Interesting human interest article in the Wall Street Journal earlier this week about people struggling with their return to work. Largely focused on one man who took advantage of being laid off to connect with his two youngish sons in ways he never had before. A week at a special father-son camp, informal basketball games before dinner, etc. Over the six-nine months he was unemployed, he also began exercising and lost 25 pounds. Now he’s taken a time consuming job and is ambivalent about the loss of family and personal time. He said he gets home at 6:15 and the kid’s evening routine consists of dinner, homework, and bed. And so far he’s gained back 15 of the 25 pounds.
I’m giving the author of the article a “B” because it was incomplete. Ironic that a journalist writing for the nation’s biz paper wouldn’t explore how the family might reduce their overhead in order to enjoy better balance. My guess is that man’s family, like all families I suppose, could cut expenses in myriad ways. For example, I couldn’t help but wonder how long his commute is and whether he could reduce it by moving closer to work. If I had to cut expenses in order to strike a better work-life balance one of the first things I’d do is try to move within bicycling distance of my work. Then there’s the “new necessities”, cell phones, cable television, expensive lattes in the Pacific Northwest, that few people think about in the context of how many work hours each requires. A related example that I always find odd, the triathlete with an expensive coach who complains about too little time to train.
It’s as if all of us are on a materialistic treadmill that impairs our ability to logically think through the time/material possession trade-off. I can’t downsize my life when the people on the treadmill to the right and left of me are seemingly living larger and larger. Of course their debt, like their treadmill, isn’t visible either.
Why don’t more people question “the wealthier the happier” assumption that powers the materialistic treadmill? Few of us can practice conspicuous consumption and also carve out the necessary time to enjoy close interpersonal relations with family and friends. Not everyone chooses conspicuous consumption, but most do it seems.
Why is that?