August 30, 2007

Workers of the world, take your vacation!

All summer I've been reading about how indispensable American workers feel about their place in their work environments. So much so that fewer and fewer employees are managing a full week of vacation -- just the occasional long weekend here and there, and even then, checking the Crackberry to make sure they aren't missing anything.

Newsflash: unless you are a neurosurgeon who is the only one in the country who can perform a particular type of surgery, chances are you can take a break and not be missed. I don't care what you do. Europeans take a state mandated minimum of four weeks of vacation a year, and while they may not score highest in the overrated "productivity" race, they have more balanced lives.

TV shows will air; trains will run; newspapers will be written, produced, distributed, read, and recycled; food will be packaged and delivered and sold at supermarkets; the stock market will have its jolts with or without you; houses will or won't sell regardless; widgets will roll off the line no matter who's staffing the joint. Products and services will not grind to a halt because you went to the beach to chill out. I promise.

If you want, take two weeks. Call in sick. Remember that the folks who make up your "employee benefits" handbook are the employers. They aren't in it for your sake. This being a capitalist society and all that, the object of the game is for Big Business to suck the life out of Little Employee for as much and as long as the Little Employee will concede.

Yes, we all have bills to pay. No, we don't want to lose our jobs. But if we don't get time off, our jobs have us. We lose control -- and that, my friends, is a very bad feeling, one that reverberates into other parts of our lives, making us hypercontroling where we have the remotest chance of succeeding -- as with small children who ask, "why?" To which the answer is, "I'm the mommy/daddy. That's why."

Losing control in one area is a feeling that spreads like wildfire. It makes for dreadful relationships. It makes for the kinds of families that end up with one parent getting alternate weekends and Wednesday nights with the children and the other parent having primary responsibility the rest of the time.

It isn't pretty. Granted, it is difficult to coordinate having two working parents off from work at the same time as their children are free. No one ever said it was easy. But I think it's necessary. How else are your kids going to know who you are, or care?

I didn't realize until I joined the work world, where I was favored with three whole weeks of vacation from my job, that my childhood had been unusual: we spent the month of August in Lake Placid; my father closed his office from Christmas through New Year's, and we traveled extensively through the winter and spring. Three weeks -- considered generous -- wasn't going to do it for me.

This is a private sector problem. Whatever else I may have against Big Brother, federal employees get off work at the drop of a hat. Congress takes rather lengthy recesses, though it chooses not to mandate any vacation for its constituents. There's something wrong with that picture, just as there is with Congressional attempts to overhaul health care when they have never had to face an HMO, so they don't know what the rest of us are up against.

I digress. My point is, no one ever said on her deathbed, I should have spent more time at the office. So, if you have more vacation coming to you, make a plan, any plan, to take that time off. Stay home and paint your toe nails. Sleep until noon. Eat ice cream for dinner. Whatever. The world won't grind to a halt without your presence at work.

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Blogger the only daughter said...

Stay home and paint your toe nails. Sleep until noon. Eat ice cream for dinner. Whatever.

I will! Well, maybe not the ice cream for dinner, but certainly the whatever. ;)

12:28 PM  

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