Monday, 18 January 2016
Last year, I nearly walked off the job because I was overtired, mentally exhausted, and felt as if I didn’t exist. Work-life balance? What a joke!
You see, my schedule requires the following: 20 minute drive in either direction to work. 1 hour lunch. I teach a total of 8.5 hours / day, without a break, without prep time. Technically, I am not to leave the classroom to go to the bathroom. This is in a public school. (I hear in Europe there is 1 hour prep for each hour taught, and apparently the same exists for the community college. But, in the K-12 system I work for, this is non-existent.)
My total day is about 11 hours, and I work through my lunch hour nearly every day, and come in early. I have to do attendance, create lessons, write things down, make copies – all on my time. No comp time. No extra pay. I do it all for free. As a “professional” this is expected of me. In other words, I am forced to volunteer my time, without a thank you, without recognition. And, I am paid on an hourly basis, versus a salary.
Cost vs. Benefit
Life-work balance is important, and it differs for each of us. Some people love working, can do it all day long, whether it is for an employer or for their own businesses. For me, this is not healthy. I need time for myself, to be quiet, to think my thoughts, to do the things in life which give me pleasure. An 11-hour work day does not permit this. Getting home at 7 p.m. does not allow much in the way of an evening to enjoy family or have personal time, more so when I go to bed at 9, and get up at 6. This work schedule comes at a great cost to me personally. Additionally, it is very difficult to schedule time to see to my health when a lot of doctors now work M-Th, and I have to find someone to work with me if I need to take time off. In a school with highly specialized instructors, there is not a group pool of substitute teachers to pull from.
What are the benefits? I do have a 3-day weekend, but the perceived benefit is lost when there is scurrying around to do other things that could have been done during the week if the workday was not so long. Household chores, money management, whatever, need be done. The major benefits of the job are two-fold: good retirement benefits for the rest of my life and that of my husband, and good health care benefits. On a personal level, I work with great people, and for a job to leave on retirement, I know I will leave liking what I have done, and liking the people with whom I have worked. That is a great psychological benefit, which, when remembered, takes away some of the attitude problems that develop from time to time.
What to Do?
In reality, I don’t think I can do too much other than to make sure that I have some “me” time during the hours before and after work. I say “no” to a lot of things, such as “professional development” that requires 4 hours in a car for an 8 hour seminar that begins at 8 because the district is too cheap to pay for an overnight stay. “No” has a lot of power. So does “Yes.” And I will say “Yes” to continuing my job, reminding myself of the benefits more than the costs, and generally work toward a rah-rah-rah attitude. Exercising also helps dispel negative energy – working a long day that is not physically active is not especially healthy.
I realize that perhaps this is not the most inspirational of posts, but this is the reality of my current work situation. Counting Mondays is actually quite fun! But, addressing the devil is facing the problem, and putting it out there. Mayhap I will find a way to make things a bit better – it certainly does help to write about it.
The action plan is always what puts change in the forefront and helps it happen. So . . . doing it means that I am doing (and trying to do):
- running 2-3 times per week with a friend, and by myself (definitely harder to do!)
- work on photography, designing, knitting, writing, reading
- setting aside time for “must do” and “fun to do” things
The last – setting aside time for the “must do” list is actually getting easier. I usually prefer to do the “pain before pleasure” approach to tasks, but with my focusing more on the finances and budget, this seems to be easier. Interesting correlation, don’t you think? As a result, I completed an evaluation, a portfolio, and 3 mandated lesson plans. Today is for me . . . the days I did the “musts” I made sure I had “me” time, and it seems to have worked.
Financial planning makes planning in other areas a lot easier!
And how do you deal with your devils?