Leaving Work

This weekend I had the good fortune to hear Ruth Reichl speak and read from her new book, Save Me the Plums, at what co-owner of the Chatham Bookstore, Thomas Chulack, called a “celebration” rather than a reading.

It was a bittersweet gathering of Gourmet fans still mourning the demise of the magazine, but all eager to hear Reichl’s stories about her leadership. When asked if there were something she would change she said, “I would be the woman who goes every night at 6 pm.” She went on to say that there are such women, but she wasn’t one of them and that perhaps one reason was how much she had been enjoying her job.

Reflecting on why women work late, that wouldn’t be my first thought. I loved my job, as did many women I know , but I think we were more motivated by fear than love. If we didn’t work longer and harder than everyone else, would we be looked at as leaders? Could we rely on others to get the work done? We didn’t have the self-confidence to walk out the door at 6 pm. Of course for many of us walking out the door simply meant going home to another “job,” as parenting and household chores awaited us. Even younger women, who are working more and earning more, bear the majority of responsibility for housework.

I have known many men who easily left the office at 6 pm each evening. They went home to a dinner that had been prepared for them and where life was organized to give them a break from work. If they had to work, they had a quiet space.and uninterrupted time. These same men went to the gym in the middle of the day and had their assistants simply say they were “out.” They felt entitled to this time. The women I knew blocked off similar times on their calendars and then cancelled them every time someone needed them. In both instances, leaving the office during the day and at night, men were doing the healthier thing, giving themselves an opportunity to recharge. I wish more women understood the value of that break and had a support system that allowed their time at home to truly be a time of renewal.

Barbara ViniarComment