Leonidas has an interesting post about time, work, and parenting. One of the things he’s saying is that the bad parenting for which we in Hamburger-a-go-go-land are famous isn’t our fault. We’re just working too hard. Or, rather, he is posing the question of whether that might be the case. Can we blame the feckless mom we see in the grocery store, if perhaps she has just gotten off work and hardly has the energy to stand up, let alone make good choices?

This is sort of like the mothers in industrial England who fed their babies laudanum to keep them quiet while they worked. It was a societal problem, not an individual lack of responsibility, right?

I don’t think we have it that hard. I have four children and I work hard, and I never negelected my kids. In fact, I feel that bringing up my children is my main job, and I take pride in doing good work with that, just as much as with the things I get paid for.

But do we actually work too hard? Some of us do — Leonidas wrote his post after a 14-hour work day, and I am working 50 hours a week and still just anticipating the really hard part of my work year. There are also people who work at minimum wage jobs, and must have two jobs to make ends meet, and students who work to pay for school in addition to the really hard work of being a good student, and single parents who do all the work at home as well as doing one or more paid jobs.

But yesterday I did nothing, really, apart from working at my paid job, and my job is quite a pleasant one. I didn’t go to the gym, clean house, or even do any major projects.

I did finish the front of the tea cosy.

And the point is that I have that option. No one is making me stay down at t’mill for 16 hours, and I don’t even have to go home and boil my laundry. If I can tolerate a day’s worth of mess and a bit of processed food, I can skip the housework and call out for pizza.

To the extent that we work too hard — and I am not at all sure that we do; in addition to being known for bad parenting, we are also becoming known as slackers — we choose to do so. My choir director Bigsax has the summer off from his teaching job, but he says that he feels guilty if he’s not doing yard work or something. I know what he means. I enjoy lolling around, but it takes a certain amount of discipline to do it when the weeds are growing. Or there are dishes in the sink. Or absolutely anything else that needs doing, and heaven knows there is always something that needs doing. We must be courageous and steadfast about getting some leisure in.

I think we need to have some down time, some time when we are only knitting or reading or walking or playing with the kids and dogs or otherwise enjoying creation.

So here, for the Summer Reading Challenge, is where I was reading yesterday. I made all the things you can see in the picture, except the books, and it is reasonable and right that I should take time to enjoy them once I’ve taken the time to make them.

As for ignoring our kids because we work too hard, if we do that, then it’s because we choose to — most of us. Certainly those of us who have time to read blogs.

Having said that, I have to catch up today. The gym, the bill-paying, cleaning and preparing for this weekend’s houseguests and the solo I am singing in church as soon as I decide what it is — all these things must be done.

But I was pointing out to The Empress yesterday (since she and That Man are showing signs of exhaustion) that we all have to enter Back to School in a relaxed condition. We can’t listen sympathetically to all those tanned teachers complaining about how they have just come back from a cruise and now “everything is picked over”, unless we ourselves are feeling pretty calm and healthy.

So a good balance is what we need. Enough work to keep our homes in order and our bank balances healthy, enough time with our kids, and enough time for ourselves. Good luck achieving that, everyone!