Award-winning journalist, The Washington Post; Fellow, New America Foundation and Author
Overwhelmed: Work, Love, and Play When No One Has the Time
A recent study by the nonpartisan, nonprofit RAND Corporation found that 60% of Americans say they work while on vacation. 40% checked email, 20% checked voicemail, 25% took phone calls – and 12% “worked like normal.” Even more alarming is that barely half of all workers even took a vacation; but then, the United States is the only advanced economy in the world with no paid vacation at all. Work weeks of 50 hours or more are now routine. Is this the “Good Life” that futurists predicted for us decades earlier, a life filled with leisure to pursue interests and spend time with friends and family? Our modern technology was predicted to bring us ease and contentment, yet Americans work longer hours than ever, quality childcare is expensive and hard to find, and even if we do manage to scrape together some leisure time, there’s no one around to share it with – they’re all busy.
Award-winning Washington Post reporter Brigid Schulte is the author of one of the top books of 2014: Overwhelmed: Work, Love, and Play When No One Has the Time. For two years she traveled the globe interviewing time researchers, corporate management gurus, parents, meditation teachers, psychologists, sociologists, neuroscientists, anthropologists, and government officials, seeking to learn if it is possible for working parents in America to ever find leisure time. Must we resign ourselves to lives of all work and no play? Can parents achieve an equitable division of labor at home? How does a constant state of being overwhelmed physically affect our bodies and brains? What are some practical solutions to make time for the things that matter most?
For women, the image of the perfect mom/wife/woman is ubiquitous. Even now, in 2015, mothers who hold jobs still do twice the amount of housework and childcare as fathers. Women are still the primary caretakers, yet today’s modern workplace and 24/7/365 digital connectivity guarantee that working mothers have never been as burdened as they are today. There is no “off,” no “done with work.” There’s just the chime of a new email message, a new text, a phone call, a crying infant, a teen who needs to be dropped at sports practice, birthday parties to plan. To be clear, men are suffering, too – the contemporary career landscape for all is unforgiving and draconian. The level of exhaustion and stress among Americans has never been higher, our mental and physical health is compromised, and frustration is acute. What will it take to enact a paradigm shift for work, love, and play?