Posts Tagged ‘Work’

This pandemic may have changed the idea of “Work” entirely, and it raises a set of fundamental questions that so far don’t have any clear answers.

I’ve read that among Millennials (those born between 1980 and 1994) and GenZers (born from 1997 onward) almost 90% do not want to return to their offices. States that have ended their supplemental unemployment subsidies this summer have not seen an uptick in job numbers. Everyone has a theory about why this is happening; is it due to childcare difficulties? Are we turning into a country of lazy young people?

Looking at this from a psychological angle and not as a purely economic conundrum, I sent my brother Dr Jim this essay – “Hard Work is not Inherently Virtuous,” by Elizabeth Spiers…or why do we need to feel productive in the first place? It’s asking a question I first heard asked by a Duke student at the Bride’s graduation:

“Do you want to live to work or work to live?”

He was saying he didn’t feel the need to enjoy his work so much, as long as it afforded him the time to do the things he really liked, like fishing and off-road racing. I remember Bob’s struggle with this friend’s answer because, in so many ways, being a physician was an integral part of his identity. And he always said he loved his work, which is probably why our first Millennial ended up in Med School. ER work can be like piloting an aircraft; hours of sutures and runny noses interspersed with a multiple vehicle car crash.

Not everyone has the temperament for that kind of adrenaline rush.

Then there’s the soul-crushing commute to work. Bob always liked the 30 minute drive home because he could decompress for half an hour before walking back into family life. In fact, he’d often listen to Beethoven in the car. But what if your commute was longer? What if it was an hour or an hour and a half one way?

Working from home gave me two hours back a day, which I was thrilled about because to borrow from this excellent Ed Zitron column, I think of commuting as soft wage theft. I don’t recommend inducing a deadly global pandemic as a lifehack to get out of it, but when I got that extra time as a function of one, I made a point of not immediately using it to do even more work. Instead I used it to write more in the mornings (for my own benefit, not for work reasons), read more, and watch dumb cartoons I loathe with my kid while I drink my morning coffee and he explains Minecraft arcana to me. The irony is that it’s made me enjoy work more because I don’t feel like I’m giving all of my waking hours to other people. I get to hoard more for myself.”


This is why the Bride lives just ten minutes away from her hospital, and why the Rocker’s studio will be a part of his home. Aunt Kiki has been stuck working from home during the pandemic. She is a designer with a good sized firm, and she told me she misses the collaboration and creative stimulation of her office space. California is slowly opening back up as immunizations rise, so maybe by the time they move into their new house she’ll be able to return to her company. I was trying to imagine designing a hotel or whatever on a Zoom call, although I did “attend” a Bar Mitzvah remotely!

But what if you just don’t find your work very gratifying? What if you were for instance, pre-Pandemic sitting in a cubicle doing data entry? We’re talking about white collar jobs as opposed to factory work… or Amazon warehouse work. One of the Bride’s friends is a single mom and she works for a big insurance company, she had to juggle her child’s remote learning with her own deadlines. Will some of this work-home tension end when our little ones can be vaccinated and schools open next month?

“The lack of imagination is disheartening. The office may be an oasis when home is dreary and claustrophobic, (or vice versa) but when schools, cafes and co-working spaces open, the world will be different.” Younger people may be better prepared to handle a hybrid future encompassing WFH, after all they are digital natives.

It’s like the L’il Pumpkin said, “Why write a letter when you can make a Clip?” IF you love what you do, if your work brings you joy, then it’s never work right? That’s why I can’t fault these “TikTokers” and “Influencers” for starting trends and cashing in. The border between work and home is rapidly becoming more amorphous, and like most of my generation, I’m not so sure that’s a good thing. Here is Bob relaxing on vacation, and he’s not reading a medical journal!

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I’ve always said it’s easier for a woman in our golden years, or silver years, because we have always had certain routines. Centuries of domestic duties, child and elder care responsibilities. Maybe it’s just my generation, but for the most part we were the gardeners and the gatherers, we kept the home fires burning. Some men do, however, take up cooking and laundering once they retire, if they don’t find themselves “consulting” on a golf course.

Our last night in Nashville, I found myself frying up some catfish and shrimp for a crowd. And although I was in pain from a fall off a step, I was happy to be useful. Having a purpose, isn’t that the raison d’etre for woman and mankind?

But for young women today, the roles are not so clearly drawn. We raised our daughters to believe they too could be President one day (say this aloud again and again please); women could bear the babies and bring home the bacon. Anything. Was. Possible. I told the Bride again and again. Books advised them to Lean IN, and maybe their pay wasn’t quite up to par, but opportunities were endless! Of course, money helps…

And wealth, a staggering amount of wealth may not bring you happiness, but it certainly helps with childcare. Strangely enough, I understand how Ivanka Trump could praise her daddy at the Berlin G20 Women’s Summit. Next to the leader of the free world, Angela Merkel, Ivanka spoke of empowering women everywhere, and said she thought the media was giving her father a bad rap. It’s not his draconian policies or paternalistic pugilistic attitude toward women, it’s the big bad media.

“He encouraged me and enabled me to thrive. I grew up in a house where there were no barriers to what I could accomplish,” Ivanka told a German panel. http://www.bbc.com/news/world-us-canada-39704840

She actually grew up in several houses, with many helpers, cooks and chauffeurs and a daddy who treated her like a real princess, in a tower. He left her mother when she was ten years old for a younger model and shipped her off to a boarding school five years later. Which is most likely why the German audience audibly groaned when she defended her father and her upbringing.

After all, how many women are struggling single-handedly to raise their children and put food on the table in our country? At least in Germany, parental leave is a tangible thing – 14 months of paid parental leave after having a baby, for both or even one parent… And once they go back to work? The German government is dedicated to provide childcare for its children, so that women and men can return to work. In fact, if there are no available kinder-spots, parents can actually sue the government! https://www.theatlantic.com/business/archive/2017/01/german-childcare/512612/

Of all the president’s men, I am at least slightly optimistic about Ivanka. She talks a good game about empowering women, and I want to believe her. She has her father’s ear, though exactly what her role will be in the White House is anybody’s guess. Remember that FDR was born to the carriage trade, but had the courage to steer us through the Great Depression and understand the working class. Maybe Ivanka will help us pass the Equal Rights Amendment (ERA), which just passed in Nevada this March without much fanfare.

Or will Mr T, like King Lear, give away our kingdom to the highest bidders and his two sons, turning away from Cordelia/Ivanka in the end? I hope she comes back from Germany soon, to steer her aging father away from the precipice. And his Twitterfeed.

Here is Nana doing preschool pickup, #beforethefall.    IMG_0360


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“Do we have any plans?”

A simple question yes, but I’ve been hearing it alot lately. At the end of this month my husband Bob will retire. You heard me correctly, he will hang up his stethoscope for maybe the last time. And like most American housewives of the newly retired, I am beginning to wonder what the rest of my life will be like.

Our cousin Anita tells me that men who golf do much better in retirement. Her friends are not complaining so much. They don’t require lunch, they make dates with their friends and get their manly fix swinging sword-like putters on the golf course, returning home from their natural habitat conquering (or quivering) heroes.

Bob doesn’t golf. But he does fly.

Unfortunately, someone is flying up from Florida this weekend (we shall see how Hurricane Matthew affects this plan) to buy his little Arrow four-seater. It’s been on the market since his surgery last year; so hanging in the hangar so to speak will be off the table.

Our friend MJ tells me that when her husband retired, at about the same time her daughter’s family moved out of her second floor and into their new newly built home, she was trepidatious. After all, her husband was a businessman who travelled the world frequently. But men in the business world can remain as consultants, and that is exactly what her husband has done. Plus, he can drop in on his grand daughter anytime he wants.

Bob’s always been the leader of his pack, the director, the owner.

Bob’s grandkids are in Nashville with my grandkids and doctors rarely consult after retirement. When we visited his UVA doctor this past year for a check-up – a man about the same age who is cutting back on patients and teaching more – he swiveled away from his computer and looked Bob right in the eye, saying bluntly.

“What are you going to do? You’re not the kind of guy who goes to Lowe’s every day.”

True. And do doctors ever really retire? I’ve known some to work right up into their 80s, but these are usually Internists, GPs who sit and swivel mostly. Not ER docs who run around the clock moving all sorts of serious and semi-serious emergencies in and out the doors like a Roadrunner…24/7 every day of the year…

It’s hard to imagine my husband doing nothing, literally. And to be honest, there are a few new things he can dabble with in medicine. After all, he’s been doing telemedicine his whole life with our family and friends. Rashes are sent via text, foreign objects in the eye are discussed. But the cord to a hospital will be cut for good.

He doesn’t do laundry, even though he likes folding. He is an excellent sous chef in the kitchen, when asked. And strangely enough, I didn’t think this whole retirement phase would bother me. After all, he never worked a 9 to 5 job and often works weekends and holidays; I am used to him puttering around the house, mowing the lawn on good ole John Deere, editing medical journals in his office and catching up with charts. Once upon a time he would cut down trees for firewood and tend a garden…

Long ago I put my foot down – I don’t do lunch. So when Bob’s home during the day, we often go out to lunch, or just “pick.” That’s one of those generational things, like Ada makes lunch for the world should they stop by. That greatest generation would leave a cooked dinner covered in the fridge for the hubby if they happened to be out one night. Millennials order food online and cook it together.

My generation was stuck in the middle, fledgling feminists feeling the need to hunt and supply a “home-cooked” meal every night. Last night I made bangers and mash. WHY? Because sausages were on sale at Whole Foods, and I was thinking about those beer gardens in Eastern Europe since a friend is posting her travel pix on Facebook! Thank God I didn’t Instagram it.

Last night I politely asked Bob to stop asking me about plans. He said he thinks maybe he should get another job! Will we travel more? Take long walks on the beach? Talk? Make more vegetable soup? To quote Disney’s Chef Gusteau:   793759230-f6b3178ce351ee8f3901fe91febe95fb

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