Busier Than Ever

With the Holiday season in full swing families are pushed to their bounds as parents struggle to finely orchestrate plans and juggle responsibilities. I am the youngest out of my siblings and I enjoy observing their lives unfold into chaos as life throws them responsibilities that I know I will one day face myself. My own family is currently breaking into a new generation as my oldest Brother has two children of his own, five year-old son Jake and a four year-old daughter Natalie. He has so stressed and stretched to limit with his time and finances that I’m surprised that he isn’t shooting steam out of his ears. I’ve been recently reading a copy the incredibly applicable novel Busier than Ever: Why American Families Can’t Slow Down and every time I’m flipping through the pages I always come to think about my eldest brother’s hectic lifestyle. He and his wife are both intelligent hard working professionals, but they are strapped for time as they are simultaneously raising two children. This is especially evident during the holiday seasons as they rush to buy gifts, take kids to activities, accommodate family gatherings on either side, as well as maintain their own professional careers. They both work professional full time careers that require a certain level of skill and clear mindsets.

My older brother Josh is a Fresno City Firefighter and his wife Zara is a Paramedic for American Ambulance. The first thing that screamed to me from the novel was the hugely increasing number of duel income families that were mentioned and that my own brother fit the profile, in fact so do my Mother and Father on that note. This is a major component if not the key component of the increase of busyness in American families. Having to send both parents to work full time jobs in order to live a middle-class lifestyle has major implications. It means there no longer is a parent that is free to stay at home and tend to wars on the domestic front. Those domestic responsibilities then have to be juggled around work and split between the parents in their time off. It is without a doubt hectic and parents often look to family members such as grandparents, aunts and uncles to watch their children in an attempt to lessen the burden of expensive day car. With two incomes the obvious outcome is that you’ll be making twice as much money. Though in reality with both parents working that means that the children would have to put into a daycare which cost a small fortune over time. Then you may also have to pay for a gardener and other maintenance professionals to do jobs that you could have done on your own if you just had the time.

With careers that can be quite intensive and sometimes graphic, it is important to keep some of their work separate from their family life. Although as the novel repeatedly emphasized such as with the Jackson family is that it is nearly impossible to fully separate all aspects of work from your family life. In which Vic Jackson who works such a hectic schedule as an engineer that his family activities end up being rushed and held at odd hours. This is a similar schedule to my Brother’s wife Zara’s work life as a Paramedic. She’s always being asked to work random shifts with odd hours where she may be coming and going in the middle of the night. While on the other hand, my brother’s schedule as a fire fighter is very different, he’ll work four forty-eight hour shifts and then have four days off in a row. In the novel Humberto Mendoza works as a firefighter and manages a similar routine. Although as the book mentioned about Humberto, Firefighters are allowed to request off days in anticipation of an upcoming event and are quite reliably given off the days asked for. In my Brother’s circumstance, he is also usually given off the days asked for which works great for him since his wife is not as fortunate on that front. In her case she is given a rough schedule often with odd hours and then also expected to accommodate occasional requests to pick up shifts. This means that Josh usually ends up working his more flexible schedule around his wife’s more rigid schedule to fill in holes. Although because of the nature of their two completely different forms of scheduling there will often be nights where Zara will have to work and Josh is pulling a forty-eight hour shift. So the two little rascals will get pawned off on Family members who usually graciously accept the children for the night. Differences in scheduling and flexibility often lead to as well.

As American Society becomes more in depth and interconnected our lives increase in complexity and intensity. We as humans follow the ever changing social structure not only helps define who we are, but how we perform our actions and interact with one another. Busier than Ever gives a glimpse into the lives of American families and gives a sense of how we have changed the way we manage our time. Although it’s more than just time management its fundamental similarities in how we balance work, family and an ever changing technological society. For better or for worse American Families have changed greatly in how parents provide the necessary amenities for their families. Societies are constantly dynamically morphing to best suit the times, and families are direct reflections of the societies in which they live in. Our modern fast paced families mirror and are directly influenced by our fast-paced American society.

by Kevin Wichman

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