As a single mum, whether I want to go to work or not is not an option. Don’t get me wrong; I love work and if given the choice I would still work, however because of financial constraints, I often find myself working more than I would like to. The amount of times I’ve looked at my kids’ faces and seen their disappointment that I am once again on my computer instead of playing with them breaks my heart. I’ve felt incredible guilt as I’ve seen them make paper computers and type away on them going, “Look I’m mummy”.
I know I’m not alone. Many of my friends, single or partnered, are struggling to keep up with their workloads and their mortgages AND spend time with their kids, let alone spend some time taking up a hobby or having precious alone time. Ahh remember alone time? It often feels like we are all living to work instead of working to live. Then there’s rushing to childcare and school pick up before racing home to make dinner, help kids with homework, shower, bedtime. And then….you wake up and do it ALL again the next day, constantly hanging out for the weekend that rushes by in an instant.
If you could work less and it wouldn’t affect your overall income would you do it? Last week Greens leader Richard Di Natale proposed the idea of a national debate as to whether we should have a four day working week .“We rightly talk about the 16 per cent of people who want to work more hours, but we never hear about the more than one-in-four Australians who want to work less,” he told the National Press Club in Canberra last Wednesday.
Di Natale says the discussion should include a “guaranteed income” where all citizens are paid a generous minimum wage if they cannot earn it. The idea immediately gained a wave of support on Facebook from people who felt compelled to work so much purely because that was the expectation from their workplaces and society around them.
Are we working five days a week just for financial reasons, or because that is what is expected of us? Sometimes it takes a catastrophic event in our lives to realise we are not placing our energy exactly where we want to. Bonnie Ware, an Australian pallative care nurse who wrote a book called The Top Five Regrets of the Dying said one of the things she heard most on people’s death beds was “I wish I hadn’t worked so hard.”
Although working less without losing income seems ideal, the process of creating this would mean a major overhaul to our current working conditions. Senator Richard Di Natale said in his speech “A four-day work week, or a six-hour day, might actually make us happier and create more opportunities for others, not to mention reducing the costs of full-time childcare. The very people who created the dog-eat-dog society — that so many of us now resent — will tell us these things are pipe dreams. Don’t believe them.”
There are other countries who have trialled this system including France, which has a 35 hour work week and Sweden, which implemented a six hour day for those working in aged care.
I tell my kids all the time that they are number one in my life and I completely prioritise them but the truth is, when it comes down to a work deadline or hanging out with them, most of the time they lose out. If I could guarantee an income but work less I would say HELL YES! Let’s start this conversation.
Would you support a 4 day working week?