The Plight of the Two-Income Earner

Lately, I’ve been telling everyone within earshot that I’m tired of working so hard. It took a couple of carefree weekends and slow Mondays to realize how much more padding I want around hard weeks’ worth of work. 


I’ve been a two-income earner for many, many years. With a few years’ exceptions, I’ve always held more than one job, as much to keep my mind stimulated as our cupboards full. And until now, I handled two occupations relatively well. But decades of heavy loads and a shortening lifespan have me reevaluating how I want to spend my days ahead. It probably doesn’t help that most of my friends now are unencumbered by jobs and school-aged children and living their best lives. I have several years before I can join them.


The hours add up

My lifestyle is no longer a novelty. A lot of people work gigs beyond a full-time job. As a professional writer and budding novelist, I spend way too much time tethered to a desk and chair. I do get up at least once every hour, usually to reheat an ignored mug of hot tea or to deal with the aftermath of such liquid consumption.


Fridays and Saturday mornings, it’s just the opposite. My aging body contorts to fit into forts or chase down a toddler while lifting another baby. It’s exhausting, but I always leave feeling surprisingly reinvigorated. Which is a good thing, because I also care for a 13-year-old with high energy.


Because so many of my waking hours are already earmarked, I cherish what little “me time” remains in a day. I easily fall asleep within minutes and wake early due to my husband’s crazy work schedule. I am back to regularly running at 5 a.m. just because it’s the only time to do so. I play it safe, doing loops that keep me within easy reach of my home in case coyotes or creeps appear. On Sundays, I head out closer to 7 or row at the gym. 


So here’s my plight: As I extend my distance and try to bring down my pace per mile, I’ll need more time. Time to carefully warm up, do speedwork or longer runs and cool down with a proper stretch. I’m of the age that failure to follow this regime carries potentially debilitating consequences. And any disruptions allow quiet resentment to dilute the endorphins I worked hard to collect.


Setting expectations

Some of us are better at setting limits with those requesting our time. I have a friend whose philosophy is to take advantage of the now. As a result, when an opportunity presents itself, she grabs it. Also as a result, she is rarely able get together or help if I need it. I envy her flexibility, but not her crammed schedule. 


I try to set expectations with clients, too, but unless they keep the same West Coast hours I do, it’s futile. You might be surprised how many 5 a.m. runs or 6 a.m. BodyPump sessions are canceled because it’s the only time someone can meet online or I accept a ridiculously tight deadline. 


But when it comes to expectations, I mostly fall down by asking too much of myself. I need to shut my office door at the end of the day and put my phone away after a certain hour. Otherwise, I won’t personally advance, perhaps not professionally either. 


Such a simple endeavor: Do more with less. But easier said than done if you agree to launch new programs, sign up for races, go on arduous hikes, make travel plans, keep up the house, help struggling friends, test new recipes, spend quality time with family, promise to keep in touch and practice more self-care. 


Unless you work in an industry like healthcare or hospitality, the next six weeks present longer moments to step back, slow down and recharge. I, for one, intend to do just that -- reclaim more of my time. And not just for the remainder of 2021.

Photo of last year's solstice sunset at Torrey Pines State Reserve.


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