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Overworked and Overwhelmed

This weekend I did something radical, maybe even revolutionary. I didn’t work. I mean for my job. Not working is the exception, not the rule when it comes to my job. Ordinarily I work from 7:25 AM until 3:30 PM at school. I commute so I drive half an hour each way. When I come home, I make supper, relax with a cup of tea and then after the news at around 6:30 or 7:00 PM, I pull out my papers to grade. I usually finish up around 9:00. Then I get ready for bed and fall asleep by 9:30 or 10:00.

Weekends are different. I usually have to do housework and laundry on Saturday. Then I devote most of Sunday to grading papers. I’m responsible for close to 130 students. If I spend 10 minutes grading an essay, that comes out to…could someone do that math for me? I’m an English teacher. Just kidding, but you get the idea.

I realize that a certain amount of work is necessary outside of the work day; however, I’m struggling with having any sort of work life balance. I miss my husband. I miss my dog. I miss working out and going for walks. I miss writing. WOW. I really miss writing; it is my release from the stress of life. Right now I don’t have a release because my work takes up nearly all of my free time, and when I get home, I’m mentally exhausted. I have nothing left for my creative pursuits. In fact, not much of anything is left of me intellectually. All I want to do when I get home from work is veg out in front of the TV. I’m not the only one who feels this way either. I’ve spoken to many of my colleagues who feel the same way, and also many people in the work force who are not teachers also feel that they work far too much on their own time, but with the economy the way it is still, they are afraid not to.

Americans have now surpassed all other countries in the amount of time we work. It’s insane! Why is that? Is it because our jobs are so fulfilling that we only want to work, work, work? I don’t think so. I think it is because we are afraid. If we don’t do whatever is necessary, then our bosses will find someone who will. It’s a sad state of affairs that the 40 hour work week is no longer applicable to our lives. It has become a thing of the past and is ruining our health as well as stealing our leisure, the thing that makes us productive. We need that breather from work to recharge the creative well. If we don’t get that time, we have little left to give at work.

You know what? All of us should take back our weekends and our nights. They are ours to do with as we please; at least they should be. We aren’t paid to work at home unless, as a salaried employee, it is in our contracts to do so. I think what we have is “mission creep,” the tendency for a task to become unintentionally wider in scope than its initial objectives. We are so successful at our jobs that our employers are heaping more and more responsibilities onto our shoulders. I’m not sure how much longer we can keep up this kind of pace, however.

For our emotional and physical health, we should all set aside some time to pursue our hobbies and our passions. This time should come after work, at night and on our weekends.  We should all take time to be healthy. And if some of that work that is supposed to be done doesn’t get done, then it will have to wait for another day. My weekends are mine.