weblog/wEssays     home

The Ultimate Valentines Day Gift: Time   (February 14, 2006)

Employed Americans, especially those with children, almost uniformly feel pressed for time. Yet here is a study published in The Economist entitled Land of Leisure, which found that Americans have more non-work time than ever before:
But why do Americans feel so harried? Weirdly, prosperity may be to blame in two ways. First, thanks to rising real incomes, an American's time is worth more now. A walk in the park is more expensive than it used to be. (When people complain to him about being too busy, Mr Hamermesh tells them that their real problem is too much money.) Second, economic advances allow people to squeeze ever more possible activities, both work and leisure, into a day, which encourages people to try to do too much.
It certainly seems true that caring parents are hurrying to and fro after work, ferrying their kids to enrichment programs like ballet, music and sports which were once the exclusive perview of the wealthy. Leisure and the money to pay for such enrichment is certainly a result of prosperity, and so the thesis that more money coupled with ambitious use of leisure (non-work, non-school hours) makes sense.

But what about all the people who don't have school-age children? What's behind their sense that leisure is lacking? Just for starters, how about one of these:
  • three or four hour commutes to exurb homes far from their workplace
  • taking work home because their company demands more "productivity" than can be achieved in eight hours
  • endless hours of TV and Internet surfing eat up most of their available leisure, shortening the remaining time into a period which then feels tight.

    So here's the Valentine Day tie-in: with leisure time so short (illusory or not), give your sweetie the ultimate luxury: time. Sure, dream big, but enjoy small.

    * * *

    copyright © 2006 Charles Hugh Smith. All rights reserved in all media.

    I would be honored if you linked this wEssay to your site, or printed a copy for your own use.

    * * *
      weblog/wEssays     home