Philip Kosloski graduated from the University of Saint Thomas in Minnesota with a Bachelor’s in Philosophy and Catholic Studies and completed his Master of Arts degree in Theology with the Augustine Institute. He is a writer and author of In the Footsteps of a Saint: John Paul II’s Visit to Wisconsin. He blogs at philipkosloski.com and writes to help all Catholics master the art of prayer by conquering the practical obstacles that prevent a fruitful relationship with Christ.
“All work and no play makes Jack a dull boy.”
This proverb does not have much resonance with Americans. In an age of numerous technological advances meant to save us time and energy, we find ourselves working more than ever. Instead of working fewer hours and taking more vacation, we have freely chosen to do the opposite.
We live by the “American Dream” where anyone can achieve anything if we simply “work hard enough.” Often it means “pulling yourself up by your bootstraps” in order to realize your dreams.
While these maxims are not inherently bad, we have taken them to a new level and are working more and playing less. Unfortunately the family has been caught in the crossfire. As we continue to put emphasis on work and “getting ahead,” our families are quickly eroding and falling apart.
Here are three examples of how America’s work ethic has been destroying families in recent history:
1. The 50 Hour Work Week - The average American works a 47 hour work week. Even more so, about 39% of men and women in this country work over 50 hours a week. While working overtime is often viewed as a way to impress your boss, it is increasingly becoming a necessity. Struggling companies need more of their employees to work extra hours in order to compete with giant corporations. Unfortunately this means that family time has decreased significantly, especially in households where both spouses work full-time. Squeezing in quality family time is even harder with the emphasis on school sporting activities, making a “family meal” almost impossible.
2. The Disappearance of Family Vacations - A recent article in Time Magazine highlighted the fact that more Americans are choosing not to use vacation time. They cited a U.S. Travel Association study where it was discovered that “among employees with access to paid time off, nearly five days went unused in 2013, and 1.6 of those days did not carry over to the next year.” This meant 169 million days of vacation time were lost. Americans are also taking fewer week long vacations and instead are choosing to lengthen their weekends in fear of missing too much work. Even more so with the increase use of smart phones, it is harder to stay away from work. All of this results in more Americans focusing on work instead of family.
3. Work and Maternal/Paternal Leave - America is a country where employers are not required to give mothers and fathers paid time off after having a child. At most the government says that an employer must allow 12 weeks of unpaid leave. To be honest, this is hardly an incentive to have children and discourages large families. Even organizations that claim that they are “pro-life” (including many Catholic Dioceses and parishes) do not have any policies regarding paid time off after a child is born. Husbands are then discouraged from helping their overwhelmed wives in caring for their newborn child and women fear losing their jobs if they have too many children. Work again is given precedence over family life.
Yet, all is not lost with the increase in companies using the Internet as the primary means of doing business. This has great potential in reuniting the family, bringing both parents back into the home. However, more must be done to focus our culture on family instead of work. It will require shifting our economy from one focused on production and consumerism, to one that is in service to the family.
In summary, all work and no play makes families fall apart.