September 22, 2010


In case you're curious what a day in Cactusville looks like, here's a snapshot:

6:00 - Alarm clock goes off; punch snooze
6:10 - Snooze
6:20 - Snooze
6:30 - 6:50 - Get dressed; throw breakfast together
7:00 - Drag myself to the car
7:00 - 8:00 - Spend an hour traveling 10 miles; get a little bitter
8:05 - Arrive at my office
8:06 - Grab coffee; boot up the laptop
8:10 - Watch as an endless stream of email seems to bombard my desktop
8:10 - 11:00 - Answer email, conference calls, meetings and actual work
11:00 - 11:10 - Find an early lunch
11:10 - 11:20 - Eat lunch while surfing the net
11:20 - 4:30 - Answer email, conference calls, meetings and actual work
4:30 - 5:30 - Spend an hour traveling 10 miles but decidedly less bitter since home lies at the end of the commute
5:30 - 5:35 - Lose the suit
5:35 - 6:15 - Play with the little people
6:15 - 6:45 - Dinner
6:45 - 7:00 - Bathe Owen
7:00 - 7:10 - Bathe Mia
7:10 - 8:00 - Get the kids to bed
8:00 - 9:00 - Crack open beer, answer personal email, jot down some blog ideas
9:00 - 10:00 - Decompress which usually involves conversations with Beth and HGTV
10:00 - 10:15 - Shower
10:15 - 11:00 - Read
11:00 - 6:00 - Snooze

My daughter gets up early in the morning and heads off to school at 8:45. She gets home at 4:15. No way around it - that's a long day. Especially for a short person. And it's taking its toll. When she gets home, she's exhausted. By the end of the week, she's completely wiped out. And two days - Saturday and Sunday - seem like way too little time to recuperate.

My point - I think - is that we're all working ourselves to death. And when we're not working, we're getting ready for work or driving to and from work. We are, as a culture, obsessed with work and we're passing that along to our kids, teaching them to do the exact same thing.

Are you comfortable with the pace of your life? Are our priorities out of whack? And are we asking too much of our kids?

Posted by Chris at September 22, 2010 6:26 AM

I drive the car pool to fencing practice once a week with 1-3 teenagers in the car, including my son. The teens not related to me almost always sleep the entire way. 15 and 16 year olds should not need a nap at 7 PM to get through the evening. From what I get from the parents, the kids are up before 6 AM to get ready for school, then have 3 hours of homework each night to fit in around actually having a life. It's madness, and one of the primary reasons why my kids have never been to school, and laugh at me every year when I give them the option to join their friends in high school. It's bad enough for teenagers to live that way, it can't be healthy for the 6 year crowd.

Posted by: COD at September 22, 2010 9:11 AM

Yeah, we're on a pretty nasty hamster wheel on this one. On the one hand, pushing the kids too hard ( the overscheduling problem ) does lead to burn out. On the other hand, the pace of the world keeps getting increased, so asking them to go from 0 to 90 once out of school doesn't seem like a good answer either; if their pace is hectic as kids, does it make it easier for them to assimilate into a fast paced world? From my limited anecdotal experience, I'd say yes. But at a price.

There is an interesting wiki article on work hours through history, and some good evidence that actually a 4 day work week would lead to greater productivity:

If anything, working towards the day that I can move into the capital owner class, have my own company that I can experiment with different paces / methods. I think the corp system leads to a lot of this madness.

Posted by: metawizard at September 22, 2010 9:45 AM

If I were queen of the little people, children would only be allowed one extracurricular activity at a time. So many parents have their kids signed up for multiple sports/classes/activities to the point that they are scheduled all day, every day. That doesn't leave any down time to just be a kid - not a good thing. It's much healthier for kids to have time to just be kids and play and use their imaginations (not sitting in front of video games!)
That's what we did with my son and it worked well for everyone involved.

Posted by: Laineydid at September 22, 2010 10:26 AM

This is the reason I choose to wait on sending mine to Kindergarten this year (she is 2 weeks younger than Mia)...not because of the academic side of it, but because of the long day-I knew she wasn't ready for it. I really wish half day kindergarten was the rule.

Posted by: Kami at September 22, 2010 10:37 AM

Overscheduling is not a problem for us. We've made SURE our 10 year old has plenty of time to be a kid and still have plenty of time for school work and an activity that he really enjoys.

He goes to Tae Kwan Do twice a week. That's his only scheduled activity. He loves it and we're HOPING it helps him learn to focus. (GOD KNOWS that's something he needs to learn to do!)

More than that he'd be even more scatter brained than he already is. (He DOES come by it honestly though... stupid genetics. HAH!)

Posted by: NotAMeanGirl at September 22, 2010 11:42 AM

We are the opposite from your family, because we ended up (not planned) working from home and homeschooling. I worry that this means my daughter will have to go from 0-90 quickly, as the other commenter said. But I think she is prepared for that. She will likely make the transition to a regular high school, but maybe not.

It means we don't have the commute time (yay!) and the (my opinion) filler time in the school day, so I'm hoping that makes her more efficient. Fingers crossed.

Posted by: TeresaLynn at September 22, 2010 11:57 AM

We were just talking about this at dinner last night. How many part time jobs can I have to make up the money that the full time job that hurts my brain pays? And what DON'T we need?

Posted by: Amy at September 22, 2010 12:07 PM

I'm horribly uncomfortable with the pace of my life. While I try so hard to maintain a good balance, the fact is, if I want to spend time with my kids, that really does mean I'm up one night a week until midnight cleaning the house and doing laundry, and up one ridiculously early am a week heading to the grocery store. And that kinda sucks.

My boys both have a really long day. 8 and 12, and school starts at 8 and ends at 3. The 12 year old averages 3 hours of homework a night, and the 8 year old averages just over an hour. Ad in the fact that they are in after-school care until I retrieve them and we arrive home at 6, to cook dinner, assist with any unfinished homework, chill out and get everyone (including me) into bed by 9:30 on most nights. Except the nights I get them to bed and fold 4 loads of laundry, run the vacuum, and mop the kitchen floor.

I would seriously KILL for 4 10s. I'd do it in a heartbeat.

Posted by: Mindy at September 22, 2010 12:15 PM

Oh this speaks to me. I was miserable. My husband was miserable. The kids were miserable. I was getting up at 5:45 to get to work for 7, so I could get home for 4:00 to save the girls from day care. My husband had to wake the girls at 6:30 (too early) and bring them to day care for 7:30-7:45 so he could get to work for 8:00. We took a good long hard look at the situation, and I have now adjusted my hours to 9:30-3:00 Monday to Thursday (I bring the girls to school for 9:00, drive to work after rush hour is over). I get them off the bus at 4:00 (no more day care!). They do their homework from 4-5 while I make dinner. From 5-6 they decompress (slack jawed in front of the tv). Dinner is served when hubby gets home, the we play, walk, ride our bikes, whatever. I did take a pay cut in reducing my hours, and I know that I am fortunate that we could afford to do this (though I have adjusted our household budget to reflect less earnings). We are so freaking happy and relaxed now it's just awesome. I am so glad we made this adjustment. I feel like I'm leading the life I was meant to lead with young kids.

Would public transportation be an option for you to cut down on the commute time?

Posted by: meanie at September 22, 2010 12:18 PM

i just want to add that i am more productive in my 5.5 work day than i was in my 7.5 hour work day - and more enthusiastic.

Posted by: meanie at September 22, 2010 12:20 PM

Just reading that exhausts me ;)

Posted by: Heather at September 22, 2010 1:03 PM

I'm quite miserable with the pace of my life and feel like I'm missing out on so much of my infant son's milestones by working 25 miles away from home. The weekends no longer feel restful as my husband and I try to cram all of the errands and chores and some chilling out time into 2 days only to have Sunday evening roll around and make us depressed that Monday's here again.

I'd say our priorities are definitely out of whack. What is income worth if you can't enjoy life? I have no idea how we're going to handle this once our kid (and hopefully second child eventually) gets older.

Posted by: Beth at September 22, 2010 1:47 PM

Yes. Most of us run at a hurried pace and it seems like there is no way around it; one of those vicious cycles/circles (whatever).

I have a dayjob and my side job (my passion). I work 40 hrs a week, have 2 children (single mom) and then book as many side job appointments as I can. Many days I work at an office all day, spend some time with the kids after work/school and then work again at the computer at my side job until after midnight.. well after midnight.

Lather, rinse, repeat the next morning.

Everyone is part of the "NOW" world. We want everything yesterday and there seems to be no advancement without it. Would love to break free, but that means dreams don't become reality. Or so it seems... I guess all we can do is make sure to ignore a deadline or two and say LIFE IS IMPORTANT. People will have to wait.

okay. that was a ramble and a half.

And I hear you about kids and their exhaustion. My daughter looked as tired as I felt this morning. It killed me to wake her up for school - she's 4 ...

Posted by: Holly at September 22, 2010 3:23 PM

No, yes and yes. I used to work 4 days a week and it was much easier, I think that's the way we should work. Like other commenters say, I do feel sorry for these kids that are in school all day and then doing loads of extra activities, when do they get time to just kick about and be kids? I think doing some activities is good, just not all the time!

Posted by: Katherine at September 22, 2010 3:27 PM

We have half day kindergarten here and my son is worn out by the end of the week. I can't imagine full day at this age. It's just too much. Add in a couple of extra activities and they are 'working' longer hours than we are. We stick to the rule of one activity at a time. If it is tball season and he wants to play then that's it, Karate is out for those couple of months. It is just too much. We didn't schedule anything this summer, we just did whatever we felt like doing that day and man was it perfect. The whole family was just relaxed and happy, especially the kids. They have their whole lives to spend working. Not to mention you could teach them what they learn in school in at least half the time.

Posted by: michelle at September 22, 2010 3:47 PM

I could not handle your commute. It takes me 20 minutes to drive to work and maybe half and hour to drive home. Too short to even call it a commute.

As for Mia and full day Kindergarten, I suppose it depends on what she is doing for a full day. I'm sure that she is at a fantastic school with great teachers that are doing all sorts of creative and enriching activities. So, those are all good for her, right? As well, is there nap time?

I currently teach 3rd Grade, so they are used to the full day routine. I used to teach 1st Grade, the first year in our system where they are at school for a full day. I found that most of the kids were very tired at the beginning of the year but after about 6 weeks they had adapted. In terms of age, all of them turned 6 by the end of December.

I think we are all very busy. Personally, I like it. I was part of the first generation of kids to rush from activity to activity after school. Of course, I walked to school and ate lunch at home, so I think that there is a difference with the pace in that regard.

Posted by: Heather at September 22, 2010 4:19 PM

ugh, we are definitely working ourselves to death! with no relief for our kids in sight, except for the fact that right now they might not have jobs waiting for them at all once they need one... see? i KNEW i could find a silver lining! :p

Posted by: kati at September 22, 2010 4:37 PM

I ended up getting disability benefits last fall as a result of PTSD. It had gotten so bad that I could no longer deal with the stress of the work environment, one exactly as you had described it. My therapist has made the observation - at least 20% of our population cannot handle working in the way that our economy/society has dictate. I think it's a lot more than that honestly.

Posted by: Heather at September 22, 2010 4:42 PM

We are, but what can we do about it? I work 8 hours a day, and depending on my location, I have a 30 or 45 minute commute. When I get home, I exercise, eat dinner/clean up, and do school work. I have zero time to myself. But stuff has to be done, so how can we make it better?

Posted by: Stephanie at September 22, 2010 6:30 PM

I definitely think we are a work-obsessed culture. I feel like we spend all our time working just to get by only to do it all over again. that attitude is extended to our kids as evidenced by all day Kinder now the norm. That's a long day. It's rather depressing.

Posted by: Sarah at September 22, 2010 7:13 PM

Dude, even in high school my day was 8:30 - 2:00. Poor little Mia. Then again, she sounds like a firecracker, so I'm sure she could run circles around me at any age.

My life is all about living at a slow pace. Downside: most of my college friends now make a lot more money than my family does. Upside: I read 100 pages today, made squash pasta sauce, and played guitar with my toddler. Except for a morning playdate, nothing was scheduled.

Beth's summer at the pool sounds ideal. I mean, wasn't that the norm when we were growing up? Wasn't the whole point of financial success that we'd have more leisure time? What happened to that?

Posted by: Laura Gato at September 22, 2010 10:04 PM

It's amazing what consumes our time. And for Mia, I totally understand. We're seeing the same thing with our 6 year old. You've given me something to blog about...Thanks!

Posted by: L y s h a at September 22, 2010 10:12 PM

That's an insanely long day. I'm not married, I don't have kids, and I'm only in my early 30s, but I rarely make plans for Friday nights. Why? Because by the end of a 40-hour week (that is usually more like 50 or 60 hours), I am beat. I need that night to veg out a bit. I've noticed that a lot of my friends - and def the ones with kids - are the same way.

What I find happening to me more and more is that I work late and then by the time I get home at 9 or so, I want a few hours to eat dinner and unwind and bam! suddenly it's after midnight, I've caught my second wind and I'm surfing the Internet. I will be tired tomorrow, less productive as a result, and work late to make up for it. It's a vicious cycle.

Our country is most definitely obsessed with the whole workaholic thing. People in other countries (for the most part) seem to get more time off - which they actually take - and enjoy their time more. Here it's all go, go, go all the time. It feels like too much.

Posted by: erin at September 23, 2010 12:33 AM

I remember starting school at 7:30 and getting out at 2:20. I remember way back before that going to a Christian private school and regularly getting my backside paddled for getting in trouble- something my parents never knew about until years later when I told them, and then I learned that school was shut down for child abuse. Go figure. I remember being unpopular through all my school years. I remember beating up boys. That pretty much sums it up.. lol.

Posted by: Debra at September 23, 2010 11:19 PM

I completely agree that modern people work way too much. Americans in particular. At the least we should be doing 4, 10-hour days. I'd gladly do 10 hour days to have a third day off each week.

Posted by: Mark V at September 24, 2010 12:17 PM

I can't believe Kindergarten is such a long day. Here in Canada it is normally a half day.

I have a sort of long drive to work, I know it could be worse but I live in one corner of the city and my work is in the opposite corner. Takes about 40 min to get there and up to 1 hour to get home. Depending on traffic and construction. There is endless construction to drive through no matter which way you go. But I love were I work so I suffer through the driving.

Posted by: Adi at September 25, 2010 11:41 AM