Work is where they belong!
This idea has been haunting me lately when I talk to many modern women. It's primarily their exciting, time- and energy-consuming, ever-demanding and yet endlessly satisfying jobs, and jobs only, that they are willing to elaborate about for hours. It often takes me a great deal of focus to be able to follow a tangled web of intrigues, flirtations, strategic moves and office relationships of sorts that seem to consume these girls to the fullest, both mentally and emotionally. They could be single or married, even with kids, they might also have hobbies and interests outside their jobs, but yet for a growing number of Russian women work appears to have become an inviting home and a major source of inspiration and pleasure.
Granted, it's not a novelty, at least not for the Western world. Back in 1997, prominent American researchers had arrived at an alarming conclusion: more and more individuals, women curiously in the first place, like it better at work than at home. Arlie Russel Hochschild, sociology professor and award-winning writer, spent three summers at a large multinational corporation interviewing employees on why they chose to work so much. A bestselling book titled The Time Bind: When Work Becomes Home and Home Becomes Work, came out of that. It turned out that financial issues and the fear of being laid-off weren't at all the key factors driving people to make a job their ultimate god. “The richer the employees, the less interested they were in time at home. The poorer they were, the more interested,” Hochschild writes. Interestingly, even though the corporation the author profiled ranked as one of top ten family-friendly companies in the United States, very few of the staff chose to consider the flexible hour timetables available. For instance, only 1% worked from home and even less did so part-time after having had a child, although the employer eagerly permitted such options.
What motivated people to make jobs their top priority? The sense of being valued, more successful and efficient than in whatever areas of life outside the job, Hochschild suggests. “They simply felt very rewarded at work, their best friends were at work. Essentially, the neighborhood has gone to work,” she writes.
Fast forwarding 14 years later across the Atlantic, I observe very similar trends. For many of today's Russian women, especially those living in big cities, work is not just the means to earn a living, but above all a safe refuge from life's calamities, a great opportunity for self-actualization and a source of gratification and personal satisfaction. I asked a few of my particularly workaholic girlfriends about why their jobs had won over other passions in life. The responses went along the following lines: “My office is like a second family to me, and a more supportive one.” “It's just who I am. I cannot imagine myself not working a lot.” “I need the constant intellectual output, otherwise I feel incomplete.” “My job distracts me from whatever issues I might have in my relationships.” Two of the five women I talked to were single, one lived with a boyfriend, two were married (both to businessmen with well-paying jobs) and one had a three-year-old daughter. Only one girl, a business magazine editor, confessed that the paycheck was the reason she sometimes worked weekends and spent the night hours writing freelance articles. “If money wasn't an issue, I'd still work though, but not so much, and I'd probably do my job more thoroughly,” she said.
Disturbing as all this sounds to me, I could relate to this, too. Our office environment is extremely warm, friendly and relaxed. I guess I am very lucky with my job: in addition to achieving goals and getting results, we bond, we laugh, we share, we get compliments and attention there. And when during the deadline week we happen to stay in far past the regular office hours, ordering pizza and opening a few bottles of wine to keep the creative spirits high, I often feel I am part of a large and understanding family I have never had. I know most of my coworkers feel the same even though sometimes they have to call up the nanny or a partner to say they'll be home after midnight. But I also know that if it weren't for the super-flexible schedule this job offers me most of the time, I'd probably quit in order to have more of a life.
While it's indeed empowering that an increasing number of females in Russia manage to find fulfilling jobs, I believe the key to a woman's happiness and health is the balance. Since it has been long proved that we're more apt than males to multitask, it's more realistic for women to harmoniously combine and embrace various dimensions of life. I am equally happy writing and cooking for the loved one. The trick is wise time management and setting priorities straight. And as I tend to get dead bored listening to yet another girl's office saga, after a while I quietly suggest a change of subject. I have to tell you: even the most devoted work aficionado switches willingly... to love matters, of course!
The views expressed in this column are the author’s and may not necessarily represent those of RIA Novosti.
Russia has always been referred to as feminine and Russian women have been one of the most popular stereotypes of this nation, both positive and negative. But is this an all-male fantasy? Here is a hip, modern, professional and increasingly globalized Russian woman looking at the trends around her, both about her gender and the society at large. She talks and lets other women talk.
Svetlana Kolchik, 33, is deputy editor-in-chief of the Russian edition of Marie Claire magazine. She holds degrees from the Moscow State University Journalism Department and Columbia University Graduate School of Journalism. She has worked for Argumenty i Fakty weekly in Moscow and USA Today in Washington, D.C., and contributed to RussiaProfile.org, Russian editions of Vogue, Forbes and other publications.
The views and opinions expressed in the article do not necessarily reflect those of Sputnik.