Book: “Overwhelmed: Work, Love, and Play When No One Has the Time”
Overwhelmed is a book about time pressure and modern life. It is a deeply reported and researched, honest and often hilarious journey from feeling that, as one character in the book said, time is like a “rabid lunatic” running naked and screaming as your life flies past you, to understanding the historical and cultural roots of the overwhelm, how worrying about all there is to do and the pressure of feeling like we’re never have enough time to do it all, or do it well, is “contaminating” our experience of time, how time pressure and stress is resculpting our brains and shaping our workplaces, our relationships and squeezing the space that the Greeks said was the point of living a Good Life: that elusive moment of peace called leisure.
Author Brigid Schulte, an award-winning journalist for the Washington Post – and harried mother of two – began the journey quite by accident, after a time-use researcher insisted that she, like all American women, had 30 hours of leisure each week. Stunned, she accepted his challenge to keep a time diary and began a journey that would take her from the depths of what she described as the Time Confetti of her days to a conference in Paris with time researchers from around the world, to North Dakota, of all places, where academics are studying the modern love affair with busyness, to Yale, where neuroscientists are finding that feeling overwhelmed is actually shrinking our brains, to exploring new lawsuits uncovering unconscious bias in the workplace, why the US has no real family policy, and where states and cities are filling the federal vacuum.
She spent time with mothers drawn to increasingly super intensive parenting standards, and mothers seeking to pull away from it. And she visited the walnut farm of the world’s most eminent motherhood researcher, an evolutionary anthropologist, to ask, are mothers just “naturally” meant to be the primary parent? The answer will surprise you.
Along the way, she was driven by two questions, Why are things the way they are? and, How can they be better? She found real world bright spots of innovative workplaces, couples seeking to shift and share the division of labor at home and work more equitably and traveled to Denmark, the happiest country on earth, where fathers – and mothers – have more pure leisure time than parents in other industrial countries. She devoured research about the science of play, why it’s what makes us human, and the feminist leisure research that explains why it’s so hard for women to allow themselves to. The answers she found are illuminating, perplexing and ultimately hopeful. The book both outlines the structural and policy changes needed – already underway in small pockets – and mines the latest human performance and motivation science to show the way out of the overwhelm and toward a state that time use researchers call … Time Serenity.