Over my lunch break I came across an interesting article on Slate called “Why You Shouldn’t Work Less: Even if you prefer spending time with your family.” Having just spent three weeks on vacation from work I can very much relate. Even though I loved spending time with my family I was definitely ready to get back to work.
What I found disturbing, however, was the author’s criteria for determining how much time you should spend with your family vs. how much time you should spend at work. From the article:
“Knowing this [that people get bored], how do you divide your time to make yourself as happy as possible? It’s simple: The last hour of your time doing each activity should contain equal amounts of happiness. If I spend eight hours at work and three with my daughter, then this is ideal if the eighth hour at work has the same amount of happiness as the third hour with her.” (Emphasis mine)
Again, to the question of how you would spend an extra hour in the week:
“If the answer is that you’d much rather spend that hour with your family, you are spending too much time at work. If the answer is that you’d much rather spend that hour at work, you are spending too much time with your kids. If the answer is that some weeks you’d work, some you’d stay with the family, then congratulations: You are as happy as you can be.” (Emphasis mine)
Notice the criteria for making decisions about how to spend your time: personal happiness.
What about the impact on your children? What about your relationship with your spouse? It’s OK to consider your own happiness in making decisions, but things get pretty imbalanced if you let that be the major criteria for how you spend your time.
There are many times when I’m not particularly enthused about reading “If you give a mouse a cookie” for the third time in a row but I’m a dad, and doing my job as a dad matters, even if it’s not the thing that will make me as happy as I can be.