A Non-Downshifter’s problems whilst lunching.

Did the guys that lived here think about their “performance”?! (seen in South France)

Another funny story (or is it sad?) from the world of “high-performing” Non-Downshifters:

Today I was at lunch with a very nice and intelligent colleague.
She is a mother of two and quickly we came to childcare, and her biggest current worry:

School will start in 1 year for her older boy.

Well, ok, “one year is far away, so why do you worry already?” was my first thought.

However, she and her partner are both working full-time and are quite career oriented, lot of over-time, business trips and stuff. Also sure a huge pile of income (she is hierarchically above Woodpecker, he is probably way beyond any normal guy’s income).

Well, granted (we should hopefully be beyond materialistic jealousy already).
However, this was how basically our conversation went :

Non-Downshifter: “I’m so worried not to find a decent after-school care club for my kids. Because we both have to work so much for our companies.”

Woodpecker:“Yeah, that is difficult, I know. But, knowing your good position and high-efficiency in the company, and knowing your partner is working full-time as well, why don’t you both just cut it down a bit to have a bit more time for yourselves and your family?”

Non-Downshifter: “You mean, less over-time? Hm, very difficult, very difficult, it’s expected for the career, we need the money, and then we would still need someone to care for the kids in the afternoon. Maybe two days of home office – like you are doing – would help.”

Woodpecker: “Yeah, also a great idea, why don’t you do it?”

Non-Downshifter: “Haha, that’s so easy to say for you men, because you can do it so easily. If I’d do that, nobody would take me for serious any more! And my boss anyway would not allow it. And somebody else would invade my area of expertise in the days I am away. It was never possible for me, where I would have needed it so desperately when the kids were babies. The world really is not fair!”

Woodpecker(puzzled): “Well, first, you are not away, you just work from a different desk. Second: Did you ever ask for it at some point of time?”

Non-Downshifter: “No. Would have been denied anyway.”

Woodpecker: “Ooookey, so maybe it is more your personal fear that kept you away from asking and not your boss or the company”

Non-Downshifter: “Hm, well, don’t know, maybe. However, that’s not the point, home-office wouldn’t help anyway, that’s only 2 days a week, so no need to ask.”

Woodpecker: “Well, if you think so… Actually, coming back to cutting down, I didn’t mean less over-time, I meant really cutting down: Work max. 70%, both of you. I guess you would still be perfectly well of with combined work-time and -income of 140%. And you could easily arrange that every afternoon, someone is at home!”

Non-Downshifter: “Well, sounds nice, but no, we really absolutely can’t do that.”

Woodpecker: “Why is that?”

Non-Downshifter: “Because we have to offer something to our kids, don’t we?!”

Woodpecker: “Well sure you do. But if you mean material things, why not offer them some more time with you instead? Very often it seems to me that if you take your time, the kids enjoy the cheap activities much more than expensive things done in a hectic.”

Non-Downshifter: “Hm, well, don’t know. However, we need the money for a private school.”

Woodpecker: “Why is that?” [Note for Non-German readers: The German Public School system is quite good, and  will not hinder you at all to go to university later and do a career. Actually private schools are a very elitist and expensive thing here, that exist only in well-spoilt rich cities like Munich. I know virtually nobody who went to a private school. Plus, the colleague sure does live in a wealthy area where the respective grammar school will be even above average.]

Non-Downshifter: “Well, we will not get any afternoon childcare otherwise. And the private school offers it, so it is the only way to solve our problem! As I said it’s so difficult these days, and the bloody state is not able to help at all! The world really isn’t fair in the end!”

OK, I stop it here.Let’s do a quick summary:

  • Two full and time-consuming jobs. Estimated household income: 2,5-3 x Woodpecker’s family income (which is more than enough already). I’d guess they are well in the top 5% income group Germany-wide.
  • A very social employer (Woodpecker spend quite a while shopping around until he found it, so I know what I am talking about), being above average flexible for many kinds of home-office, part time schemes and so on.
  • A good national social system allowing for easy parental leaves well up to the age of their kids with employment guarantees.
  • They work full time, 7 days a week, both partners, until 6 or 7 p.m. each day plus frequent business trips overnight. They probably only have time for the children at the weekend, when there probably still is a lot of everyday tasks from the week to do.
  • They “have” to work full time both, because they “want to offer something” to the kids.
  • One of these special offerings to the kids is a private school were public schools are just as good in Germany.
  • Why is the private school so important? Well, it has day-round child-care, so they can work full time both without any need to be at home early!

This is clearly a complete and rediculous nonsense.

Ah, and I forgot:

  • The world is not fair because it can’t read her mind and refuses to take the burden from her to stand upright and acting herself on those few decisions which are more than totaly trivial.

And of course my all time favorite classic:

  • The state is to blame.

…or the boss or the company or someone else out there.
Actually anyone has to be blamed to avoid acknowledging the fact that she/they both can’t jump over their own shadows.

And this is coming from so privileged and intelligent people! And from an otherwise so amiable person!


My goal is not to poing fingers here, but this little example shows how deeply entrenched fear, the wish to conform, materialistic world view and “performance thinking” is in so many of today’s people, despite the fact that many of them are so much better off than they dare to think!

If you experienced similar stories, let me know, these little pieces are always fascinating and eye-opening in my opinion.




4 comments on “A Non-Downshifter’s problems whilst lunching.

  1. sendaiben says:

    Excellent post. My wife and I are in a similar situation to your colleague, we started our own company on top of my full-time job so spend most of our time working…

    it’s nice to have some common-sense to read every so often! 😉

  2. Alexander says:

    I am self-employed with 7 employees. I was afraid all the time. Letters I could sometimes not open for days, from fear there could something unpleasant in there. My blood pressure rose higher and higher. At 35, I had to take blood pressure pills in high doses. Due to rethink and change my behavior I need now no more pills. People like you have opened my eyes to a better and healthier life. thanks

    • mrwoodpecker says:

      Probably getting rid of fear will have a positive effect on your business as well as on your employees and work climate.
      I admit that fear played a bigger role in my life as well not too long ago, and it’s a great relief if you can drop it…

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