I was discussing vacation plans with one of the British moms. We swapped stories — me excitedly explaining that the PunditMom family would be away for about ten days in August.
She was appalled. Why?
Because her family is leaving tomorrow for their holiday and won’t be back for a month.
Plus, they’ve already had a week at the beach. Just time together as a family to hang out.
For her, that much time off in the summer with family is normal and expected, even for people who have high intensity jobs that are time-demanding during the rest of the year. That’s some serious downtime for reconnecting with the family and discovering true relaxation. Then, everyone is ready to plunge back into the routine of work and school with new attitudes and energy.
You just don’t get that when you’re only away for a week and a half.
It’s not that American families wouldn’t like to park the kids beachside or in a mountain cabin for a couple of fortnights. It’s just another example of how we haven’t yet figured out how to view people as more than money-making commodities. (Is that you out there Ebeneezer?).
To many businesses, there is no value in workers who are relaxed and rejuvenated. Just keep the cogs in the wheels moving. And it occurred to me that it’s the same story no matter what kind of time off employees want or need.
Just as employers don’t view parents who take time off for sick children or school plays as committed as those who don’t, they also don’t look kindly on those who think that paid vacation days are actually there to be used.
When I was a young associate at a law firm, oh so many years ago, I was tickled pink to find out that in my first year I would get three glorious weeks of vacation — more than I had ever been entitled to in any other job! I quickly learned, though, that it was a choice that would impact my career — you could take the time off, but you sure wouldn’t be viewed as a serious player if you took it all.
As you might guess, I ultimately didn’t last — for me, what was the point of making all that money if it was expected that I would never take more than a few days here and there? My sanity needed more than that.
It’s even worse now, with those electronic umbilical cords we all can’t seem to function without. We’re never more than a couple clicks away, even when we’re on another continent.
At some point, won’t American workers crumble under the weight of employers’ expectations that we should take as little time as possible? Then who’s going to keep those cogs turning?