Oh, the 40 hour work week. That standard full-time schedule gets thrown around as if it’s the norm for most working adults. When it comes to time management, plenty of specialists cite 40 hours a week as if that’s all the time a person actually puts towards their job.
Even our recent extremely intelligent interviewee Laura Vanderkam discussed the 40 hour week when she suggested that working mothers weigh the true financial costs of working part-time. A big part of Vanderkam’s argument was that working a full-time job still leaves you with 72 hours a week to spend with your family. And she’s right, 72 hours is a lot of time.
But as a working mother, I found myself spending a lot more than 40 hours away from my daughter. There are a whole lot of other time drains that kept me from quality family time, and I think that we need to look at the whole picture if we want a realistic view of working motherhood.
Follow the math with me:
7 days a week = 168 hours
8 hours of sleep – 56 hours
“Expected” work work – 40 hours
Unpaid lunches – 5 hours
Commute and Travel time (with additional consideration for daycare drop-off) – 6 hours
Necessary Overtime – 5 hours
Work outside of the Office (social functions and checking email from home) – 5 hours
For me, that left approximately 51 hours a week to spend with my daughter, not 72. And those 21 hours make a pretty big difference. Just the commute and lunch break put my daughter in daycare 50 hours a week, as opposed to 40.
When we’re talking about work/life balance, it’s simply not realistic to talk about a full-time job only using 36% of your waking hours. That’s really not true. The more accurate approximation is closer to 63%. That leaves a lot less time available for social engagements, family activities and simply eating a meal together with your spouse or your kids. It affects your priorities in a very real way.
I believe that we should all continue discussing work/life balance. I think that it’s important to find time to make our children a priority. But the best way to do that is to start with realistic figures. And 40 hours a week simply doesn’t cover what a full-time job demands.
(Photo: This Public Address)