Last week, the company I work for announced officially that weekend work is now part of the standard Happiness Engineer role. Not every weekend, not immediately, but in the long run, we’ll be expected to work approximately 2 weekend days per month, taking those two days off within the week.
This came as no surprise. Our strategic plan for 2017 includes 24/7 support coverage as a goal – but somehow everybody seemed to expect that “others” would take care of the weekend coverage. Others, who do not have family obligations. Others, whose spouses work on weekends. Others, who prefer to shift their week to a Wednesday-Sunday schedule.
But others are rarer than we all thought, and suddenly weekend work becomes a very real threat. But a threat to what exactly?
The notion of weekend work destroys an illusion that was never meant to become reality – leaving an emptiness as profound as suddenly awakening from a beautiful dream.
The truth about my family weekends
Emotions are running high in the weekend work discussion threat. Everybody has important things to do on weekends. Kids are home, spouses don’t work, religious obligations concentrate, neighborhoods join together in washing their cars (or so I am told). The idea to be missing out on these opportunities once a month is unbearable, it seems.
But wait, what exactly am I doing on those idyllic weekends with my kids? Let me consult my time-tracking tool to get a better picture of a typical Saturday – with comments as to whether the same activity could be done on any other day in the week.
- 7am-10am – time for my long run of the week, sometimes with a running group, but very often alone. Can be moved to any other day of the week.
- 11am-1pm – weekly grocery shopping. If kids go to park with their father, it’s much easier so that’s my preference. Could do that on a random Thursday, without having to compete with 3/4th of Mataro at the cashier.
- 1pm-4pm – lunch with the kids, followed by a 2.5h long siesta (for them). I study/write/read. Lunch with the kids is nice, but then again, missing it once in a while is not a big drama.
- 4pm-6:30 pm – playground with the kids and happy shenanigans. Would NOT want to miss that, though sometimes I do.
- 7pm – dinner and kids are in bed by 8 pm.
Realistically, I could work from 7am to 4pm and still go to the park with the kids. Or I could skip the park once or twice a month – as I already do from time to time!
Maybe it’s not about quantity, but about quality. Saying that out loud is almost scary.
The idea that I enjoy 48 hours of uninterrupted blissful family time on any given weekend is… a benevolent myth. Sure enough, I would love to do that. Or at least, that’s what I tell myself, while I settle with a good book on the couch, relieved that the kids are finally in bed.
Kids grow, expectations change – and so does my job
My role as a Happiness Engineer requires me to sometimes work on weekends. That’s part of what a career in support looks like. It raises alarms left and right when I mention this. But then again, I travel to conferences, WordCamps, and meetups which usually translate into weekend work (in exotic locations). As long as I know in advance as to when I am supposed to work, I’ll find a solution.
Evidence suggests – my family weekends are a myth, unless we plan something special. And if we plan, we can just as well plan for alternatives.
I might be my kids’ mother, but I am certainly not the only important person in their lives. They can spend a day with their archeologist father, exploring the museum of natural history (sparing me yet another anthropology lecture). They can spend a day with their grandparents learning everything about birds’ voices. They can spend a day with our AuPair, taking full advantage of the mind-boggling amount of educational toys available in this house. There are many people in their lives who only have the weekend – may they enjoy it.
In the meantime, I’ll use the free day mid-week for my ultramarathon training, for grocery shopping, and maybe a massage. Because that’s also part of working a weekend a month.