Life in the Break Down Lane

"Go nowhere, do nothing," a yoga teacher used to chant in a class I took a few years ago. Every time she said the words, I burst out laughing. The concept was radically opposed to everything I'd ever done in my life -- and contrary to the hectic D.C. lifestyle I grew up in and continue to immerse myself in. What could I do besides laugh? But I have to admit, the words caught my attention.

Now there's apparently an entire range of support groups devoted to the concept, as reported on's The Slow Movement. Groups include The Long Now Foundation in San Francisco; Take Back Your Time in Seattle; and Slow Food USA, a counterpoint to our fast-food culture. The groups advocate using time differently than our overworked, over-scheduled culture advocates -- to cook and eat food slowly, to gather with friends for no reason but to spend time together, to work and consume less.

"Time is the most precious thing we have," Edgar S. Cahn, founder of Time Banks USA, explains. "Every hour you live, you never get back. Time doesn't have any monetary value attached to it. One can't deposit a block of time in the bank or buy a loaf of bread with it. Yet it's essential to have enough of it to live well and make democracy work."

Some slow movement leaders also advocate to change public policy to give employees more leisure time. John de Graaf, national coordinator for Take Back Your Time, explains that the nonprofit group wants legislation guaranteeing at least three weeks of paid annual vacation for all workers, paid leave for new parents, and workplace rules limiting the amount of compulsory overtime. "Companies will actually profit more if they don't overwork employees because they will become healthier and more productive" he argues.

On a personal level, the "go nowhere, do nothing" approach helps me appreciate "doing nothing" with my kids. Simply hanging out has become as valuable (or more so) than taking them to an art class, play dates or the math enrichment program I used to consider paramount to their development. Work still matters tremendously to me, but I see, and feel, the value of having plenty of white space in my life.

What do you think? Have you tried to slow down in an effort to find balance in your life? What have you cut back on? If you could, what time-sink would you eliminate today? What has worked -- and failed -- for you?

By Leslie Morgan Steiner |  June 12, 2008; 7:00 AM ET  | Category:  Conflicts
Previous: Have You Cracked a Glass Ceiling? | Next: Naps and Balance

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Posted by: Fred | June 12, 2008 7:47 AM

Sometimes, I just sit on the swing on my screened in porch and watch the world go by. Sometimes I fall asleep on the swing. Sometimes life is especially good!

Posted by: Fred | June 12, 2008 7:50 AM

After divorce whereas ex told me I worked too much; I have cut back on the work OT. My reputation at work has suffered as a result, but one has to seek balance between personal time and work. Yes, My ex was selfish with his comments as I worked to support our family and not because I loved working OT. But I have taken heed of his comments. Maybe he was right; maybe he wasn't as we all need to pull our weight at the office. I've cut out all organized activities. I do not volunteer for long term commitments. I travel. I hike. I bike. I walk. I share good times with friends. I live within my means. We have it good in this country and we end up stressing ourselves our unnecessarily. take the time to enjoy.

Posted by: cyn | June 12, 2008 8:06 AM

Go Fred! I'd like to endorse this movement, but I've got trees to plant before it gets too hot. Take a little nap for me Fred!

Posted by: moxiemom | June 12, 2008 8:28 AM

I would love, love, love to scale back, but finding scaled back work in my field is close to impossible. We could easily live on my husband's salary, and have a saner quality of life, but in this economy, who dares? He could lose his job tomorrow, or inflation could erode his earning power to the point where we are no longer making it.

Posted by: MomTo3InNY | June 12, 2008 8:35 AM

I live in Europe and get 6 weeks vacation. I am a much more productive worker during my time here and am much healthier. I am less likely to retire early because I enjoy work/life balance and will not be burned out by 55.

And what is making it anyway? You cant take your money with you.

Posted by: Anonymous | June 12, 2008 8:43 AM

European, Have you noticed that some European nations are moving away from the 35 hour work week and 6 week vacation because they are not competitive in the world market? I am not advocating working yourself to death, but lazy Europeans that live in Socialist environments are not going to be blazing a trail for their countries economy.

PS. I think this was a fake post by a fake European, but I am certain that someone was going to mention how "Sweden does it better" or "why can't we be more like the Swiss?"

Posted by: Anonymous | June 12, 2008 8:56 AM

"I would love, love, love to scale back, but finding scaled back work in my field is close to impossible. We could easily live on my husband's salary, and have a saner quality of life, but in this economy, who dares?"

There are options other than working in your field and not working at all. Have you considered scaling back in a different job?

Posted by: Anonymous | June 12, 2008 8:56 AM

As my daughter's have grown older (10 and 6) I find that, not only do I not have any spare time, I am stretched so thin that it is hard to keep up with everything. In an attempt to focus more on my children while keeping my career alive, I am going to start job sharing in September. By working part-time, hopefully I will be able to slow down a bit and enjoy my time with my children, while still keeping up with a job that I enjoy. Wish me luck!

Posted by: JL | June 12, 2008 8:57 AM

I think this world would be ideal if we could all just walk around naked and when we got hungry, we could simply pick the fruit from the tree.

Posted by: Let's get back to the garden | June 12, 2008 9:06 AM

I worked in killer positions with long hours the first decade plus after college. Luckily, I am in a field that pays well and I don't need a ton of material things. So, I managed to save a lot of my salary. I figured that having a cushion would make it easier/more comfortable to scale back one day.

I now have a new job that is 40 hours per week. I am not quite as challenged as before, but I love my co-workers and it is a great environment. If someone needs to take time out in the day for a child's event, no problem. It is great.

I had hoped things would work out like this as my plan for balance while having a family was to work a job with "normal" hours. We'll see how it works as we recently found out we are expecting. (Let's hope the little one stays with me!) So far, by cutting back hours I have a ton of hours for me and my husband to share. We are enjoying this quiet time while it lasts!!

Posted by: Thought | June 12, 2008 9:26 AM

Good luck, JL.

Momto3inNY, there's never a perfect time to quit or scale back. I'm finishing up with my full-time job in about 3 weeks. Yes, the economy appears to be tanking and it might not be the best time, but my kids won't agree to stop growing and changing, and somehow I seem to be almost 40, and I want to change my career path. It feels great to have made this decision. I am fortunate to be able to do so, and I recognize that. When my husband and I sat down to run the numbers (a money date, thanks Ms. Singletary), it ended up being much less of a blow than I thought. Childcare and the costs associated with working really add up.

Posted by: WorkingMomX | June 12, 2008 9:27 AM

Now, I am a real European, writing from Brussels. Dear Anonymous, bashing the "lazy" Europeans, do you mean to say that the US economy has been especially competitive lately? It certainly doesn't look that way from where I sit.

As for me, slowing down and taking time for just being is really important. Being with myself and with others, listen to myself and to others, see things and see into things. There is lots of wisdom in silence, but you can't hear it, if there is no time and space for any silence...

It's not easy to organise space in your life here either, but, just as in the US, self-employed moms are more flexible...

So now, 3.30 pm, I am off to the daycare to take home my baby... and play, sing and be together.

Posted by: Nora | June 12, 2008 9:37 AM

As a matter of fact I am an American living in Europe. And I know which lifestyle I prefer.

Posted by: Anonymous | June 12, 2008 9:48 AM

As a matter of fact I am an American living in Europe. And I know which lifestyle I prefer.

Posted by: Anonymous | June 12, 2008 9:48 AM

As a matter of fact I am an American living in Europe. And I know which lifestyle I prefer.

Posted by: Anonymous | June 12, 2008 9:48 AM

I live in Europe and get 6 weeks vacation. "I am a much more productive worker during my time here and am much healthier. I am less likely to retire early because I enjoy work/life balance and will not be burned out by 55. "

of course your children can' find a job and your economies can't compete, but screw that! I got 6 weeks and balance in my life!

Posted by: give me a break | June 12, 2008 9:55 AM

"As a matter of fact I am an American living in Europe. And I know which lifestyle I prefer."

So nice, she posted it thrice.

Posted by: m2j5c2 | June 12, 2008 9:56 AM

give me a break-

The US economy is not doing well at all. Most EU countries have better employment rates. Europeans work hard, and we just have vacation as well. More women stay in the job force because there is a balence.

Posted by: Anonymous | June 12, 2008 10:02 AM

JL -- Good luck and please keep us posted on the job-share transition! Spread the word to inspire others. Hopefully a few employers will take note.

One of the things Fred and I have in common is that I am also very pro-nap. The Free-For-All tomorrow will tackle this weighty subject.

Like Thought, I spent my early years (11 to 40) working killer hours to get a good education and build a career. Part of it was just natural competitiveness and enjoyment of hard work and achievement. Part of it was that I knew that hard work would lead to more choices down the road. I also had the vague sense that as a woman, it would be harder for me to have the freedom I wanted, and a successful career would be a kind of insurance policy against that kind of prejudice.

I didn't know that one of the choices would be to scale back on work to have more time to raise my children. But I'm grateful that my killer work decades afforded me this choice. I'd advise all pre-parents to invest in themselves and their careers before having kids. Because choices are good -- no matter whether you chose to keep working fulltime, part-time or not at all.

There is no right answer or magic forumula for balance -- but having the freedom to make your own choices is sweet. But reality is that you have to start really early, and work incredibly hard, to have choices later in life.

Posted by: Leslie | June 12, 2008 10:04 AM

I love to just hang out. Don't do it as often as I should, but I find that summer is the perfect time for it. The fact that the days are long just makes it easier. Yesterday, I spent the evening at my mother's house, and after dinner, we sat around looking at ancient photo albums just because it was a nice way to pass the time. We also like to go to the pool on summer afternoons, just to sit around, talk to the neighbors, and let the kids play. Our yearly summer vacation is a trip to the beach, where we have two weeks of unstructured, lazy bliss. This is about the only time I get to read for hours at a stretch. It must be close to what heaven feels like.

Posted by: Emily | June 12, 2008 10:12 AM

The US economy is not doing well at all. Most EU countries have better employment rates. Europeans work hard, and we just have vacation as well. More women stay in the job force because there is a balence.

of course if you enjoy paying 9 per gallon, which about 65 percent of which is tax or 50 percent income tax rates. No thanks, being a ward of the government is not for me.

Posted by: Anonymous | June 12, 2008 10:14 AM

"One of the things Fred and I have in common is that I am also very pro-nap. The Free-For-All tomorrow will tackle this weighty subject."

Did not the Songster write a song about napping the other day? That is all I need to know about it! (besides the venue of the nap, that is!)

Posted by: Fred | June 12, 2008 10:23 AM

Actually I do not care about 9 per gallon- I walk to work and take trains everywhere. My taxes pay for things like good healthcare, a good education system that I use on a day to day basis.

Perhaps you should think about the things that you pay for- health insurance for one thing that is covered by my taxes. I know I have more money in my pocket at the end of the day then friends in similar positions in America struggling.

Maybe you should suck it up and get rid of your SUV and the price of gas won't be so painful.

Posted by: Anonymous | June 12, 2008 10:25 AM

Most EU countries have better employment rates. Europeans work hard, and we just have vacation as well. More women stay in the job force because there is a balence.

Posted by: | June 12, 2008 10:02 AM

More women of childbearing age can't ENTER the lifeforce because employers in Europe don't want to be saddled with paying the extremely generous government-mandated maternity leave benefits.

The uneployment rate in France for the first quarter of 2008 is 8.1%. Spain? 9.6% Germany: 7.7%. US unemployment for the same period is 4.9%.

Facts. Learn to like them.

Posted by: Get Real Real | June 12, 2008 10:35 AM

The stepchildren seem to magically fill the time that we have them. I despair of ever actually getting anything accomplished while they are in our presence. So basically you learn to just allow the night to pass without actually accomplishing anything.

Since the pool has opened, we have spent a part of every night there. Did you know we spend 1 1/2 to 2 hours going there, being there and coming back? It is pretty much a recipe for learning to kick back and relax.

Posted by: Billie_R | June 12, 2008 10:49 AM

"you have to start
really early, and work incredibly hard, to have choices later in life."

Not really. If you are female, the most important thing to do is marry the right man. Then you can do what you want to do at your own pace without having to work so hard.

Posted by: 50 without wrinkles | June 12, 2008 10:53 AM

Didn't we just have this discussion on EU vs US employment & productivity not too long ago - like in the last couple of weeks? Do we have to go through it again?

Posted by: ArmyBrat | June 12, 2008 10:54 AM

Certain people I have met in my life have mastered a wonderful sense of slowness in terms of mealtime. One was a philosophy professor in college who used to have us for wonderful meals at his house, with wine, etc. When your hosts feel a relaxed sense of enjoyment and conversation is good, then these are some of my favorite times.

My parents never entertained, and I had to learn how to do it as an adult (such simple things as offering your guests a drink as they arrive, keeping lots of things on hand to drink, serving a variety of simple appetizers, and just plain how to "chill" -- my parents, my mom in particular, is rush, rush, rush...)

Entertaining is a LOT of work for me still, but nothing beats the satisfaction and contentment I feel after having a nice evening with others at our house. Wish we could do it more often than 1x every few months!

Posted by: SJR | June 12, 2008 10:59 AM

Gracias Get Real Real:

The uneployment rate in France for the first quarter of 2008 is 8.1%. Spain? 9.6% Germany: 7.7%. US unemployment for the same period is 4.9%.

Facts. Learn to like them.

Posted by: Get Real Real | June 12, 2008 10:35 AM

Posted by: Get Realing | June 12, 2008 11:04 AM

Not really. If you are female, the most important thing to do is marry the right man. Then you can do what you want to do at your own pace without having to work so hard.

Posted by: 50 without wrinkles | June 12, 2008 10:53 AM

I've known a few guys who thought they were pretty smart
But you've got being right down to an art
You think you're a genius, you drive me up the wall
You're a regular original, a "knowitall"

Ohwooh, you think you're special
Ohwooh, you think you're something else

Ok, so you're a rocket scientist...

That don't impress me much!
So you got the brains, but have you got the touch?
(Now) Don't get me wrong, yeah I think you're alright
But that won't keep me warm in the middle of the night
That don't impress me much!

Posted by: Anonymous | June 12, 2008 11:15 AM

"If you are female, the most important thing to do is marry the right man. Then you can do what you want to do at your own pace without having to work so hard."

Ask Maggie; she knows a number of women like this.

(She isn't one herself and she seems to dislike them intensely, but she does claim to know them.)

Posted by: ArmyBrat | June 12, 2008 11:18 AM

ok, so obviously the comment about women marrying well is obnoxious.

OTOH, there is some kernel of truth there. For both men and women, their choices are tremendously impacted by their spouses. Some people are able to be SAHPs or work part-time because of their spouse's earnings and spending habits. Others are not, and feel enormously frustrated by their lack of choices, which do stem partly from their spouses.

In marriage, the best case is to be head over heels in love with each other. But if there are some fringe benefits, too, it matters! I feel enormously blessed, as I head into my third trimester, to be able to take 10 weeks off from work (some STD, some paid vacation, some unpaid). I feel enormously blessed to know I have the choice to stay home or work part-time.

These choices are possible because of the shared very frugal spending and saving habits of me and my husband, and also his earning power. If he were employed as a dishwasher, my choices would be significantly less open.

This leads into the study data showing that long-term, individuals who are married are significantly financially better off than non-married individuals.

Posted by: newslinks | June 12, 2008 11:34 AM

newslinks:Congrats. I am leaving in about 20 minutes to start my 12 week maternity leave. Best of luck to you and your family.

I am actually surprised that Europeans only get 6 weeks of vacation. Americans always make it sound as if their constantly on vacation. Does anyone know what the average American gets? It seems as if most US professionals start with two weeks of paid vacation and maybe a week or so of personal/sick leave. But as they progress a lot of them get 3-4 weeks vacation and some personal time. Doesn't seem that far behind Europeans.

Posted by: foamgnome | June 12, 2008 11:43 AM

Fred and Leslie, I am totally pro nap too. Was before I was expecting a little one and am now more so with my passenger. I only wish I could get away with napping at the office!!

I do agree that pre-parents should invest in a career. I was teased in my early 20s for missing many a happy hour with friends. But after working hard I was able to "climb the ladder" and now I have a flexible job at a fairly high position. (private v. public co.) Although I did take a pay cut, the pay is still great. It definitely gives me options with childcare. (I can have either a nanny or use a day care depending on what I prefer.)

Posted by: Thought | June 12, 2008 11:48 AM

I was just thinking about the pressure to be busy and consume, etc. the other day. In "The Millionaire next Door" the authors talk about how a decision to live in a certain neighborhood can lead to all sorts of other pressures -- having to take the 'right' vacation; having to get the right gifts for christmas; having to wear the right clothes and so forth.

In other words, the easiest way to slow down is to move to a place where that is the dominant lifestyle, rather than attempting to do so in a place where it isn't.

Also, three words: Give up Soccer.
You'll be amazed at how much more time you have when no one in your family has to attend the practices, the games, the forced ceremony at the end of the season where everyone gets a trophy. You'll also have a lot more money.

Posted by: grumpy mcgrumpus | June 12, 2008 12:06 PM

I once worked in an environment that was unnecessarily strenuous (bad management in so many ways). After putting in 15-hour days for months on end and being constantly sick, I was put on a more prestigious project. At that point I told my boss that I was only going to work late two nights per week, because otherwise I would quit or continue to be sick, and neither was good for me or for the project. She wasn't crazy about it, but she agreed, because I'd always met project goals.

Well, I put in more hours than I said I would. But saying it still helped me limit my work hours. I finished my project on time and under budget, and batted cleanup on a companion project. My project wound up being the department's most profitable.

At the end of the project, the company's award went to the other project manager. And I found a much better job with a different company.

Posted by: KateNonymous | June 12, 2008 12:06 PM

I once knew some people who were therapists who helped train high school teachers and counselors in working with kids who were in crisis or struggling. One of their slogans was "Don't just do something, stand there."

I think there is a lot to be said for learning to just be with people (or yourself, for that matter), and not always trying to do or fix something. Even when I am actually doing something, it makes my time a lot more enjoyable when I can just focus on being where I am and not thinking about eight million other things that should be done.

Posted by: LizaBean | June 12, 2008 12:09 PM

Excellent blog title today, as I spent the morning at the car shop (you know the "bad" light always has to go on the day before a 2.5-hr drive).

I can't say I've slowed down, because I was never hugely type-A to start with. I never thought "better bust it for ten years so I can afford to kick back later"; it was more like "I don't want to bust it for 10 years because then I'll get used to a lifestyle where I have to keep busting it for the next 30 to support myself in the style to which I've become accustomed." I also had a more senior attorney warn me that it was better to start off with clear boundaries: if you start out working a reasonable amount, and do that year-in, year-out, people accept that; but if you bill 2,400 hrs for 5 straight years, then drop back to 2,000 hrs, people will criticize you for slacking off and think you're not as "committed" to the job any more.

So I pretty much started off with the "work as hard as I need to to get the job done, then go home" mentality, and that's stayed pretty much the same. I have dropped back to 80% since having kids (a/k/a normal person full-time), but it doesn't feel like easing off the pedal to smell the roses -- more like a necessary deceleration to keep from flying off the road, because I'm waaaaay busier now than I used to be.

I do LOVE the chance to just shut down and do nothing. Alas, I married an engineer, for whom "doing nothing" is the 7th circle of hell. No more vacations sitting on the beach with book -- now it's "come on, get up, it's already 7:30, we'll miss the dive boat." Luckily, I enjoy all that stuff, too. But I do miss some time to just sit. Closest we get now is on the glider on the front porch, after the kids are in bed, with a nice glass of port. Which, you know, doesn't suck. :-)

Posted by: Laura | June 12, 2008 12:13 PM

Well, I am no poster child for slowing down, being a full-time worker and trying to complete a degree. But I do a few things to trot rather than sprint. To make all this happen, I put myself on a schedule - yes, I schedule my slow-down time. When it's scheduled, I do it, rather than trying to cram something else in, or feeling guilty for kicking back. I planned this time, so I can just tell myself I'm keeping on schedule.
1) Season baseball tickets - I go when I want, and sell the rest.
2) Daily nap - those 20 minutes are heaven when I get home.
3) I leave work on time. If I'm swamped, I'd rather get there earlier, when I'm more productive.
4) I don't bring work home. See #3 for times I absolutely have to put in more hours.
5) Read at least 30 mintues a day, with the TV off and no music. Incredibly relaxing.
6) Knit without TV or music.
7) Write letters to family and friends - time to reflect and enjoy.

Posted by: babsy1 | June 12, 2008 12:24 PM

"Alas, I married an engineer, for whom "doing nothing" is the 7th circle of hell..."

Funny Laura, my dad was an electrial enginer. His initials were RPM. Fitting, huh? He was always wound up! (a pun if you know about electric motors)

Hope the porch is screened so the bugs don't get ya!

Posted by: Fred | June 12, 2008 12:24 PM

Fred, that's great! Mine's also double-e. Which I think are the worst kind. . . .

Posted by: Laura | June 12, 2008 12:29 PM

Sorry, meant DH, not dad (my dad's chem-e)

Posted by: Laura | June 12, 2008 12:31 PM

"Ok, so you're a rocket scientist..."

Up in Huntsville, Ala, many men sport a tee shirt that say, "As a matter of fact, I am a rocket scientist!"

(Engineering humor!)

(They would usually wear them under their regular shirts as there is no place to put a pocket protector on a tee!)

Posted by: Fred | June 12, 2008 12:38 PM

I have an 18 month old and recently cut back to 3 days a week. It's wonderful! Meaning, I now have time to get chores done and have some fun as well. This weekend we are going to a local children's museum for the first time and "I" can't wait! We are also regulars at our local park and pool. All of the fun things I use to do when I was younger.

Money is tighter than it was with me working full-time but being with my child is more than making up for it. However, the lost income is not that much considering how much more I was spending on things related to working full-time.

Posted by: Nuttymama1 | June 12, 2008 12:41 PM

stop voluntering and stop others from voluntering you. Learn to say no. and no excuses for it. just no. once you are off the suckers list, you will be amazed to find all the time you have.

Posted by: much more time and no guilt | June 12, 2008 12:46 PM

Thank you, Get Real Real. The facts are good to know. And when the US economy was booming, no one slowed down then either, so the whole "our economy stinks so it's not the time to kick back" argument did nothing to convince me.

Hear, hear to the No Volunteering mantra. I volunteer as judiciously as possible, when I can handle the commitment and have something to add. But overvolunteering seems to be a sickness among some parents.

Ditto for too many kids' activities. I used to have our children signed up for 1-2 activities every single day. The logistics were murder. Much better to come home, fight amongst themselves, have an early dinner and hang out. Not sure what I was thinking --

Posted by: Leslie | June 12, 2008 1:11 PM

Or the contrary... volunteer first, so you get to choose what YOU want to do. Pick what furthers your goals in life. Mine is not to attend meetings or be on committees, so I just volunteered to handle the BoxTops for Education program for my elementary school.

Anyone asks me to do anything else, I can say I have my volunteer commitment to the school.

Posted by: Volunteer first.. | June 12, 2008 1:11 PM

Leslie was working killer hours from 11 years old! Yikes!! I wrote about this before in not seeing all the people working 80 hour weeks. I like the slow food movement. When I lived in Europe, people always took time to eat food and enjoy each other's company. While obesity rates are rising there too, it is nothing like here in the U.S. Eating slowly lets you feel your natural "not hungry anymore" point whereas wolfing things down overrides that trigger until you feel stuffed and have overdone it. I try to do this at home and I'm relaxed when I finish eating, not out of breath.

Posted by: FloridaChick | June 12, 2008 1:14 PM

Ok, got a Q for all the NC folks, which is even kinda/sorta tangentially related to the whole "kick back, do nothing" theme. This year for Christmas, my dad told us that our present would be two nights and a couple of rounds of golf at a NC resort -- idea being that, when we came down for our August family trip, they'd take the kids for a few days, and DH and I could go off by ourselves (I know -- does that not rank as, like Best Christmas Gift Ever?). Except the place he was thinking of is already booked. So I'm looking for other ideas for a nice place to stay in the Asheville area; primary criteria are golf, spa, and peace and quiet. Any ideas??

Posted by: Laura | June 12, 2008 1:37 PM

I once took a week of vacation because I was getting so burned out I was afraid I was going to mouth off and quit when I couldn't afford to.
I took a week off in February when the kids were in school and it took me four or five days before I felt any better. I knew I was stressed but I didn't know how bad until I began to relax a bit. My ability to sleep improved; my patience improved. I remember that week fondly.
But I've never been able to repeat it because despite 20 years working in my field, I've moved from place to place to advance my career. I've never stayed in one job for the five or more years required to earn a third week of vacation. At this point half my two weeks off gets eaten up covering days without childcare. Then I want to give my kids ONE week each year to call "vacation" and go somewhere special.
I would support government intervention in this area so vacation time isn't tied to the length of time you work for a single employer. Three weeks sounds good -- that way Americans can still claim to work harder than any Europeans!

Posted by: anne | June 12, 2008 1:39 PM

For golf and relaxation in North Carolina check out Lake Lure. I think it's about an hour and a half from Asheville.

Posted by: Anonymous | June 12, 2008 1:51 PM


You only have one choice in Asheville, as far as I know, and that's the Grove Park Inn. If you have a few days, though, why not go over to Pinehurst Resort? It's only a couple of hours and they have the kids. Same with Ballentine which is south of Charlotte. It's a couple of hours from Asheville, and my least favorite of the three, but . . . as part of a couple who never, ever gets to travel without our beloved children, a couple of hours is worth it, I imagine. *sigh*

Posted by: MN | June 12, 2008 1:51 PM

Thanks -- to be clear, dad is in Winston-Salem; Asheville is just the area I was thinking of visiting, because I've never been there and hear great things about it (plus hoping mountains + august = cooler). But I'm definitely open to a great place in a different area.

Posted by: Laura | June 12, 2008 2:06 PM


Asheville is beautiful. In terms of resort services and golf, and leafy green ambience, however, Pinehurst is the best. The Grove Park Inn (Asheville) is excellent, but the only game in town, so if they are booked, you are out of luck. I don't think you will find it any cooler (or not appreciably) in August, but the spa will be mighty inviting. OTOH, you could book a little cottage in Asheville, and drive over to the Grove Park Inn for spa services and golf. I don't believe they care, e.g., treat you differently, if you are a guest or not.

Since you got me curious, I googled and found Westglow in Blowing Rock. My only caution is that I've never heard of it. Read between the lines, knowing our profession, and ponder how that might be. That's what I'm doing.

Posted by: MN | June 12, 2008 2:18 PM

I think people should do what works for them. Some people really are enriched by always being busy, always having a full calendar, always being around other people. That's where their balance is.

The problem is people who get busy busy busy and then whine whine whine about how busy they are, how they have no time, how they need a vacation (which they then are incapable of relaxing in) and so on.

I usually ask people exactly what their priorities are, what their expectations are, and whether they come from a place of self fulfillment or external pressure. I think that gets them on the path of more personal responsibility.

Posted by: Liz D | June 12, 2008 2:19 PM

Liz -- Totally agree. Good advice too.

Posted by: Leslie | June 12, 2008 2:28 PM

Don't Forget Commuting!!..My husband I recently moved from an area that required over an hour commuting each way. Now it's reduced to 8 minutes, we don't need our car anymore, and we can walk/bike to the grocery store (5-10 minutes). I feel like the shackles have been removed from my ankles. The ability to walk around and look at the trees and not rush all of the time has really made a difference in the way we treat each other and ourselves.

As for the Europeans & Australians, they get between 4-6 weeks...but they can roll it over to the next year for multiple can end up with a more than 6 months of vacation if they're really frugal with their time. When I was working in Australia, even part time employees received paid vacation.--that was not invite to argue the whole EU vs US topic again.

Posted by: deedeenyc | June 12, 2008 2:28 PM

I just read this the other day again, and I can't shake it. I know this has been discussed before...I just can't get over that there are only four countries that don't offer paid leave for new parents. It's us and Swaziland, Papau New Guinea,Liberia -- the average income in those others is about $1200/year. Shameful.

Posted by: LizB | June 12, 2008 2:35 PM

I agree with the "healthier and more productive" line in the original post. I've seen teams that work overtime for years totally degrade as people's "real lives" suffered and they became tired and burnt out.

Posted by: Shandra | June 12, 2008 2:40 PM

Posted by: MN | June 12, 2008 2:18 PM

Hmmm. Not sure I could survive a place that calls its spa a "Life Enrichment Center." :-)

Posted by: Laura | June 12, 2008 2:59 PM


I found that a little skeevy. Although, if the lights are dim, the massage is good, and the music isn't too relentlessly New Agey . . .

Posted by: MN | June 12, 2008 4:43 PM

"I think this world would be ideal if we could all just walk around naked and when we got hungry, we could simply pick the fruit from the tree."

Sure...but the first person whose child dies from an inflamed appendix will complain, "Why doesn't someone learn some medicine?" That takes time and lots of work. And they usually make you wear clothes while doing it. And who's going to make the clothes? And the surgical instruments? And the chemicals to put the patient under? And so on and so on. Fruit can't solve everyone's problems.

Posted by: Mona | June 12, 2008 5:37 PM

LizB - why is it shameful that your employer doesn't have to pay for you to take time off when the baby's born? If you can't afford to take the time off unpaid, you can't afford the child.

Do your coworkers get paid extra to cover for you when you're gone for 6-12 weeks FLMA with the baby? Then why should you be paid?

Posted by: washerwoman | June 12, 2008 5:48 PM

And someone has to plant the fruit trees, water them, deal with pests, pull weeds...

(sorry, my inner gardener got control of my outside voice)

Posted by: Sue | June 12, 2008 5:56 PM

Well, I just came home from my "slow down"
day, which means I took the entire day off and went to the ballgame. It was a sweltering 72 (thank heaven for the breeze) and we beat the Dodgers 9-0. Sorry Fred! (Well, not really...)

Posted by: babsy1 | June 12, 2008 6:33 PM

Actually, this whole week has been a slow-down week. I had a scheduled day off on Monday, taught all day Tuesday off-site, had Jury Duty yesterday, and took a day of leave today. No wonder I feel so refreshed!

When I go away on holiday, I always come back one day early to decompress and realign. I change the sheets before I leave, and I make sure the house is clean. It makes coming home less stressful, and I don't spend my realignment day as a drudge.

Posted by: babsy1 | June 12, 2008 6:37 PM

Well, babsy1, the Cubs won in extra innings...with a HBP RBI for R. Johnson the pinch hitter!

Posted by: Fred | June 12, 2008 6:59 PM

Anne: when you get a new job, negotiate more vacation time. It's really that simple. Most companies give you 'three weeks after five years at company *or* three weeks with five years experience.' Why are none of the companies you have worked at like that?

The best was my last company, where I got three weeks vacation and I could buy an extra week of vacation. Nothing better.

WorkingmomX: yes, even though the kids can get on my nerves...I'm really happy staying home. DH is happy that he NEVER has to go to the grocery store again (well, maybe not NEVER... - but I was on the phone with him in target and he shot off a list of stuff he needed...).
We're all doing quite well, and much more relaxed - at least I am. And either they will call from my former company or not, to give me the part time job they said they would. I'm really unconcerned. :)

Posted by: atlmom | June 12, 2008 10:07 PM

To washerwoman:

I agree, we shouldn't have to pay for anyone to take time off to have a baby.

And likewise, I don't think my children should have social security taken out of their paycheck for you when you are old, nor medicaid. I think senior citizen discounts are unfair to my family and children, as we make up the balance by paying higher prices. Why should we subsidize your golden years?

Posted by: SJR | June 13, 2008 9:29 AM

To washerwoman:
Although I wouldn't advocate paying for 6-12 months of leave after a birth of time, a couple of weeks would show a support for strong family structures that our society has been largely lacking, save for those with the money to create it themselves.

My case is a bit funny because I work in a position with no paid maternity leave. I can use any sick leave I have available for times when I am medically advised not to work (must submit doctor's note). As for after, I can use whatever of my 2 weeks vacation I have left. In contrast, my hubby gets 2 weeks maternity plus whatever of his 3 weeks vacation he has. Now if I can just teach him to breastfeed...

Posted by: notime | June 13, 2008 10:46 AM

So many of us, at least in America, view our value by what we do. Ergo, if we're not "doing," we are not valuable. These are the same people who check their work e-mail while on vacation, convinced that it can't be done without them.

Life shuts down when something truly valuable happens, good or bad. When someone is ill or hurt, or when a baby arrives, suddenly life gets put into perspective. Life comes first. It always should, but we seem to forget that, especially in the DC area.

Me, I enjoy what I do for a paycheck. And I like the paycheck. It comes in handy. But a choice between work and life isn't that tough. It shouldn't be, that is.

Posted by: Chris | June 13, 2008 11:46 AM


I agree with you. My golden years will be subsidized by no one.

You of course do not take any exemptions for your children on your 1040, do you? Because then I'd be subsidizing your share of the tax burden, and your family uses more resources than I do.

To notime:

One reason our society lacks strong family structure is because people who can't afford children have them anyway, and others are forced to pay. Isn't it just a short hop from "someone else will pay for my kids" to "someone else is responsible for my kids"? Two weeks isn't unreasonable in my opinion, and you have two weeks at your present job. Six to twelve weeks? No. If you value the family that much, make the sacrifice; don't ask others to do it for you.

Posted by: washerwoman | June 13, 2008 3:06 PM

For heaven's sakes people, today journalism lost one of it's best - Tim Russert passed away at the young age of 58.


Where he worked tirelessly and though he enjoyed it, had to be stressed out.

So instead of bashing each other and stressing out about things we cannot control, why don't we try to help each other and gee, even show a bit of niceness.

You never know.

Posted by: Just stop it | June 13, 2008 5:44 PM

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