Most evenings I catch myself slipping “homework” into my satchel as I’m straightening my desk to leave the office. Granted, since I work for a magazine, it’s usually something I can read with my feet up and a lap full of cats after supper. Still, I have to ask myself–why am I bringing work home? I don’t get paid for the work I do at home and I’m not getting behind; I know I’m not alone as I notice everyone else slipping files and papers and binders into their briefcases too. What are we doing? What happened to “leaving work at the office?”
I believe we have fallen victims to the multi-task myth–this idea that truly efficient and worthy people are never doing only one thing at a time. The lines between work and play and family and community have all become blurred and smooshy. Maybe we bring work home because we’re trying to balance things out for the fact that we bring our private lives to the office–online shopping, personal calls, making appointments on our cell phones in the hallway. But, the problem with bringing work home is that we never fully get to leave work. We end up trapped in our work identity and productivity mode 24 hours a day.
I can’t speak for anyone else, but I know I work twice as hard now for less money than I did twenty years ago. I’m forced to pay an increasingly growing amount for “my share” of health insurance, benefits dwindle, and the policy handbook gets thicker. As a single parent, I could write the handbook on multi-tasking and every task and activity in my life seems to overlap with everything else. My life has reached a point where bringing work home with me feels natural and typical.
I think the root of multi-tasking just might be fear. I’ve contemplated drawing more distinct lines between work, family, socializing, etc. but there is the underlying fear that if I take my focus off one of the areas in my life even for a moment (or an evening), it will disintegrate. If I don’t make every school meeting, game and band concert then I’ll fail as a parent, if at least a portion of my brain isn’t on work all the time, then I’m a lousy employee. It’s a trap. A maze with no outlet.
What if we all decided to refuse to take the bait? What if we left those files and documents and PAPERS at the office and walked out whistling, heading home to do…home things? What if we worked to support our lives instead of living to support our work? What if we actually slowed down and did one thing at a time, carefully, surely and completely? What if?