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Rationalizing and Minimizing Work Stress

Most of the dudes I work with in Corporate Servitude are well…Dudes. Men, lots of them in my field. On any given team, women represent 20% of the population +/-. I’ve been on teams where I was the only girl, and don’t know that I’ve ever worked with more than four women at a time. This has been the way of it for so long, most of the time I don’t even notice. I’m pretty brash and loud and I curse a lot. Working with a bunch of Dudes, doesn’t bother me. I can hold my own. In fact when I went to The Pet Store, an environment dominated by women, I had to make a concerted effort to tone it down.

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Keyboards. Totally related to my job.

Right now, I’m in the midst of my self-proclaimed Hell Month. Self proclaimed and perhaps over exaggerated. Last week was pretty rough, but in the end I don’t think its going to be as bad as all that. Activities were pushed out. I’ll have some breaks. I’ll survive. Probably. I’m at least anticipating survival. But, when I was cursing, dancing, and desperately trying to escape my work day, thoughts occurred to me. A lament about the two income requirement. I’ve been acutely aware of that conundrum for a while actually. No, thoughts about work stress and the implications of a male dominated workplace.

These guys I work with are a specific demographic: White, 30’s-40’s, many of them with a wife at home or working part time, and lacking in a whole bunch of time consuming hobbies. These men do not write blogs six days a week. They do not grow vegetable gardens, wrangle chickens, or spend the hottest day of the year making pickles in their driveway. Nor do they want to. They play video games, they golf, they collect vintage pinball machines, they sing in the choir, they like cars. Sometimes they day trade, but that’s about as close as it gets to a money producing pursuit. They do not worry about coordinating bulk orders for food, where to set up the outdoor clothesline, how to cure onions and potatoes, or the fortune that groceries will cost this month. Maybe their wives do. Maybe not.

When I am stuck at work my mind is awash in all the things I am missing at home. When will I squeeze in a run? I’ve got a 1/2 flat of raspberries in the fridge desperately needing to become jam. It’s going to take me a at least half an hour on the phone to sort out our internet bill (again). My little black book is chock full of daily tasks, I really need to get done. If I have to work from midnight to 2am on Sunday morning (as I did this last weekend), I can’t sleep in, then spend the day lounging in front of a screen. There is food to can! Weeds to pull! Errands to run! Blog posts to write! I’d hazard a guess these are not dilemmas I share with my male counterparts.

And that’s ok. It just makes the unpleasant portions of my job, the late night phone calls, the Friday afternoon emergencies that much more unpleasant. Sure, we’ve all got better things to do. I’m not saying my free time is more important than anyone else’s. I’m saying I’m probably less willing to compromise it. I can and do offload a heck of a lot of the household management tasks to The Husband. Over the years, he’s picked up more of it than he ever anticipated. I’m sneaky that way. The problem is that much like their game playing, shopping and expensive sports, I actually enjoy some of this. Giving it all up seems like a failure. The win would be keeping these tasks and giving up the work. Moreover, hopefully, someday, maybe, these activities are a means to a Corporate Servitude end. These are the steps I’m taking the get the hell out of Dodge. Stopping those only means hanging out in Dodge a little longer.

As long as I feel this way, my work life is never going to be easy. I’m not embracing this. I’m bracing myself against it. I’m resisting the lifestyle that my career basically requires. Pre-Layoff, all those years ago, I was much more ‘into it’. I also weighed 50lbs more. My diet sucked. I did not write. I slept poorly. I saw a Naturopath once a week. And, if you can imagine, I spent more money than I do now. In the end, what did it get me? Laid off. If I look at it that way, being resistant to work is serving me well.

That’s what I have to keep in mind. When I’m stifling the guilt of leaving “early” (read: on time) because one crisis after another is rolling into my inbox. When I get a phone call just as I’m going to bed, and while I answer questions, choose not to bust out my laptop and get involved. When I inform the powers that be that “No, I am not available this weekend” because I worked last weekend, and last I checked this is post-industrial revolution. Two days off would be nice, thanks. Career limiting? Most probably. As much as it’s necessary these acts cause me a mental anguish. I question my own work ethic. My impulse is to jump into the thick of things. I’m stifling those urges and the stress they cause me.

Some of these Dudes at work are my oldest and dearest friends. I adore them. We’ve spent 12 years together. The relationships are invaluable to me. I know from experience they don’t exactly savor the evenings, weekends, and phone calls in the wee hours of the morning anymore than I do. At some level it’s just part of the gig. Maybe they just don’t resent it quite as much. Maybe it doesn’t compromise their life in quite the same way. Maybe this whole big ramble, one year post return to Corporate Servitude is just my way of trying to keep marginalizing It, without It marginalizing me.

How do you keep work and home in balance? Do you think that’s different for men than it is for women? Does your job compromise your ‘real life’?

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Comments

Miser Mom
Reply

“I’m not embracing this. I’m bracing myself against it.” I love it. Might be my favorite new quote.

And I think you’re right, that far too many people think it’s okay for [the job/the youth soccer league/the grocery store] to set the rules for the way life is supposed to be lived. Too easy to fall into their mold, instead of trying politely/conscientiously to re-mold the world to be more humane, not only to you but to all the other people in the system.

My guess is that it’s not male/female, but majority/minority. Being already a bit unlike most of the other people around you might give you that much more whiskey-tango-foxtrot room to buck the system. At least, that seems to be the case for me (female mathematician).

dogsordollars
Reply

That is a good quality use of whiskey tango foxtrot. Bravo!

Also nice job getting to the point I buried somewhere in that 1,000 words. I don’t want my workday (or anything else) to define the rest of my life. When it starts to I resent it and I put on the brakes. It would be easy to go back to being that chubby, unhappy, ‘professional’ willing to embrace the unpleasantness just because it is ‘part of the gig’. Boo to the gig!

Good food for thought of the male/femaile vs majority/minority thing.

Crystal Wayward
Reply

I genuinely like my corporate job. A lot. But at the same time, I can totally relate to everything you’re saying here. The more responsibility they hand you, the more the job eats into the rest of your life, and suddenly you have less energy and time to devote to all of your other pursuits. I don’t know the answer. It’s hard to keep all the balls in the air, money in the bank and your body well-rested and properly nourished.

dogsordollars
Reply

And its hard to get your job to understand that those are even priorities. Thanks for the validation. Regardless of the love or hate for your gig.

Laura
Reply

I like my job and most of the time it doesn’t take over my life but the time I have left after work to enjoy my real life is relatively small.

I realize this is a tangent to your post, but you ask if it’s different for men and women? Maybe, but I see the biggest difference as being between single households and married households. I envy married folks who have a partner by their side to tackle life. Before my husband died, we both worked but we shared the “home” load. Now this load is all mine.

Tomorrow, I will mow for 2 hours.–That’s not an exaggeration either. I will water 4 trees and my blackberries, run to the bank, wash the dog, run to the vet, wash three loads of laundry, hang them out, & put them away. I need to cut up a bunch of small tree limbs and bundle them for pick up. I need to pull a bunch of weeds I’m allergic to and kill the grass that grows between the front pathway stones. I also have to beg my neighbor to help me move a heavy desk away from the window for some work to be done. The grocery shopping, car washing, bill paying, house maintenance, & house cleaning are all mine. Sometimes I fill overwhelmed. Also, I have to support myself.–There is no second income in case mine goes away. I don’t watch TV because I don’t have time.

In contrast, I hear women around me complain about the way their husband’s dress or their husband’s free time. They have no idea how GOOD they have it. Their husbands help cut the lawn, move heavy things, carry groceries from the car, and they help pay the bills. And at the end of the day, they both have someone to talk to if their day was rough.

Steven
Reply

I believe, when it comes to work stress and finding the right work/life balance, it boils down to aligning your personal values/beliefs with reality. In other words, when you feel your life is being dominated by work related tasks, thoughts and agony, to turn-on whatever allows your mind and body to go the other way. For example, if you like to run, making sure, no matter what, you get a daily run in. If you value spending time with friends, forcing yourself, regardless, of having that time. Many argue that work/life balance is about being satisfied with all of life’s activities.

That all said, it’s important to realize that “work” is not the end all, be all. Our society has convinced of us this, and technology has made it worse. There is more to life than work. Its hard to see and realize at times, however.

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