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Career Crunch: How To Save Your Sex Life

“I have long been of the opinion that if work were such a splendid thing the rich would have kept more of it for themselves.” — Bruce Grocott

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A career demands to be fed. It is the leading cause of the increase in smart phones, road rage and diminished libido. OK, I don’t know this for a fact — but I’m betting my entire comic book collection it’s true.

Careers require lots of attention — often off-site as well as on. A job merely exchanges labor for money. You can be fairly blasé about a “job” and move along if a sweeter possibility comes along. A career is an achievement, built over time. It’s an interest-bearing investment, as opposed to a checking account.

Take two people and add two careers and what do you get? Either larger cash flow, bent egos and great openings for conversations and humor, or a pair of howling, angry people, arm-wrestling over who does the most and who is the slacker. Some have observed that work has replaced sex as the number-one late-night activity. Here’s a suggestion: Turn off the devices during designated hours and discover that despite your illusion, you are not actually indispensable. Do this before you also find out you are not infinite and are made of rather frail materials (think car wrapped around telephone pole or 12-week flu).

“The worst thing about work in the house or home is that whatever you do is destroyed, laid waste or eaten within 24 hours.” — Lady Kasluck

Don’t think you can escape the daily grind by becoming a stay-at-home parent. This job is a combo dish of heavy lifting and assorted manual labor, interspersed with requests for mathematical or scientific genius on demand. The career Mom or Dad rarely gets the perks or expense account of a regular CEO, but the upside is extreme latitude in planning the workflow, an easy dress code and more variety in snack times than can be found at corporate headquarters. If you are the Momma Mansion Manager, be sure to elicit appreciation. If you are the Off-Site Director Daddy, pencil in some work assistance for your colleague in the trenches. Think flowers and a regular relief person — a babysitter.

“A house is a machine for living in.” — Le Corbusier

So much for hiding out at home, avoiding work. For the millions who now eat, sleep and labor at the same address, there is no getting away from it all. Wired to computer, phone and Skype, the worlds of work and home have collided. The Bed and Breakfast Boss must avoid his desire to wander back from the garden into the home office — ”just for a few minutes” — to clear up some backlog. Or she must tune out the bubbling sounds on the other side of the door, where the nanny is firmly stating, “Your mother is busy now — you can’t go in there.” The earplugs must be firmly inserted or the bluetooth audio cranked way up to screen out the guilt-creating pleadings from the hallway outside.

The big decision here is whether the partner who works at a remote location has worked harder than the one who worked at home. Mom thinks she’s had it and wants some help and a break to have a bath. Dad wants a moment to relax and leave the office pressures in another time zone. The kids don’t care who they get as long as they get someone — and soon.

We give serious and regal recognition to those overachievers who work 80-hour weeks — living in their offices, worshipping the coffee machine. The work ethic has turned into the overwork ethic. Perhaps this is a way to avoid having a real life. Maybe this is a lack of perspective (that there are other areas of life to cultivate). What if this whole package is an attempt to avoid dealing with touchy issues — like that fact that parenting isn’t always that much fun, or that the home relationship is defunct?

Oh — too scary. It is more convenient to state that this is all for the building of the future — a bigger house, more vacations, security. Head down and plow into the windstorm. Next suggestion: Keep talking. If you are now working to exhaustion merely to retire to a simple life when you are elderly, consider downsizing the lifestyle now. That way you’ll have more time to be in your life, while you’re still able to bend at the waist.

My father always said, “Just because you are self-employed doesn’t mean the boss isn’t an asshole.” He knew. And I have strong mental snapshots of him from childhood, eating dinner with his head crooked to one side, glued to the phone as he addressed the latest business problem. Meanwhile, we all munched our way through spaghetti dinner. The boss demanded it.

The problem with owning your own biz is that it is very much like having another child. The owner has the same relationship with the business that she does as a stay-at-home mother. Bottom line: There’s no getting away from work and toil.

The best scenario is the one that allows you a healthy equilibrium, so that the career — whatever it is — doesn’t eat you whole. There is a momentum to industry that fogs the scenery on the periphery. Don’t forget to clear the mist to see what is passing by, while you and your honey work your buns off.

Years ago, a study of top executives and CEOs of Fortune 500 companies came up with a very interesting finding — and one they weren’t expecting. A large percentage of big bosses thought they were lonely, and that they had missed out on the world of relationships with their incredible business focus. Many reflected that they were estranged from their wives and kids; that when they reached the top of the heap, they had no one to share the accomplishments with. Many said they would do it differently if they could rerun the video of their life. As an observant guy once said, no one on their deathbed ever looked back and wished they’d signed up for more overtime at work.

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