DEAR CAROLYN: I'm lucky to be able to telework three days a week. On the other two days, I have a 1 1/2-hour commute (each way) and I share an office with a guy I can't stand, so on office days a lot of my debriefing involves complaints about those things. My husband has gotten very frustrated with me for being in a job where I "seem unhappy" 40% of the time. He is a creative professional doing what he loves, and to him it doesn't make sense to suffer inconveniences like a commute and officemate, even though I get a paycheck for doing so. This difference in perspectives is really starting to bother me, since our children are at an age where everything we say counts. They are not trust-fund babies, and I don't want them to get the idea that it's wrong to tolerate small daily hardships — which in my view is why you get paid to work. He doesn't want them to think it's OK to tolerate a working life that isn't more fun than, well, work. How do we reconcile these differences and send our kids a consistent message?
WORKING: Do all messages need to be consistent?
You have your experience, he has his.
One part of his experience, though, is your negative "debrief," which seems to want rethinking. You may see it as an end-of-workday cleansing ritual, but your husband is — however we cast the details — to the general point of feeling weighed down by the repetitive, set-your-watch-predictable negativity of it.
So it's time to change your ritual. Your long commute can be to your advantage: That's a lot of podcast, audiobook, standup-comedy, language-learning, TED-talking opportunity you have there. For six hours a week, you laugh, cry, learn, feel, mangle simple phrases and otherwise get out of your rut. Beautiful.
In this better frame of mind, you come home to your husband. If there's still some residual angst, then maybe you agree upon a five-minute retelling of tales about your terrible colleague, then move on to full embrace of family life.
Given that daily life and the small hardships thereof are basically the building blocks of the human experience, I don't think you need to do a lot of explaining to your kids about the importance of managing them with grace. Just, manage them with grace. They're watching you, always. You can trust that above anything else.
— Yeah, we've been sold a bill of goods that we should always be able to be happy and fulfilled by our work. That's totally worth pushing back on. But if work is making you MISERABLE, then no, you should not consider yourself stuck just because it pays the bills. And if it's tolerable, then you shouldn't need to complain as much as you're doing.
— My commute is about two hours each way because I have to ride a ferry. People think this is an arduous commute and I must be crazy, but I can read, knit, nap, text, whatever. By the time I get home, my ride has washed away all of the work residue. I work to live, I don't live to work (anymore), and this is the price I'm willing to pay.