This is a guest post by Robert, who lives in Calgary and
works as a financial advisor retired at 34. He is married, has three kids. Robert and his wife then plan to return to school and become teachers, eventually living and working overseas.
Now that I don’t go into an office every day to work and generate income, I’ve occasionally wondered where the time goes. Some days, I accomplish a lot, but other days I read, write, play with the kids, swim, cook and by the end of the day, I don’t feel that I’ve been very productive.
When I was at work, being productive was important. My supervisor expected me to be productive. There was work that was my responsibility to complete, and it needed to be completed correctly, and within a reasonable amount of time. Other employees were also expected to be productive, and we held the same expectations for each other. For example, too much time spent on the phone talking with family at home was frown upon. And if projects were held up because a single employee hadn’t completed their portion of it (me, as often as anyone), there was grumbling from the others.
Now that I spend a lot of time at home, I’ve wondered about the idea of productivity. The basis of productivity is the fact that something is produced, either a product or a service of value. This idea is even generalized across the economy, with the government occasionally fretting about how productivity can be increased. More work per worker should, according to economic theory, translate into more GDP per capita, making everyone better off.
Some people might call me lazy, but upon reflection, I don’t really feel a need to be productive. There’s no question that being productive feels good. I like getting to the end of a day, looking back and savouring all I’ve accomplished. But what really makes me feel good is to feel needed. For example, last week a friend of our family had to go into the hospital, so we arranged to take supper to their family. It was stressful getting dinner together (with my wife) for two families, but when we dropped it off, the stress fell away with their gratitude.
I especially feel needed now that my two sons both have swimming lessons with their classes at school. Every other afternoon, they pile the kids on a bus and take them to a city pool for swimming. The girls all go into the women’s change room with the teachers, while me and one or two other fathers take the boys into the men’s change room. It eats up my entire afternoon, but the teachers continually express their gratitude that men are able and willing to come help with the boys. It sometimes gets noisy and chaotic, but think back to the first day when they crammed all the kids in the special needs/family change room and the help us fathers provide makes it go much smoother.
Now that I’m far less productive than previously, having my money work for me, instead of working for money, I can no longer base my self image on my productivity. Rather, it’s nice to feel needed when I care for my kids and help out in my community. Do you feel needed at work, or simply productive? Where else do you feel needed?