Saturday, March 17, 2012

Work Life Balance: I Don't Quite Understand It?

I've only been working for two months in my first Big Grownup Job, and I'm noooot entiiirely sure how people do this whole work life balance thing.  I get home, and I'm generally not in the mood to cook, so JD's either brought something home or we go out.  Then we come home, I collapse on the couch and read for a big, then I'm in bed by nine and asleep by ten.

My mom cooked dinner every night (granted, she got home at like, 4:30) and graded papers after dinner, but she and my dad still seemed to do more leisure things in the evenings than I did.  I remember my mom was in a bowling league for a while, and my dad would go skiing in the winter and ice skating at other times, and they always made it to my school plays and concerts and had time to pick me up from school every night and drive me to and from practices and competitions every weekend (literally EVERY weekend in high school).  And in highschool, I'd stay up until at least 10 every night, and I had practices and homework, but it never seemed as... stressful and tiring as having a job does?

I think part of the difference is pure age-- I physically have less energy than I did ten years ago-- and part of it is the change in scale of what I'm doing.  How you do in school really only effects you-- even in team competition, you don't have as big an impact on others as you do in a work place.  Now, I worry that messing up on something could really negatively effect someone else, not just myself.  And maybe I'm putting too much of myself into it (my mom says I always internalize everything which, hey, may be true) but I just don't know how to separate home from work.  Even when I'm at home on the weekend doing something unrelated, the thought that I should be researching one of the many work related questions I have is at the back of my mind, constantly.

I'm assuming that as I work longer, I may adapt better-- hopefully both becoming better at doing my job, and finding it easier to take on normal home-related tasks like cooking and cleaning.  I remember that a lot of people were worried JD and I would go crazy when we were spending all day, every day together, but I actually really miss him during the day.  I guess we're one of those weird couples that never get sick of each other, and we're not really out of the honeymoon stage, despite never actually going on a honeymoon.  Our first anniversary was a week ago, so we're still pretty close to being newlyweds.  But just how much time do most people spend with their spouses in those after work hours?  Do most couples spend all evening cuddling and talking, or separated on individual computers, or physically close but watching some tv show together?  I don't know what the normal balance is!  And it isn't like normal matters, as long as individuals are happy in their own lives, but it is something I'm curious about.


Leigh said...

I can vouch--it does get better as you get used to your job. I feel like I spent an awful lot of my mental energy adjusting to my job, new responsibilities, and the new schedule for the first three-six months. But now I'm able (most nights) to do things around the house after work aside from faceplant in the couch.

annajcook said...

I'd agree with Leigh in that there are certainly ups and downs to my outside-of-work energy. When I was holding a full-time job and finishing my Master's thesis, for example, home life felt really stressful. Since I finished school there's been major improvement.

That being said, I also support your observation that having two adults with full-time wage-work outside of the home is significantly different than having a home (even with kids!) where there is a parent to coordinate home-life. Things like grocery shopping, mailing packages, running errands, making meals, and cleaning really do cut into our leisure time (two adults, one cat, no kids). We're lucky if we get home before 6pm on weeknights, and dinner usually happens around 8pm, whether we order food or have to prepare it. We're in bed by 9pm and asleep by 10-11pm.

We do spend couple time side-by-side on the couch writing/reading/on computers; we also cuddle and watch movies some, or read to each other. Cooking can be a mutual activity, though given the size of our kitchen a little tricky! We're lucky enough to work in the same neighborhood so walking to/from work together most days gives us a sure point at the start and end of the work day to connect.

Moving forward, I think my partner and I will really try to make it financially feasible for her to be part-time. This is partly to do with her health, but also to do with the fact that it would take a lot of strain off our lives if there were someone at home to be responsible for home life so that our time together could be relaxation not housework. I realize that's not even a future option for many people, and I honestly think the invisibility of home labor is a huge issue we need to talk about on a society-wide level.

Allison said...

Two months in to my first full-time job, I was exhausted all the time too. You do get used it. You won't need to just chill as much as you used to.

If you're unhappy about the things you don't have time for right now, I'd suggest making big dinners on weekends you can reheat through the week, and trying to get some exercise (which will help with sleep and energy). And keeping in things you really love, like still reading every day.


wildfire said...

Early in my marriage, I would come home from work, cook a quick dinner, have food on the table for your dad, who came home from work, ate and went to college. I took an hour and a half nap and then got up and did housework. I never went to bed before midnight, usually around one or one-thirty, and got up at 5:30 am. During the work week i only ever got about 5 hours of sleep, and I slept in in the weekends.