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Work Versus Life Week

Friday, July 13, 2012

I might work hard and play hard, but I don't "work hard, play hard"

Posted By on 07.13.12 at 03:33 PM

I tend to live my life in extremes. But even as an extremist, nothing has made me bolt faster from a job interview than someone describing the office as a "work hard, play hard environment." That phrase is an instant cue for me to drop the best behavior and burn out of that fluorescent hell as quickly as possible. "Work hard, play hard" is the polite way of saying, "You will work your fucking ass off trying to fill unreasonable demands and you will play never." Unless of course you define "play" as being so stressed out that you get blackout drunk on a Tuesday, end up crying at the bar, and then have to fend off some d-bag in marketing who wants to take you home so he can try (and fail) to hook up with his coke-dick.

Like a lot of people who read stuff, I also read Infinite Jest . . . Or wait, no . . . I read that lengthy article in the Atlantic, "Why Women Still Can't Have It All." Aside from a multitude of other points, it got me thinking about what it means to "have it all" when it comes to work and life. Do I have a work-life balance?

I'm a 35-year-old single woman and I don't have children. I don't own a house. I don't have any money. Clearly, I don't "have it all." But what I do have is a wonderful life.

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Death by smartphone: the Pitchfork edition

Posted By on 07.13.12 at 01:50 PM

Keen product placement by Incase at Pitchfork
  • Keen product placement by Incase at Pitchfork
Yesterday morning the Reader's digital content editor, Tal Rosenberg, sent out an e-mail extensively detailing how we, the Pitchfork-attending staff of the Reader, are going to cover the festival in real time. Given, we already produced a comprehensive Pitchfork guide with write-ups of every band—as well as detailed, hour-by-hour itineraries—but the buck can't and won't stop there. Blog posts must be posted, tweets tweeted, and Instagram photos taken so they can be shared, again and again and again. Years ago, coverage of Pitchfork and like-minded megafestivals slowed after the print publication was placed in its boxes. But these days any and every music journalist and blogger is nudged (or required) to stay sober enough to spew out 140-character to 500-word musings on why the dude from Sleigh Bells is wearing a leather jacket in 95-degree heat.

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Memo to women: freeze your eggs or else

Posted By on 07.13.12 at 06:48 AM

Dont let this happen to you!
  • Don't let this happen to you!

When did the expression "having it all" come to mean "being a woman, being a 'top professional,' and having a family"? That's an easier one than the question "Why are women still presumed to be fixated on having children?"

"Having it all" took hold back in the mid-70s, when British journalist (and mother) Shirley Conran (second wife of Sir Terence Conran) published Superwoman, improbably popularizing the phrase "Life's too short to stuff a mushroom." She went on to write Futurewoman: How to Survive Life After Thirty (1979), and these days heads up a foundation called the Work-Life Balance Trust, where "life," of course, means "family."

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Thursday, July 12, 2012

A Gchat about sexuality, gender, and how they're relevant to our writing

Posted By on 07.12.12 at 02:26 PM

The Reader copy desk
  • ercwttmn
  • The Reader copy desk
What happens when two staff writers with backgrounds in copyediting have a discussion about gender, sexuality, and privacy? For one thing, they spend some time laying down ground rules about how things will be capitalized (don't worry, we cut that part out of the transcript). For another—well, they talk about some stuff. The chat below started with the much-discussed Atlantic article "Why Women Still Can't Have It All" but quickly moved on due to the fact that one of us hadn't actually read the article.

Sam: I thought [the Atlantic article] was totally underwhelming. I read it once and thought it was sort of blandly inoffensive and then I reread it on the train this morning and started scribbling angry notes in the margins.

Julia: In reaction to what?

Sam: Maybe I need an adult to talk me down. But it was so singularly focused on not just, like, run-of-the-mill upper-class women, but actually basically two types of people—diplomats and CEOs, or "C-level jobs," as the author put it—that the advice it offered would seem to be extremely limited.

Like at a certain point she's talking about her work in the State Department, where she's obviously got an insane schedule, and she says something about "the minute I found myself in a job that is typical of the vast majority of working women" to illustrate a point about "working long hours on someone else's schedule," but it's like, man, the vast majority of working women don't report to Hillary Clinton.

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Wednesday, July 11, 2012

Never mind the maternal imperative—my years as a stay-at-home dad were my best so far

Posted By on 07.11.12 at 06:43 AM

Can dads comfort babies as well as moms can?
  • paparutzi
  • Can dads comfort babies as well as moms can?
I'm glad Anne-Marie Slaughter thinks parenting should be more appreciated in our culture. But her essay in the current Atlantic—"Why Women Still Can't Have It All"—didn't make me feel her pain.

Slaughter quit a senior state department job, in part, she writes, because she felt her two adolescent sons needed her at home. Now she's back at Princeton giving them her attention, while also teaching a full course load, writing print and online foreign policy columns, giving 40 to 50 speeches a year, appearing regularly on TV and radio, and working on a new academic book. She no longer, however, can sip champagne with foreign dignitaries at Washington receptions.

As she realized that she couldn't have it all, "The feminist beliefs on which I had built my entire career were shifting under my feet," she says.

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Tuesday, July 10, 2012

In defense of late lunch

Posted By on 07.10.12 at 06:58 AM

Pigeons congregate in the shade during Londons heatwave of 2003. Good thinking!
  • Pigeons congregate in the shade during London's heat wave of 2003. Good thinking!
Since I rarely have the money to go on vacation, I welcome any event that upsets my daily routine—or, to use the current jargon, my work-life balance. Last week’s heat wave was one such event. I don’t have air conditioning in my apartment, which doubles as my workplace, so I had to reorganize my schedule in order to be out when the sun was at its most oppressive. Sure, I could have taken my laptop to an air-conditioned library, but where’s the challenge in that?

For several days I woke up just after sunrise, wrote until 10 AM, then evacuated my building till dinnertime. In the evenings, I’d try to shake off the heat and write again. The final hours of the day felt like the last leg of a marathon, an effort to exert a few more thoughts before my mind collapsed. Though I’m glad to be back on my regular schedule, I enjoyed the change of pace while it lasted.

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Monday, July 9, 2012

This week's Variations on a Theme: working 60 hours a week without being busy while having it all

Posted By on 07.09.12 at 07:10 AM

A demanding career, a high-functioning family, and a degree of sanity = impossible.
  • A demanding career, a high-functioning family, and a degree of sanity = impossible.
It’s a little strange that in the midst of a recession and at a time when industries and individuals have been forced to do more with less, society seems poised to renounce our increasingly relentless pace—you know, the one that leads to immeasurable fulfillment and endless misery.

The signs are saying it’s time to slow down. Relinquish your cell phone. Stop working so damn much. Quit being so busy. Chill the fuck out.

If only it were so easy—or remotely possible. Even with busyness going out of style, it’s not likely that our frenetic, stretched-too-thin, pushed-to-the-limit ways will ever cease. That’s the case at the Reader. It’s probably true of your workplace, too.

I wish that for this iteration of our Variations on a Theme series, we as a staff could afford to experiment with a week—just one week—of “traditional” work-life balance. What if we had the luxury of checking out at 5 PM? What if we weren’t writing, editing, photographing, and designing on nights and weekends? (I’m already setting a bad example by writing this on a Sunday—while my parents are visiting from out of town no less.) What if we didn’t have to constantly deal with the needs of our digital beast, our relentless marijuana obsession (not as laid back as it sounds), our desire to exhaustively explore every aspect of Chicago?

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