Monday, July 17, 2006

Tired? Women and Fatigue Part 7

For now, I’m going to skip over the next section which was about medical causes for fatigue, and go onto the section about work conditions, which is a little easier to tell about without checking the book for spelling and definition of medical words like endocrinal systems and pernicious anemia and so on.

The section on work conditions is the last one in the book and I found it quite helpful. It described the typical working conditions of many, obviously not all, women . Women who stay at home can experience fatigue associated with frequent lifting (small children, household objects, etc) and with other kinds of work to do with housework and childcare. They can also find themselves bored with the sameness and seeming unproductivity of their work. Boredom saps energy levels. The book made the point that labor-saving machinery in the home has made the housewife’s job easier but also more boring. There is no longer the pride and personal creativity that went into cooking and household crafts in the pre-electricity days. Having just returned from a visit to the house of a friend who works hard to bring the personal creativity back to her household management, this point struck me as a valid one. I do think homeschooling brings meaning back into the home environment at least in my case because I am more likely to learn a new craft or subject if it is one I think would benefit my children as well.

As to women in the workplace — the book says that women often end up in the kinds of jobs that either depend upon nurturing and the trade of emotions in some way —- nurse, teacher, day care provider, secretary, airplane hostess, waitress — or they have repetitious, narrow-focused jobs — in factories, the book says, women often get the more rigid, boring jobs since they are considered more capable of enduring this kind of work. I see no reason to disbelieve this since most of the working women I know have one or the other kind of job. Actually, probably the nurturing ones are most representative in my experience. I do also know lots of women doctors and professors and authors and small-business owners, who seem to fit into a different category than either of the ones dealt with in the book.
Anyway, here is the relevant part. Women in nurturing jobs have to pay emotional coin to some extent in return for the income. That is a drain especially in the cases where the situation becomes emotionally over-demanding. She talks about air hostesses but I will mention nursing, since I’ve been in so many hospitals. It is emotional to deal with sick people and their sometimes unfair and angry or grieving relatives. The nurses bear the biggest burden of emotional support whereas the doctors vary quite widely in their bedside manner; nurturing may be a bonus but is not an integral part of their job description. My friend who is a family therapist finds her work draining enough that she has left it temporarily to find more routine, less emotionally challenging employment, at least in the years when her daughter is small.

But routine, narrow-focused work comes at a price too because women who aren’t able to bring their whole selves to their work will be frustrated by that, which again is a fatigue-producer. The book makes some suggestions for balancing out the two aspects — avoiding or compensating for excessive emotional drain of the nurturing jobs, and finding ways to broaden restricted job descriptions and avoid career dead-ends. This was not of direct interest to me right now. The main message for me was to be conscious that a balance between variety and routine is the best way to feel satisfied in one’s work, and work at an optimum level of energy.

Also the idea of customizing one’s own life and environment, whether working at home or away from it. Not a new idea, but something to think about. She makes the point that sometimes developing a talent or interest can lead to an at-home source of income, which is very true. I know lots of women (and men) who have done it this way. I have another library sale book called Do What You Love, The Money Will Follow which I haven’t read yet, but it’s on this general topic and this does relate more than a bit to unschooling.

No comments: