The Family Conundrum We All Face

The Journal of Consumer Research recently published a series of studies exploring the connection between leisure time, busyness, and status (Lack of Leisure: Is Busyness the New Status Symbol). The authors found busyness associated with a perception of high status in the United States. In other words, the busier a person’s life, the more important his he is in the eyes of his peers. In addition, using products and services that “showcase one’s busyness” (like online shopping and grocery deliver) made people appear more important, more in demand, and thus of higher status. So, if you want people to see you as important, keep busy.

The World Leisure Journal, on the other hand, published a study suggesting leisure time spent with family at home was a significant “predictor of happiness for families” (Pleasant Family Leisure at Home May Satisfy Families More Than Fun Together Elsewhere, Study Finds). Taken together, these two studies raise an interesting conundrum for many families. Success and status are associated with busyness; but family joy and intimacy is associated with leisure time spent as a family. And, if you haven’t noticed, our families are caught right in the middle of this dilemma. Children and teens live busy lives. They rush from one activity to another, participating in one program after another program so they can build a resume with enough “status” to impress any university of their choosing. They become so busy that parents rush through the drive-thru to order dinner on their way to the next activity. Parents are not immune from their own busyness either. They not only rush the children around; they also take on more assignments at work to increase their status and reputation in hopes of getting the promotion and the raise that will fund their family’s hectic lifestyle. Status for children pursued through involvement in multiple activities. Status for parents rests on busy children and is further pursued through busyness at work and community involvement. The whole family achieves the status of importance and “in demand” but forfeits family joy and intimacy. Family joy and intimacy requires leisure time spent together as a family. Family happiness grows slowly in the soil of leisure time spent talking, laughing, and sharing together.

These two studies really do present a conundrum for the average family. Finding the balance is not simple. I guess we have to ask ourselves a question: “What is more important to me and my family, status or family happiness?” Then choose your lifestyle accordingly…for “what does it profit a man if he gains reputation and status but loses his own family along the way.”

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