Am I? Are You? Are We All?

"Hi, my name is Liz and I'm a workaholic."

No, I haven't said those words yet in any official space, but maybe, quite possibly, I should. You see, yesterday I heard a question that annoys the heck out of me, and I heard it about six times: "How do you do it all?"

In response, I found myself joking, "Well, because I have no life." Then I said some mess about staying organized and being able to prioritize and "take care of the big rocks first".

Co-workers who are single and have no children are asking me this question. They're dying emotionally and physically because they're exhausted by our work schedule. So, what's my deal? How come I'm not in the same boat? My efficiency and ability to prioritize is pretty good, but it's not that good.

Driving home from work at 7 pm, I started to think about how my mom told me a few years ago that I was a workaholic. I can get pretty bristly when I get criticized by my mother. Being told, "You're a workaholic, just like your dad," was definitely a bristle-upping moment. You see, sometimes when she talks, all these memories start running through my head, ones that have nothing to do with the topic at hand, and before you know it, I'm reliving experiences and feeling emotions that are better off left alone unless I'm going to seriously consult a therapist...which perhaps I should do. But maybe, just maybe, my mom was on to something with this workaholic thing.

There have been plenty of other kinds of addicts in my family and even though I'm not a drug user or alcoholic, perhaps I also have addictive behaviors that I'm just choosing to ignore. I came home and, not knowing if it existed or not, I googled "workaholics anonymous".

The organization does exist and they have a quiz, helpfully titled: Twenty Questions: How Do I Know If I'm A Workaholic?

I took the quiz, and apparently, if you answer "yes" to three or more questions, ta-da, you may be a workaholic.

I answered yes to almost half of the questions.

Some of them were questions I thought were silly like, "Do you work more than 40 hours a week?" Umm, everyone I know does that. But other questions like, "Do you think about your work while driving, falling asleep or when others are talking?" were interesting to think about. Sure, I have dreams about being at work. Then, one of the first things I do in the morning when I wake up is check my work email and respond to any emails that have come in overnight. But that's because I know they need answering and I can't very well answer them when I'm out driving between schools (although I have tried to pick up wireless signals while sitting in really bad traffic).

On the one hand, I could justify all this by saying I really care about what I do...but then that was another question. "Do you think it's ok to work long hours if you love what you do?"

It's so hard in our culture to find balance when the work never stops, and when the first one to snooze, loses. If I stop responding to emails or phone calls after 6pm, if I don't do any work on the weekend at all, that doesn't mean my colleagues are going to stop all that. And let's face it, that's who I'm competing against for recognition, promotions, etc. Everyone around me is talking about how they were out at meetings with people till ten at night...and their workday started at like 7 am. Then there's me. Most nights, I'm trying to be home by six, but I may check my email, make phone calls and work on projects till 8 or 9. I justify working like this by saying, "At least I'm at home doing it. At least my family sees me, even if I'm reading documents half the time."

Does this make me a workaholic? I don't know. It's something to think about...

I guess I wonder, are there any decent paying jobs left in the world where you aren't expected to be connected and available at all times? Are there any jobs where people really are only working 40 hours a week?

And now, off I go to work.


Dena said…
it's not my ideal dream job, but i am only putting in a 40 hour work week....i don't have to take any work home...and i don't think about work when i'm not at work.
gee.....i'm lucky!
Jon said…
You should work at not being a workaholic, but don't work at it to hard. If you do, you might become a workaholic about not being a workaholic. Wait... now i'm confused. I hate it when that happens.
Unknown said…
I am soa workaholic. No quiz needed.
Liz Dwyer said…
You ARE lucky...and I'm jealous. Bwaah.

Hah! Good point. I think I stress about this stuff waay too much.

I kinda guessed I didn't need the quiz either, but I figured it wouldn't hurt to find out for sure.
Come to France, we only work 35 hour a week :)
Ms Melancholy said…
This seems to be a particular problem in the US, although the UK is, apparently, moving in the same direction. The mediterranean countries seem to have a much better balance: they take time for a huge lunch of 'proper' food and then siesta for a couple of hours. My sister works in Italy and a portion of her working day is spent sitting at pavement cafes drinking espressos and arguing politics with her colleagues. It is all just so civilised. We are a society heading for a collective nervous breakdown if we try to work 60 hour weeks. I am lucky in that I only work about 30 hours a week, including admin time, and I still barely find the time to do what I want to do outside of work.

I enjoy your blog a lot, by the way, and have added you to my blogroll x
Liz Dwyer said…
Le Nightowl,
35 hours a week. Goodness, I would LOVE to come work in France... but, isn't there that pesky thing called a workers permit?

Ms. Melancholy,
I hope for your sake that the UK doesn't totally go the way of the US. I wonder what it would take to move us all in the direction the Italians? I added you to my blogroll too!

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