s how I see the world at this point in my life as a 40 year old women working full time and taking care of a family and household. This might change; there is only hope, although according to the AWALI survey, the disconnect between changing labour force participation and unchanging gendered patterns of care-giving has not changed for the better across AWALI surveys from 2008 to 2014. Women are more likely to experience poor work-life outcomes due to the disconnect This is not to say that men don’t crave the ‘time thing’ too – they do, especially as their roles have changed and they are now more involved as fathers than ever before in history.
The robbers of my time?
Well time doesn’t change, there is still the same amount of hours each day so it may have something to do with expectations and needs. Time is my most valuable resource, I can never get it back and I can become its slave. I have managed to identify some of the robbers of my time.
- Gender roles: I think one of the reasons I crave more time is because as a child like most girls, I was taught gendering roles that required me to be nurturing and kind and to put other’s needs before my own. What can happen as women, if we do this all the time, is that resentment settles in. We might also start to crave a way to escape, to find time to take care of our own needs. I can definitely be a martyr with the best of them and put everyone else first and whinge and whine about the lack of caring about my needs. Being a martyr never helps me even though I keep making this same mistake over and again. What helps me is figuring out my needs, acknowledging that they too are important and finding a way to meet those needs.
- Personality – Introvert: I think what I have also discovered about myself is that I’m an introvert (has only taken 40 years). This means I get my energy by spending some time by myself. As I get older this need seems to be something that is higher on the rung of needs and I crave time to recharge my batteries and be by myself, something that others close to me might find hard to cope with as they often see it as a reflection on them.
3. Expectations: When I was a passionate active feminist in my 20’s I had these ideals that boys of my generation were not like my father’s or grandfather’s generation, that they understood we were equals and that traditional gender roles in the home would no longer exist. Yeah, yeah a little naive I know. What I have now come to realise is that although we have moved some way, those roles are still entrenched and as women we think we have to do it all. Be the best mother, the best worker, the best domestic goddess, the best lover and the best partner and friend. We simply can’t do it all really well and if we continue to do it all there will be no gaping hole to see, it will be covered up. I still have expectations that I need to do everything around the house because I’m a women even though I know this is intellectually stupid. I still struggle to leave the washing up (when it’s not my night) to one of the 3 males in the house and let it build up until they do it. I have high expectations of cleanliness and they have medium, it creates a conflict in my head each day.
I also have expectations that I should have a career that’s moving onwards and upwards so I don’t disappoint my feminist forebears that gave me choices and I don’t disappoint myself. My issue I know, but it’s there with me every day and I suspect I’m not alone in this one. I think there is also this culture in workplaces all over about working long hours and wearing this working overtime as a badge of courage, to be seen by most as the hardest worker around. We all know however just because you work long hours does not make you the most effective and efficient worker in town.
Working in the Community Sector I also feel the need to give back, be a part of the community. So I join committees and working groups and projects and try and spread myself thin to make it look like (to myself) that I’m giving back. The expectation that I should be giving back is so strong sometimes that I put this before other more important factors like family. Maybe because I get acknowledged more when I work hard for the community, because as a mother this can be a thankless job sometimes – who notices when you’re doing a good job?
I also have these strange expectations that devoting time to what I really want to do (which is usually in conflict with the family’s needs), isn’t the thing that should come first. Obligation to responsibility seems to weigh my down most days.
4. Technology: While I’m a big lover of technology, as it has enhanced my life, it has also become a distraction and a way for me to blur the lines between work and home life. When you can get emails, diaries and other tools 24/7 it takes discipline not to let work encroach on the time you should be spending with family. Social media is another great tool but I would be lying if I said I don’t waste time on social media when I could be doing other things that would help me connect with my family and take care of other parts of my life. We now carry phones everywhere, like an extension of our arms. This means I’m available anywhere, anytime, anyhow, which helps me to lose control of how I spend my valuable time away from work. There are distractions everywhere on the internet, I could have just wanted to know the weather and an hour later I’m reading about Miley Cyrus nipple slip. Seriously the internet helps me become a better procrastinator in life and a worse parent, partner and friend.
5. Lack of skills in delegation: Like I mentioned before it’s easy to be a martyr, it’s easy to say I’ll do it because nobody else does it! I can do it better anyway, their standards are not at my standards and I don’t want to drop my standards. Lack of delegation skills for me is all about control. Why do I feel the need to control the mundane tasks in my life that hold me back from doing what I really want to do? I suspect it’s because I’m getting some pay off for playing this martyr role, I have yet to delve deep enough to figure this out. There is also this feeling that everyone is so busy how I could possibly delegate out. By not delegating out I’m saying their time is more important than mine, that I will sacrifice my time as it’s not as important, let’s call bullshit on that one, as I think it comes back to be a female and putting our needs behind those of others.
6.Lack of planning: whenever I just forge ahead and dive into something, inevitably the expectations don’t match the experience and I usually end up disappointed. Planning to me is very important but I tend to bypass this really important step so often. When I plan things and think about the possible outcomes and risks I am more likely to be successful and content with the outcome. The ironic thing is that most of the time I think I’m too busy to plan. On the weekends if I plan even to accomplish two things in a day I feel satisfied. If I get up and do 15,000 things all badly I feel like a failure and wonder why. When I plan and set priorities I feel a sense of accomplishment and growth. Easier said than done I know especially when the priorities involve others in the family as well.
Time has become such a fascination to me of late, (some would an obsession), that I have started to look into the idea of time banking, to get the most bang for my hour. What? You haven’t heard of it? Where have you been, under a trend cloud?
Time banking is basically time as currency. There are over 300 time banks in the states today. People offer one another their time, measured in hours. All labour is considered equal. Some see Time banking as a community capacity building tool while others see it as an economic system; I just see it as a bloody good opportunity. I have recently experimented with signing up to www.timerepublik.com the only problem with this is that there are currently only 3 Tasmanian people on it. I have yet to find a local time bank with my local people involved. There is also http://www.timebanking.com.au/ which is a NSW time bank site.
Time Republik was founded by two friends from Switzerland, Gabriel Donati and Karim Varini, it currently has over 10,000 people worldwide wanting to give and receive time, and skills range wide and far from dental cleaning to computer repairs. Members are given 5 hours time on joining and can earn additional hours. The founders were surprised to find that the great majority of people joining their site were in fact highly skilled working people. What they thought originally was that it would be cash strapped people trying to find another economic solution. The vast majority of their time exchanges are online, which means you need particular skills that can transfer via the internet. You can’t really fix a toilet if the toilet that needs fixing is in Ohio USA. I can, however, think of plenty of jobs I would like to trade for something else so I will give it a go and let you the audience know how it manifests.
One of the sayings I try to repeat to myself on a regular basis is that I only get one trip around this life. I need to make the most of opportunities and prioritise what I want in life. When I’m 90 I don’t want to have regrets about what I haven’t done because I was too busy when my body and mind was able and willing. What if I don’t get to 90 or even 50, will I be happy with how I have spent my one trip around? I don’t want to ignore the present or the future because I’m too busy with responsibility.
So if time is my new currency how can I tame the robbers and make the most of the time I have right here, right now in the present. It comes down to what I value most, what I want and need most and having a plan to grab the opportunities that present themselves. When my life is out of balance, which I suspect is the issue here, I know I have to make changes, changes that will be painful, frustrating but worthwhile. The answer lies in asking questions about time. What am I doing with the time I have available? Is it what I want and need? I have to be honest with you, I don’t have a great deal of confidence in my ability to beat the time robbers, but I will try. So I will leave you with a quote from Dr Seuss while I ponder what to do after this blog post.
“How did it get so late so soon? Its night before its afternoon. December is here before its June. My goodness how the time has flown. How did it get so late so soon?”