Is Being At Work Better Than Being At Home?

In the land that came up with the phrase “Thank God it’s Friday,” and a restaurant chain to capitalize on the sense of relief many feel as the work week ends, researchers made an unusual finding in 2012.

Moms who worked full time reported significantly better physical and mental health than moms who worked part time, research involving more than 2,500 mothers found. And mothers who worked part time reported better health than moms who didn’t work at all.

Working and juggling family responsibilities can be stressful. But can work, despite its demands, be less stressful than the alternative?

Mothers who worked longer hours had more juggling to do. They had more demands on their time and more stress. How could they possibly be in better physical and mental health?

One answer, of course, is self-selection. Mothers who were in better health to begin with may have chosen to work regularly. Researchers Adrianne Frech andSarah Damaske, who conducted the 2012 study, also found that moms who worked steadily had other advantages. They were more likely to have grown up with two married parents, more likely to have completed high school and more likely to be in a stable relationship before the birth of their first child.

But in new research, Damaske argues that another factor might have been at play. It’s a factor that sociologists such as Arlie Hochschild and psychiatrists such as Sigmund Freud have examined in the past. Hochschild, for one, found that many people find work to be less stressful than their home lives. Work was, in fact, a haven. Freud once said work and love were two wellsprings of emotional satisfaction in life.

In a study of 122 working men and women, Damaske had volunteers collect samples of saliva throughout the day. The samples were later tested to measure the levels of cortisol, a stress hormone.

Cortisol levels didn’t spike when the volunteers were at work. They soared when the volunteers were home.

“When we looked at the difference between home and work in terms of their cortisol levels — that biological marker of stress — we found that people’s cortisol levels were significantly lower at work than they were at home,” Damaske said. The results “suggested to us that people — at least biologically speaking — had lower levels of stress … at work,” she said.

Low-income people and those without children were especially likely to report lower levels of the stress hormone when they were at work.

The idea that work might be less stressful than home life for many people is mirrored in a nationwide poll conducted by NPR, the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation and the Harvard School of Public Health: Health problems, the death of loved ones and juggling busy family schedules often scored among the top sources of stress in people’s lives.

Damaske said there was an important difference between the kind of stress people experience at home and the kind of stress they experience in the workplace.

“No matter how urgent something is at work, you are not as attached to that urgency as you would be to, say, a health scare or the death of a loved one, because we are emotionally entangled at home in a way that we aren’t at work,” she said in an interview.

Besides, she added, most workers have a trump card to play at work, which they may not feel they have in their personal lives.

“You still know that you can quit, you can look for something else, that you can leave — leave your boss and your bad day behind,” Damaske said. “Those aren’t exactly strategies that you have for home, right? Most of us aren’t going to up and leave our families because they’re stressful, although most people’s families are stressful from time to time.”

Damaske said the study offered a different window into why women who work steady jobs might experience better physical and mental health than those who work part time, or not at all. It is still possible that women who are healthier to begin with are more likely to hold steady jobs, but Damaske said it might also be the case that work had positive effects on women’s health.

So why do we hear so much about stressful jobs, bad bosses and difficult demands at work?

One reason could be that people might find it easier to talk about problems at work than to talk about problems and challenges in their personal lives. Social norms, Damaske said, make it acceptable to complain in public about our work lives, but make it difficult to talk publicly about health problems and other stressors in our personal lives.

All this points to one thing. There is pent-up demand in the United States for a new restaurant named “TGIM” — Thank God it’s Monday!

stress

*Article originally posted on NPR.

Good, Clean Fun!

This weekend I had a good wholesome time being out & about! Saturday morning was full of running errands like picking up my dry cleaning, paying some bills, grocery shopping & going to the store. I also did some light cleaning around the house and even folded some laundry (gasp!).

Saturday evening a friend & I went to a get-together where men and women alike openly discussed different relationship topics. The beauty of this forum was that any talk of sex was not allowed. There are too many topics pertaining to dating & relationships that talking about sex just wasn’t necessary. I liked this rule! Every topic was clean & pertained to men, women and general dating advice. The topics were preselected and pretty interesting. We discussed things like whether or not you would sign a prenup, things that turn you on or turn you off, and whether dating someone should be dependent on their employment status or not. There was some pretty lively conversation and quite a few people actually learned something new about the opposite gender that they didn’t know before. And to top it off, there was plenty of food to eat while all of this was going on!

Hanging out

After the ‘relationship forum’ was over, the evening turned into a good ole fashioned fish fry! Between the good food, wine and conversation I had a pretty nice time! My friend & I then decided to head over to a café to hear some live music. We listened to a band that played old school hits like “Before I Let Go” by Frankie Beverly & Maze, Jackson 5 songs and even some Barry White. People were up dancing and having a great time as the band entertained us all. We stayed until the lights were shut off & the owner put us out. Fun times!

On Sunday I went to church (as usual) and ended up talking to some people after service. We all discussed going out after church but decided to postpone hanging out until later in the evening. We needed time to eat, change clothes & get rested. I went to my church’s evening service (which starts at 7:00 pm) and afterwards we all went bowling across town from the church. There were 6 of us in total but only 4 bowled. Nobody did exceptionally well but we just blamed our poor performance on the lanes in the bowling alley. I think I should always get a strike when I bowl! (The floors must’ve been uneven) The best part of the evening was that we all talked smack to each other, booing & cheering after each turn. We shut the bowling alley down and didn’t leave until just after midnight.

bowling

All in all I had a really nice, clean weekend. It didn’t cost a lot of money and I even made some new friends. I look forward to many more like it!!

The New American Man Doesn’t Look Like His Father

This summer, All Things Considered is exploring what it means to be a man in America today. In some ways, the picture for men has changed dramatically over the past 50 years. More women than men are going to college, and the economy is moving away from jobs that traditionally favored men, like manufacturing and mining. Attitudes have also changed on the social front, with young men having more egalitarian attitudes toward women and expectations of being involved fathers.

Pedro Noguera, a professor at New York University and head of the Metropolitan Center for Research on Equity and the Transformation of Schools, says the biggest shakeup has been in education. In 1962, men made up about 65 percent of college enrollees; today they make up about 43 percent.

The other side of that figure is the dropout rate for men. Noguera tells NPR’s Audie Cornish that in some states, it’s twice as high as the female dropout rate.

“These patterns speak to a larger problem, because we know now that the jobs of the future require college degrees,” Noguera says.

The education imbalance between men and women is also having an impact on the dating scene, Noguera adds, something that’s been already true in the African-American community: “A growing number of well-educated, professional women … are unable to find men of similar education.”

But sociologist Michael Kimmel, a professor at Stony Brook University and director of the Center for the Study of Men and Masculinities, says the changing landscape hasn’t come with changed attitudes about masculinity.

“Survey after survey shows that 60 to 70 percent of men still agree with the notion that masculinity depends on emotional stoicism — never showing fear, never showing pain,” Kimmel says. “So, the world has changed dramatically, and yet most men still cling tenaciously to an ideology of masculinity that comes off the set of Mad Men.”

But Kimmel says today’s boys and young men have a much better sense of gender equality than many of their fathers did. He sees a clear example in cross-sex friendship. For 25 years, Kimmel has asked his students if they had a good friend of the opposite sex. When he first started asking, about 10 percent would answer yes. Today, almost everyone does.

“Think about that. You make friends with your peers, right? You make friends with people you consider your equals, not your boss or your servants. I mean, my students today are more experienced with gender equality in their interpersonal relationships than any generation in our history,” he says.

Noguera also has seen men become much more involved with raising their children and general housework.

“But what hasn’t come with that is a new definition of what it means to be a man as a nurturer in the family,” Noguera says. “Can you be strong and be a nurturer? Well, many women have figured out, yes, they have to be, in fact. Because they have to raise the kids on their own, and they can’t afford to just expect some man to save the day.”

He says today’s men are searching for a way to reconcile old ideas related to strength with the need to be better listeners, more cooperative and more open to others.

american man

*Article originally published on NPR.

I Am A World Citizen

Traveling out of the country always makes me reflect on who I am & where I come from. No matter what country I visit, I always return home with a sense of renewal & American pride.

Coming back from my recent trip to Hong Kong made me realize that no matter what color other people are we all share the same emotions and want what’s best out of life. I interacted with people all the way from Singapore, New Zealand and even South Africa. We were all able to laugh at the same jokes and enjoy foreign food together. It’s good to know that no matter where your roots are from, you can always find commonalities with others.

Here are some of the key takeaways from my trip overseas:

  • People are the same no matter where they’re from – There are good people & bad people all over the world (think of Mahatma Gandhi or Nelson Mandela). Feelings of anger, sadness and happiness exist in every language in every land.
  • It’s good to be from America – Sometimes people are identified not by who they are but by where they’re from. Oftentimes Americans are held in very high esteem based on the liberties we have within this country. They know that of all the places in the world to be from, American is one of the best.
  • It’s bad to be from America – People in other countries will always have misnomers about people from the USA. Americans are fat & lazy and should have nothing to complain about, right? Others preconceived notions about who I am based on my passport made me want to represent my country even harder.
  • People are people – Underneath the skin colors, bank accounts and religious beliefs we are all the same on the inside. I saw people worshipping Buddha just I worship Jesus Christ. I saw young girls laugh & talk just I like I do with my girlfriends. Reverence & respect mean so much no matter where you go.
  • We are a small piece of the big picture – There are over 7 billion people on this Earth. And that’s not including those who have already died. We don’t get an eternity to make a difference in this world. Instead, we get just enough time to leave a lasting legacy.

I’m so glad I had the opportunity to go abroad one more time. It’s always good to meet other people in their native country & experience life as they do. If you’ve never really traveled you should consider getting a passport and see what the world has to offer.

world citizen