Saturday, May 8, 2010

Crazy Busy

"The human race will eventually die of civilization." 
        -- Ralph Waldo Emerson

By Chuck McKay
    Springtime: the time when a man's fancy turns to thoughts of how insanely fricking busy he is all the time.
    Every May, it's the same. All the day planners and appointment calendars belonging to everyone I know fill up like water balloons on a fire hose, until they explode into a colossal overwhelming mess of stress and exhaustion that makes you want to spend the day curled up on the couch, crying.
    Check out this example of a to-do list I made recently:
    Saturday, May 8:
        - Clean out shed
        - Cut grass
        - Plant garden
        - Move giant tree blown into yard by absurd storm
        - Write column
        - Plan daughter's birthday
        - Move messy dishes from counter to sink
        - Arrange fantasy baseball line-up
        - Play with child
        - Acknowledge existence of wife (quick nod)
        - Search the aisles of Wal-Mart vainly for magic anti-sleeping potion
    And that was only the first page. Yikes!
    The busiest people in the world are American middle-class parents of young children. Not only do they have to manage their own affairs, but they're in charge of the increasingly busy lives of their 2.5 children.
    And, increasingly, they're doing it all with virtually no outside support.
    Granted, my research on this topic consisted of several minutes of intense personal reflection, half-distracted by trying to excavate a booger without anybody noticing. But the logic is sound.
    In generations past, old people got feeble and pathetic around age 50. They would move in with their kids, and you'd have several old and people around to help.
    Nowadays, you're just hitting your stride at 50. Time to start a business, do some traveling, live for yourself now that the kids are grown. Certainly not time to go back and help somebody else raise their kids.
    In generations past, the husband earned money, the wife managed the household. Nowadays, the wife earns money, and the husband lives alone in a shabby apartment and sends child support whenever he remembers to get around to it.
    In rare cases in which parents are still married, they're both working, and both exhausted when they get home.
    In generations past, two incomes were not necessary, partly because people didn't have to rely on corporations to meet all their needs. They could grow their own food and make or mend their own clothing.
    Nowadays, you're lucky to find someone who can make his or her own paper airplane without the aid of a Youtube video.
    Our society has structured itself to squeeze productivity out of the working class, children or no children. Pay them enough to buy basic needs and hire daycare and everything will be fine.
    Except it's not. Parents who have nothing left to give their kids (or each other) at the end of the day end up raising kids who lack healthy emotional attachments and direction.
    They end up getting divorced and bouncing the kids around like beach balls, hoping the lack of consistency and permanence doesn't scar them too badly.
   Can we still expect tomorrow's adults to become leaders instead of prisoners; strong parents instead of deadbeat couch potatoes?
   A society that does not funnel as much resources as it can to people raising children is a society that has gone crazy and botched its priorities. It's that simple.

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