Monday, February 16, 2009

The Ever-Growing American Workweek

Out of the kindness of his heart, Hubby is filling-in on third shift this week so that a colleague can receive training that's only offered during the day.

After a fantastically wonderful Valentine's weekend with the perfect balance of family time and alone time, it was tough to send him off to work last night at 10 p.m. Needless to say, I am a tired shell of my usual self -- on a day the children have off from school!

If I were a good mother, I would have "presidential" things planned. We would be coloring free activity pages about George Washington and Abraham Lincoln. We would have left at dawn to reach the Abraham Lincoln Presidential Library and Museum in Springfield for a day of presidentially-focused fun. We would be feasting on cherries from morning till night.

We aren't.

We breakfasted in hushed tones and the children are playing in their basement playroom to keep from waking Daddy. In a half hour, we'll probably walk a mile or so to the local AMBUCS playground so that they can be loud and crazy. So they can be kids.

The one thing this turn at third shift is helping me to realize is that there are way too many people working in the middle of the night in this country.

I mean, really. Why? Are they doing something so very essential that no one could live without it being done in the middle of the night?!?? I think about the businesses here in town that are open all night (and the people working in them) and I cannot fathom why it is necessary.

The American workweek has been expanded beyond the point of reason. Not only do many wage earners work Saturdays and Sundays, others have to carry around the infernal Blackberry -- essentially tethering themselves to the MotherShip of Work even in their off-hours.

What would change if we were to reinstate some limits on the American Workweek?

- More Americans would get a good night's sleep. There would be less road rage as a result and probably less abuse of all kinds. There would be more smiling for no reason. Overall, a positive change.

- The only people not getting more sleep would be emergency workers, the people who make donuts, and one drug store in each town (parent's have to be able to pick up their late-night baby Tylenol ration somehow!) Another exception would be cat burglars and arsonists, but police- and firemen would remain on night duty, too (with plenty of donuts). So, problem solved.

- Families could get used to being around each other again. When I think about how many people in this country are doing what we're doing this week, kissing goodbye at 10pm, it makes me sad. How much stronger could marriages be if Moms and Dads actually slept the same hours? How much happier would kids be if everyone had the energy to play when they do?

- Think about the energy saved if businesses were not running their lights and machinery and heat and air conditioning all night long. Lots.

- There would be a dramatic increase in the quality of youth sports, because the majority of the population would have Saturday off. The exceptions to the Saturday off rule would have to be donut shops (again), restaurants, bowling alleys, grocery stores, museums, and roller rinks.

-We could reserve Sunday as a day for picnics and long walks. Only balloon stands, zoos, ice cream shops, parks, (and of course churches) need to remain open. If there's ice cream, we don't need donuts.

- Truckers who prefer to drive at night wouldn't have to worry about snoozing third-shifters making their way home. On the other hand, more people would be available to go to bars or stay late at Aunt Mildred's for the semi-annual Euchre tournament... So that one's a wash.

- An entire industry could be spawned making signs that say CLOSED. How's that for economic stimulus?

Of course, you know this list is tongue-in-cheek... sort of. Part of me does wonder how efficient we can possibly be as a country when we're working ourselves into the ground all day and all night.

Maybe I just think that the only 24-7 jobs should be the ones that people would do even without being paid -- just because they're called to do them.

Motherhood and Fatherhood qualify.

Keeping the McDonald's drive-thru open does not.

Fighting fires or manning the emergency room qualifies.

Wal-mart photo developing does not.

Now, you weigh in.

Think about it... what value do you put on work in your life? Is it appropriate?

What would you be willing to sacrifice in one area to gain in another?

Do you have a compelling reason why Larry's Kountry Bread Shoppe needs to be open 24 hours? (After all, they don't even make donuts...)

Are there other businesses that are essential to your late-night well-being?

I can't wait to hear your thoughts.

- Midwest Mom


  1. I believe a lot has to change and I'm with you on the points you made. It seems we need a good edit on "The American Way" - get back to a more basic style of life, slow down, don't make living so complicated. Things have been speeding up drastically in the last decades, emphasis is on more, better, faster. Hate to think it would take a totally failed economy to wake us up but........

  2. Lets hope some things change, I like your post and as you :) we're having pretty slow day around here :)

  3. I do see your point, and there are probably lots of places that don't have to be open 24 hours a day, but as a single person who doesn't have a partner at home to run errands while I'm at work all day, there are some things that I really appreciate being able to patronize on weekends and late evenings - the grocery store, the post office, the dry cleaners, the drug store, etc.

  4. I understand where Liz is coming from, but the majority of people who are working in the middle of the night aren't manning a cash register -- they're making things. I wonder whether a return to craftsmanship and a renewed focus on making quality products wouldn't do us all a world of good.

    But I see your point about the donuts, too. Good anytime of day or night. Mmmm.

  5. You've got some really great points. I agree, kids really need their mother and father to be there. Just one is simply not enough. But I guess everyone is just simply working hard for their family and for themselves.

    Seems like you have a huge deal with donuts! I really enjoyed your blog, Midwest Mom! I hope the economy gets better. Well, if only each and every one would cooperate..

    Much Love,

  6. Being LDS, we believe to "keep the sabbath day holy" and that basically means no doing much of anything. No shopping. No doing anything that requires anyone else to be working. While I slave over some large dinners on Sunday, that is the extent of work that should be going on Sundays.

    That said, my husband does work every other Saturday from about 8am-12 or 1pm. And his phone is constantly on him and he does get phone calls all weekend long. I've literally been in the car with him for over 20 minutes Saturday afternoon before he is off the phone and I can get a word in.


Talk to me.