03 Jan 2013

Work is one of the most commonly accepted concepts we subscribe to. What does that mean? To me it means the majority of us believe work is a worthwhile endeavor, one that helps us build the lives we want and one that gives our lives some sort of meaning and ourselves a sense of self-worth. There is an assumption that “work” is a linear path. We enter the work force on a full-time basis in our twenties and we stay there until our sixties. Perhaps as women we may take a few years off to care for our children (because someone needs to and good quality accessible daycare is not always available or affordable). But then the goal for many is to return to work full-time to continue building their careers. Others may take part-time positions with less responsibility (and lower pay- the pink collar ghetto) because it works better for their families, though perhaps not for their lives as individuals. And this becomes the point of divergent thought.

What if we tossed out the idea that one’s career (work) determined one’s self-worth and replaced it with the idea that building the life we wanted to live was what determined success and a sense of well being? Intellectually we know the belief that a successful career guarantees or buys you the life you want is false. Yet, it is such a strong belief that we are drawn again and again into believing this will make us happy. (Maybe sucked in is a better term).

I know in my family whenever my workload increased we ate more take-out, less vegetables, drank more wine (the adults only) and interacted less with one another. There was more money in the bank, less time to spend it, and less time to enjoy other things and one another. We were all quietly relieved when I had less work, though it would at time make me anxious and feel like I wasn’t fulfilling my potential or moving quickly enough along that optimum career path. It is hard to fight against a socially constructed and structurally ingrained belief whether it works for or against your wellbeing: even more so when you are in constant motion running a household, raising children or caring for elderly parents. Who has the time to step back and say, “This isn’t working- what would be better?” and to figure out what that would be.

One of the critical underlying beliefs supporting the drive to get back and stay on the linear career pathway is that once someone leaves the career pathway, there are limited means of reconnecting with it and little knowledge of other pathways that may provide interesting work with the necessary flextime required to make the other parts of one’s life come together. The fear we won’t be able to reconnect and our self worth will be less is one fear that not only drags us back onto this inflexible pathway but also stops dialogue about how it just doesn’t work for many in our society, especially women. So what if, like the embedded video on a Massachusetts company whose average employee age is 74, work were a flexible concept whose place in our lives reflected the current context of our lives. And what if it actually retained the flexibility to expand and contract as the circumstances of our lives provided us with more and also less time for “work”. Would we be healthier? Perhaps less medicated? And maybe even more inclined to change our society for the better? And what if businesses saw the value in thinking this way?
Manufacturer Vita Needle Finds Investment in Older Workers Turns a Big Profit

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