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More reflections on reduced working hours (as I was prior to 5in4 experiment) /// MM

Balancing up

I knew far long before I had the time available what I would be doing with it: working on a stack of projects that has built up over the years, from finishing renovating the house (long overdue already) as well as maintaining the car and various other projects that we have been unable to resist undertaking.   Since our baby boy has come along spending any extra time with him is also dearly treasured.  For a long time before I started working reduced hours/days it felt like I had a lack of time not money to complete such projects – with the house being the main concern. 

In regards to the house I think we could probably have ‘got people in’ in many cases but I think we felt like we could never quite afford (or at least justify) what it would have cost – we would have probably ended up with a massive debt to pay off, or at the very least not had the choice left of opting to work reduced hours. I don’t think these things are beyond the common desires of a young couple in our society – ‘moving up the housing ladder’ is labelled as a worthy if not compulsory undertaking.   Doing things for ourselves isn’t easy but it is fulfilling and does bring a sense of achievement and it feels like we’re making progress in life – although I have to say, this is usually felt on reflection a year or so later rather than at the time!     Our maintaining hopes are that doing things this way will put us in a more robust position for the future.  Slowly-but-surely, perhaps.

Fast living = Expensive living

Having a bit of extra time has also meant that I can spend some of it sorting out life’s necessities in a calmer manner rather paying through the nose to sort out problems that have stacked up and need to be done in a rush.   A good example of this is the car which at the same time as giving us our freedom, so often ends up being a ball and chain financially.   Now however, maintaining the car ourselves has saved us loads of money and has also been a rewarding thing to do.    I suppose we were already quite capable in our means of doing this but the great thing these days is that the skill threshold required (which has been increasing over the years as cars have become more complex) is being dramatically lowered back down again by the vast wealth of knowledge built up online, generally in forums.  Simply Google what’s wrong with your car and 9 out of 10 times you’ll find out how to fix it – often with step by step photo guides uploaded by other hundreds of people [truly deserving of commendation for their efforts] from all over the globe on practically any given problem.    Forget the old Haynes manual – crowd source!  I really love this because when it comes together I think it’s a great example of the communication revolution short-circuiting the usual regime, giving us the choice to take a step off the consumer merry-go-round, slow down and live more in tune with the things around us.

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2 months update /// Wife of TV

At first I thought “this is great’: the extra time together, the possibility of reducing child care costs and no more unpaid overtime. Like many architects, architecture is more than a job for my husband. I could describe it as a hobby but that would undervalue it. My husband would frequently come home for tea and then head back to work, disrupt a weekend by having to go into work for the day or get stressed because it was hectic juggling his social life and work. If he wasn’t working in the evening then quite often he would be looking at architecture blogs, websites or reading architectural books (or maybe just looking at the grey photos!). I understand that architects love architecture, they have to in order to work all the additional thankless hours but this knocks on to their family. That is why the shorter week appealed. It raised the possibility of my husband having more free time away from his job to enjoy what he wanted to do that wasn’t architecture and might end the common nag “can we just not do anything this weekend”.

After my initial positivity the unknowns began to surface. Would my husband get home in time for bedtime? How much additional stress would there be by squeezing the working week into four days? Would he be able to leave work at work? The list went on. Reflecting on the past couple of months, its difficult to form a clear opinion of the shorter working week because we were already in a state of flux because of a new baby. Some things are definite though; lengthening the weekend has made it more relaxed. We’ve got time to sit still between activities but have also made the most of the free weekday. However, overtime has not disappeared and, whilst my husband is getting used to the shorter week, completing his weekly tasks plays on his mind when he is at home. We’re fortunate that we live a short distance from his office and he can come home for his lunch. If he had to commute half an hour then he wouldn’t see our son awake Monday to Thursday and I would be pulling my hair out! I think being in close proximity to the office means that we have benefited more than staff that travel a long distance to work.

Wife of TV