Brigid Schulte, author of Overwhelmed: Work, Love, and Play When No One Has the Time, talks with the Atlantic Monthly.
Schulte scrutinizes this state of affairs: Why do we all feel so overworked? How is that feeling different for men than for women? Is a better, less harried life possible?
…Can you start by telling us about what “the overwhelm” is, how you see it now after years of research and writing on the topic, and how you think that your understanding differs from the conventional one?
This whole book started when a time-use researcher told me I had 30 hours of leisure a week. And when I told him he was out of his flipping mind, he challenged me to keep a time diary and he would show me where my leisure was.
The whole premise of his challenge was that there was something wrong with me. That I should have this time, and if I didn’t feel that I did, it was my fault. I already felt totally inadequate—felt that I never did enough work, or that it was good enough, that I wasn’t spending enough time with my kids, or that I was so exhausted I was yelling at them, and I stomped around seething that my “egalitarian” marriage left me up late folding laundry or wrapping Christmas presents or doing the dishes while my husband slept soundly.
Before I began working on this book, I thought that’s just how life had to be—fast, crazy, busy, breathless—particularly for working mothers in the 21st century. I didn’t think it could change. I had no role models. And didn’t really stop and think about why.