I’m 25 and don’t want a full-time job

A reader writes:

I’m 25 and have never worked a full-time job before, and very much do not want to change that. I’m not disabled, but with the amount of time I’d spend working and then coming home exhausted and unmotivated, I worry that I won’t be able to keep up with basic chores around the house and take proper care of my animals.

Currently I’m working part-time in retail, and when I got my health insurance I realized that I don’t qualify to be covered in a 911 kind of emergency unless I move to full-time. My husband (who does work full-time) looked into putting me on his plan, but it would cost us double what we’re currently paying. Plus, as a pair of newlyweds who are still figuring this “life” thing out, it would be extremely helpful to have some extra cash.

I know at this point I need to have a conversation with my manager about making the switch to a 40-hour week, but I dread doing it. I really hate the idea of spending so much of my time working — not just in retail, but in general. Is this normal? How do y’all manage a house and a life when you work eight or nine hours a day and only get two days off in a week?

P.S. Sorry if I sound spoiled. I live in a low cost-of-living area and that’s how we’ve been able to make this work for so long. I wish everyone who wanted to was able to work part-time and afford it.

Yeah, it’s pretty normal. Most people wouldn’t work full-time if they didn’t have to in order to support themselves and their families. It’s not like everyone else out there who’s working full-time loves it, or even doesn’t mind it. A lot of people resent it, live for the weekends, etc. And it’s not uncommon to have a slowly dawning sense of horror in your 20s when you realize you’re going to have to spend a huge portion of the next several decades at work.

Of course, not everyone feels that way! Some people are lucky enough to have jobs that they like and/or find fulfilling. (The latter is the reason I went into nonprofit work; I figured that if I had to spend 40+ hours a week at work, it would be a lot more bearable if that labor went toward helping to make the world a better place.) Even among people who like their jobs, though, most would rather work fewer hours or have more flexibility in their schedules. And a lot of us who like our work are still exhausted all the time. It’s legitimately exhausting to work full-time hours and have to manage your household and life on top of that.

It’s not irrelevant that this system was originally designed for men who were assumed to have a spouse who stayed at home and managed all the other aspects of life for him. (Although of course, even then plenty of families couldn’t support themselves on a single salary or only had a single working-age adult or so forth.) It’s also not irrelevant that now that most women work, we’re still carrying a disproportionate share of the household labor too. (This is almost certainly why a bunch of studies show women are more tired than men.)

So yes, it sucks for a lot of people and you are normal for not wanting to do it. That’s a different question than whether you have to do it, of course; it sounds like you do have to, like most people.

All that said … retail is notoriously terrible, and you might find that you dread a different type of work less. Retail is also notoriously low-paying; a better-paying job might make it more possible for you to work fewer hours. You also might find a different job leaves you with more energy at the end of the day; dealing with the public is a special kind of draining. So some of the existential dread you’re experiencing might be tied to your specific job — but if you’re thinking the whole system seems messed up, you’re not wrong.

{ 710 comments… read them below }

    1. Sloanicota*

      Amen. OP, please know that this is something most people feel, particularly if they know they’re going to end up shouldering most of the load at home. You’re not being “lazy” or “entitled” which I’m sure people will try to tell you that you are – this is something everyone has to grapple with eventually (some sooner than others), and you’re being clear-eyed about figuring out what you value and can do.

      1. LarryFromOregon*

        I would encourage LW to have another serious conversation with your husband about adding you to his healthcare plan.

        Is there some combination of budget adjustments you two could perform, cto make up for the doubling of the healthcare premium? Entertainment, vacation travel, clothing, restaurant meals, housing?

        My wife and I spent periods of have a one, one-and-a-half, and ctwo full-time jobs—depending on kids, cross-country moves, and health issues. Ignore what your peers are deciding, and what employers want. Would the extra energy you have after working less and spending more time with your animals make it “worth it” to make these budget adjustment?

        Even if your final answer is no, you may feel better about your decision if you can “own it” rather than feeling like you have no choice.

    2. Antilles*

      +1. I’m pretty sure that’s nearly everybody.
      A small percentage of truly do have jobs that they love so much they can’t imagine doing everything else and would do it for free…but the vast majority of people, even if they like their job, are doing those 40 hours primarily as a way to survive and enjoy the other 128 hours per week.

      1. Eldritch Office Worker*

        Yep. I do love my job and find it fulfilling but I absolutely wouldn’t do it for free. And would likely be doing something different if money were no object.

        1. Quill*

          There have been jobs I would do for free (in some post-scarcity utopia where I didn’t need the money of another job) at VASTLY reduced hours. Like, a few a week. Less than 8 hours per week on average, for sure.

          Which is probably why my fiction writing career is not, strictly speaking, a career, because even when I’m unemployed and theoretically have all the time in the world, I don’t end up spending a huge amount of time on it.

      2. Brooklyn*

        I work for a non-profit in what can reasonably be described a dream job, working on a project I am deeply interested in and care about, with people I find interesting and respect, with no more than a minimal amount of politics and such… if I didn’t need the money and could swing it, I would absolutely cut my workweek. I would be much happier if I had a 3 day work week. I wouldn’t stop working entirely and I’d do this exact work for free if I could, but of course I wouldn’t want to work a 40 hour work week and log my hours. Some days I just want to start day drinking at noon.

        1. RW*

          oh this. I have a job I mostly enjoy – it’s got its moments, like any job, but overall I find it fulfilling; I work with a great team; I can come home and say “I made a difference”, not every day but many – and yet: really I’d like to do 20 hours of it, rather than the 32-36 I currently do

        2. allathian*

          Yes, absolutely. I enjoy my job, and although health insurance isn’t an issue in a single-payer environment like mine, I also enjoy the fact that I get paid for doing something I’m good at. I must admit that I also enjoy the fairly low-stakes and casual relationships I have with my coworkers. I chose to work for the goverment because I’d rather contribute to the common good than fill the pockets of someone who’s already wealthy.

          I’m also very lucky because I have much more time off than the average employee in the US both in terms of a shorter workweek (7 hours 15 minutes per day, or 36 hours 15 minutes per week, with in my case a lot of flexibility, I can work 50 hours one week and 30 hours for the subsequent 3 weeks, workload permitting, without prior approval by my manager), and in terms of paid vacation.

          All that said, however, if I could afford to only work 4 days/29 hours a week, I’d do so in a heartbeat!

          1. En*

            I can afford to work part time, and do. I also have small children, so society sees this as socially acceptable. But a company that really wanted me and was willing to pay me over my asking salary lost me to a competitor during a recent job search because of how they handled my desire to stay at 32hrs/week. I wish this was more normalized, but it really isn’t.

    3. HailRobonia*

      And yet in job interviews you’re expected to say “I’m EXTREMELY ENTHUSIASTIC about washing teapots! Where do I see myself in five years? As a teapot washing trainer. I dream about the teapot washing industry!”

      1. Chili Heeler*

        I hate this so much. It’s so fake and awful. Also, being super peppy about things I genuinely like isn’t my normal behavior so having to fake it is so difficult and uncomfortable.

        1. Analytical Tree Hugger*


          Adding, that’s a pretty odd take on interviews. The question isn’t (typically) about you loving the role, it’s about why you think it’ll be at least good enough that you’ll stick around long enough to make it worth the company’s time and resources to integrate you into their systems, train you on their specific processes, and end the time consuming process of hiring (which costs a lot to restart if a hire doesn’t work out).

          1. Distracted Librarian*

            It’s also about why you want this particular role rather than some other one. I know in some cases the answer is, because I need money and will do anything legal to get it. But often there are reasons we want to do this job or work for this company.

          2. HailRobonia*

            I know, but my executive director, who has final say on all hiring, really seems to insist that all new hires demonstrate enthusiasm for the role… so much so that we have had to turn away extremely qualified candidates who would thrive in the role, but they didn’t specifically mention how much they looooove the field.

          3. Ellis Bell*

            There are definitely a lot of places that actually do expect you to love the role and to show enthusiasm and passion. Not everywhere, but it’s not madly uncommon or odd.

        2. Rex Libris*

          I think the point they’re trying to make is about the variations on the “So why do you want to work for XX Teapots Inc.?” question. “Because you’re hiring and I need a paycheck” while technically correct, probably doesn’t show the enthusiasm desired. I’ve definitely seen interviewers who obviously expected more enthusiasm than it would be possible to authentically generate about minor, entry level roles.

          1. BobbiD*

            I had an employer who, up on realizing my experience in the field was with a competitor several years earlier and in a different state, ask “why are you applying here instead of their location down the street?” My response was simple – “I love the work, and you had the help wanted sign out, they didn’t.” Stayed there almost 2 years until I injured my hand/wrist and had to quit. I didn’t want to leave, and my boss didn’t want me to leave, but the doctor insisted.
            Some managers, at least prefer honesty over (fake) enthusiasm.

      2. teacher*

        This is why I became an ESL teacher. In job interviews I can truthfully say that I love to teach people to speak English. I do! I don’t love dealing with batty, cranky coworkers, or the occasional batty, cranky student, and I don’t love having to be at work at 7:45 a.m., or having Cup o’ Soup out of a microwave for lunch, but they’re not asking about that, are they?

      3. Bend & Snap*

        In an interview, I got asked by a very charity-oriented (for profit) company what I would do if I didn’t have to work. I really wanted to say “ travel and make my life a permanent vacation” but that obviously was the wrong answer.

      4. SheilaSue*

        I’ve started asking folks in interviews “aside from needing to pay your rent and enjoying having a job with benefits, what made this job look interesting to you?”

        because it seems needful to acknowledge the facts, especially when I’m interviewing contractors who want to move to full time

      5. Fishsticks*

        It is so weird that these explicit lies are built into the job interview process, and you’re considered weird, off-putting, or a bad choice if you don’t lie.

    4. Beth*

      Yeppp. Especially since in the US, most of us need a full-time job for not just the paycheck, but also healthcare access. I think even people who really like their work and find it fulfilling would rather be doing it for 20-30 hours a week, if that was a realistic option.

      1. MigraineMonth*

        Yeah, the “things in my life that bring me joy” in my case includes my migraine and antidepressant medications. Maybe not so much “bring me joy” as “make joy possible”.

      2. Baby Yoda*

        Good point and years ago when I worked retail that did not give one health insurance. Something to check into.

      3. Slightly Less Evil Bunny*

        Yes, this! I’d retire early tomorrow if it wasn’t for the worry of “how much will I have to pay for medical insurance and medical costs until I’m old enough for Medicare”. (Financial projections indicate early retirement is probably do-able, but I apparently lived through the Great Depression in a previous life, and I’m terrified I’ll wind up living in a cardboard box and surviving on cat food.)

        OP, I know this is a cliche but there’s a reason it’s called ‘work’.

      4. Christine*

        I’m ready to retire, but I need that medical insurance. Tying healthcare to employment was an extremely bad idea. I would like to go back in time to tell the people who set it up that way to NOT set it up that way!
        Land of the free, my foot!

        1. Distracted Librarian*

          Same. Financially I could retire at 62–if I could afford health insurance on my own. Which I can’t.

        2. Wounded, erratic stink bugs*

          Same, but I’d also like to put in a plug for going forward in time and not set it up that way. Health insurance as we know it has only been around since WWII; it’s not set and stone and the system can be changed with enough political will!

        3. Marie*

          Do you know how health insurance got started being tied to jobs? During World War II in the US, wages were capped. Employers had to offer benefits to attract/keep employees. And one of those benefits was health insurance. Many people don’t know how it started.

    5. Gumption was needed in the old days*

      All I can say is: full time in your 20s is way easier than full time in your 60’s. I can retire and have chosen not to for now, but my FT position is 32 hours. I worked hard in my 20s and 30s to make it easy to have choices later. Something to consider.

      1. Daisy*

        For sure! OP you want to sock as much money as you can now into retirement accounts, at least to your employer’s match, so compound interest works for you.

        Working while you are older is not the same as in your 20s and 30s. I made the trade off (voluntarily) of being a sahm. Not only was it extremely difficult to even get an interview after a decade off taking care of children and elderly relatives, I started far below what I used to make. Not contributing to retirement all those years put me way behind, then a divorce guaranteed I’ll be working for a long while yet. It pretty much sucks when your younger siblings and friends are retired and you gotta get your creaky hip into work to make the bills.

        1. Frieda*

          Yes, this. This is a real and present danger to women who have less employment, and thus less income and less earning capacity – your spouse may not be able to provide for your family consistently on one income, and may end up not being your spouse forever.

          It sounds like the LW has not ever worked full-time, and is afraid that she won’t be able to keep up with her other life priorities if she does. But people adapt! You may find that some priorities shift, or that your spouse takes over some of the pet care or other responsibilities because of course he’s committed to equality in your marriage, or that you make other changes in how and when and whether you do things. Predicting that you won’t be able to work full-time is a good way to make sure that you don’t, and that’s cutting yourself off unnecessarily from a bunch of opportunities including increased financial security.

    6. Richard Hershberger*

      This is what I tell my teenagers. Figure out something that will pay the bills and won’t make you miserable. Also figure out something that will bring you joy. If these turn out to be the same thing, that is great! But don’t expect it. Also remember that if lots of people find joy in any given job, that means they can underpay and overwork you. Front office jobs in professional sports are notorious for this.

      1. goducks*

        My oldest is about 30 days into his first job (retail) and it’s been quite the ride watching him go from excitement over getting hired, to thinking it’s a lot of fun to work, to now realizing that work is an endless grind and wondering what he got himself into. But- it has helped with the college application figure out what you want to do with your life conversations.

        1. Optimus*

          Somehow it has had the opposite effect on mine. Graduated high school w/honors, hated first semester of college, started working (retail), loved the work, then didn’t love the work, now just fantasizes about going to some other similar workplace (also retail) and zero plans for any future that includes being self-sufficient. I have reminded said child that come age 26, insurance from us goes away. But it’s hard to care about healthcare when you are 20 and single

          1. John*

            It’s also hard to care about healthcare when you’re young enough and healthy enough to not expect to need much of it. Older folks know from experience (even if the experience of others) that it can all change in a heartbeat, but when you’re 25 and in solid health you probably think you’re indestructible.

      2. Feckless Rando*

        Yes! There are jobs that will make me miserable and jobs that probably won’t make me miserable all the time. I spent most of my 20s finding something in the latter category.

      3. The Meat Embezzler*

        You can add pretty much all jobs in sports to your list as low-paying. The only people make a really nice living in sports are the athletes, owners and the top end decision makers. Every one else is making not great money AND working hellish hours. I’ve got friends that have worked in professional hockey and baseball and they’ve all told me they absolutely loved the job but they were tired of being broke and having no personal life so they all moved on to different opportunities.

      4. Katie Impact*

        Yep. I work part-time in a niche creative industry and get a lot of satisfaction out of my job, to the point where if I won the lottery I’d probably still put at least a few hours into it, but the tradeoff is that everyone in the entire industry is constantly broke because there is no money in it. It’s not something that would be sustainable for me if I didn’t live in a country with public healthcare and have other people in my life with financial resources to fall back on in emergencies.

        1. Worldwalker*

          Add the tabletop RPG industry. Everyone who makes a living in it could meet in a decent sized auditorium. Everyone who makes a *good* living in it could have a breakout session in a conference room. But there’s nothing else like it.

        2. Dog momma*

          What’s your plan when the people with financial resources to fall back on aren’t there any more..just asking.

          1. Katie Impact*

            I mean, I guess my answer is that I feel I’ve planned for the contingencies I feel it makes sense to plan for. Ultimately, everyone’s fortunes are dependent in part on what other people are doing, and most of us don’t have a very solid plan in place for what to do in case of governmental or societal collapse. I’ve got a firm enough support network that short of either of those two things, I should do okay.

      5. Pescadero*

        The only difficulty with this is when the concept of “having a job” is what makes you miserable. Some jobs are LESS miserable – but if I have an obligation to show up, it’s miserable.

        So – figure out a misery you can put up with 40-60 years while staying alive is the best advice I can give.

      1. UKDancer*

        Yes. Even if it’s something you enjoy, work is still work and has dull bits. I like about 85% of my job and the rest is stuff I have to do.

        I wouldn’t do it at all if you gave me enough money to live in the style I want to live in. I’d much rather do dance classes and go on holiday. But I need to work to pay the bills and pay for the dance classes and holidays.

        1. londonedit*

          Same here. I enjoy most of my job, I’m good at it and it uses my skills well. It’s even related to the subject I did my degree in. And I only have to physically go to the office once a week now. Would I give it all up if I won the lottery? Absolutely. But sadly I haven’t won the lottery yet, so I need to keep working so I can pay the rent and pay my bills and afford to have the odd holiday here and there. I wish I earned more money so that I could feel more comfortable, but publishing isn’t well paid and in the end doing a job I enjoy is more important to me than having more money – as long as I can just about cover my living expenses and do a few of the things I want to do.

          1. Ozzac*

            Yes, I can’t speak for me (I work only because I have bills to pay), but even my friends who do jobs that they enjoy and even are what they wanted to do since they were at least highschoolers would love to work less, have higher pay etc…

    7. AnotherOne*

      I was recently visiting my family and when I had to leave, my very disappointed nieces asked why I had to go to work? (as this was the explanation for why I had to fly home)

      I told them I had to pay my bills and my mortgage.

      (my sister thought it was hilarious. the 8 yrs olds not so much.)

    8. The Original K.*

      Yeah, if I came into “never work again” money, I’d … never work again. My job is fine (…ish), but if I could fill my days how I choose, I wouldn’t work. The vast majority of people I’m close to, across fields, would say (have said!) the same. My boss would say the same. This has become particularly true over the last few years as a lot of us started to see that burning ourselves out has no upside in this era of stagnant wages and layoffs.

      1. Irish Teacher.*

        I would, but…I’d probably sort of choose my hours, do a three day week or something. And I love teaching to the point that when our government decided earlier this year that instead of having a retirement age at 65/66, they are going to make it a bit more flexible, technically keeping the retirement age at 66, but allowing people to work on until up to 70 if they wish and get an increased pension for each additional year, my thought was “yay, I get to continue teaching for longer.”

        1. Humble Schoolmarm*

          I’m not quite that enthusiastic, but if I had “don’t have to work” money I would also greatly reduce my hours and hire an assistant to do all of the clerical bits. I will admit it, though, it’s less of a love of teaching thing and more of a not doing well with vast amounts of unstructured time thing.
          Every September, I remember that what I really need is something that’s paced between “hum, I fed myself and read a book today, guess I’ll tackle the 20 things on my to-do list tomorrow” (Summer Humble) and super busy and reluctantly putting down the correcting at 10pm Ms Schoolmarm.

        2. Rara Avis*

          Lots of retired teachers from my school come back to sub — no prepping , no planning, no work to take home, set your own schedule …

          1. Quill*

            And the freedom to tell parents who are incensed that you made little Timmy sit indoors during recess because he was throwing pencils at another kid to go find a lake to hop in.

            1. Harper the Other One*

              While I agree there need to be consequences for poor behaviour, removing a child’s access to physical play is worth protesting – Timmy may be acting up BECAUSE he needs movement. I’m a parent to two neurodivergent kids and there’s now a ton of research to show that kids in general, and ND kids in particular, need more unstructured movement time in their day.

              I don’t want to diminish the awful parents out there and their impact on teachers! Some of the stories I hear make me wonder why anyone stays in teaching. But us parents of ND kids regularly encounter teachers whose discipline policies go against researched best practices, so I wanted to bring it up.

      2. Beth*

        I’d work, not in the sense I do now. The total time would probably be around 20 hours a week, and the goal would be 1. giving my life structure and 2. making me feel like I’m contributing to the world and accomplishing something. I’d love to be able to go back to teaching, which I left because I just couldn’t make the pay work financially and because I was solidly in the “deep burnout” zone. Doing it part-time with no economic worries would be great!

      3. Love my job*

        I came into “never work again money” in 2018 when my mom died and left me a huge inheritance, and what I did was went from working 30 hours a week, to 60 hours a week, and I still do this, 5 years later. While I realize this is not what people normally do, it is what I needed to do, while subsequently donating as much money as I could to various charities. Everyone has their “what would I do if I won the lottery?” thoughts. I basically did win the lottery, and what I did was double my work-load, LOL. But the satisfaction I get at my job every day is so worth it, I feel very fortunate to truly love what I do for a living. More so is the satisfaction from being able to donate money all the time to worthy causes. People who know me think I am crazy, but this is what works for me. You never know what you will do until it happens to you.

        1. Sarah*

          Did the change in working hours coincide with a different job or career, or just throwing yourself into the one you had?

        2. John*

          If that’s what works for you then do it and be proud.

          I think most people dream of finding something they would do all day every day even if they didn’t need the money. It’s sad that so few people find it, and fewer still manage to get paid for doing it.

          I wish I could find something I would happily commit that many hours to every week without feeling like I’d sold my soul again.

    9. Ally McBeal*

      I really wish our C-level overlords would understand that, though – it seems they actually do enjoy grinding all day every day and think that we should have similar levels of passion and engagement. Easy for them, I suppose, when they probably make at least 4x what we do…

      1. Angstrom*

        CEO pay at the largest companies was typically 20x the typical hourly pay in the 1970s. Now it is more like 200x.

    10. Akili*

      Yep. I’m lucky that I have a job that pays relatively well (though not super great for my high COL area, but I can manage), I’m in a union, so I have additional benefits and such, and I kind of like my job – but I definitely don’t love it. I work 9 out of 10 days because I have flex time, and I work from home. Obviously retail is an easy job to get part time hours in, but there are others that you may be qualified for LW that may allow for you to keep the hours you want while also allowing you to either get health insurance, or pay you enough to get on your husband’s without hurting your take home amounts. It’s also possible once you look into those things you might find an area of work where you may need a little more schooling in order to qualify for those jobs. Also given the number of WFH jobs that have popped up (and ignoring the fact that a lot SAY WFH, but are actually hybrid or in-office and they’re lying), you may be able to get a position at home that either is full time – but you’re at home so that cuts the commute and other exhausting things out – or part time AND from home, saving you money in other ways. It’s worth a shot – but just know that it took me until I was 29 to find a job I liked that paid me what I could live on, and a few more jumps around before I found one that fit my lifestyle as well. Don’t be afraid of change.

    11. LarryFromOregon*

      I would encourage LW to have another serious conversation with your husband about adding you to his healthcare plan.

      Is there some combination of budget adjustments you two could perform, cto make up for the doubling of the healthcare premium? Entertainment, vacation travel, clothing, restaurant meals, housing?

      My wife and I spent periods of have a one, one-and-a-half, and ctwo full-time jobs—depending on kids, cross-country moves, and health issues. Ignore what your peers are deciding, and what employers want. Would the extra energy you have after working less and spending more time with your animals make it “worth it” to make these budget adjustment?

      Even if your final answer is no, you may feel better about your decision if you can “own it” rather than feeling like you have no choice.

  1. Unkempt Flatware*

    In my late teens and early 20s, I was so so certain that I was not capable or willing to work full time. I worried about my future knowing that I had such an extreme emotional response when I had to spend all day working. I really thought life was going to be terrible and that dreading the day was just going to be a normal routine for me. However, after focusing only on my happiness, being very honest with myself and others about who I am and what I’m all about, and ignoring bad advice (any advice that didn’t’ work for me), I am now someone who loves Fridays at 5pm just as much as I love Mondays at 8am. And I really mean that. I come to work, like what I do, watch endless hours of Netflix while I do it, and I go home happy. If you would have told me 12 years ago that I would feel this way today, I’d have laughed in your face. It took sacrifice and brutal honesty to get to this point. It took therapy. It took treating myself as often as possible. It took saying Yes to as many opportunities as possible until I found my passions.

    1. Sloanicota*

      I agree that when I first started trying to go full time, it seemed impossible – I was so exhausted! – but the body does adjust and it gets easier when you’re used to it. Maybe a few weeks or a month, maybe six months.

      1. Wait, did I write this?*

        eh, I thought I’d be fine, and for a while I even was.

        and then the depression hit a new low. and thankfully I was able to take a year off. and after a year of working full time again… I spiraled a second time. and went part time (and ultimately I left that industry, with limited freelance time for extra cash).

        currently approaching full time hours through cobbled together part time jobs, and hoping and praying that a massive change in the type of work I’m doing will make this sustainable.

      2. Ace in the Hole*

        On the other hand, if you find that after a few months to a year you aren’t adjusting… that’s not typical.

        I see a lot of comments saying it’s normal to feel like the LW describes. I disagree. It’s perfectly normal to not like working full time, or to feel like there aren’t enough hours in the day, or to not have the time/energy to do all the things you’d like to do. It’s not normal to be so exhausted by working 40 hours a week that you can’t keep up with basic chores and caring for pets.

        If LW finds herself unable to keep up, that calls for examining why. Is she not able to do as much as average, or are her expectations a lot higher than average? There’s a lot of variation in what people mean by “basic chores” – if her expectations are, for example, a spotless house at all times with all meals cooked from scratch fresh every day and taking the dog on puppy playdates four times a week, that’s not realistic for most people working full time. On the other hand, if she’s struggling to do laundry, cook anything other than microwave meals, or clean the cat litter regularly… that warrants investigation.

        Many health conditions (physical and mental) can make it more difficult to manage working and basic living tasks. If that’s the case and she can get diagnosed, LW might find out about treatments, strategies, or accommodations that make her life much easier.

        1. GreyjoyGardens*

          I think that’s a good point. Nobody can keep up “influencer” levels of pristine and gourmet on a 40 hour week without help (whether paid or from a homemaker spouse). But, if 40 hours a week leaves you too drained to keep up with basic chores, pet care, and living your life – that warrants a doctor visit. There are things that can drain your energy (sleep apnea, hypothyroidism, anemia, depression, lots of others) that a doctor can help diagnose and treat for you.

          Another factor is the length of your commute. If you have upwards of an hour that is going to make you feel really drained, even if your job is not demanding and you are physically healthy.

        2. H*

          This feels very neurotypical. Plenty of people struggle with the fatigue of masking or using up their executive function or being constantly overstimulated at work and have nothing left for at home and there is no magical pill for autism and autism burnout.

          Some people even struggle to do household things at baseline without even factoring in work due to things like mental health issues, chronic pain, or health issues that don’t have a simple fix. But you also need to work to have health insurance to even try to address those issues, which makes them all worse, and it’s exhausting.

          1. Manfred Longshanks*

            Hi, this comment is great and very relevant – but I did want to offer a neurodivergent perspective that is the opposite! I have (probably got) ADHD and switching to working full time actually gave me the stimulation I needed to get MORE on top of my housework, not less. Although I do work an office job grad role type thing, which is hybrid and lets me get away with doing laundry during the work day, rather than retail. And my partner (also full time) does a lot of housework too.

            1. Akili*

              And yet I have ADHD and I’m the opposite, even working from home I struggle with chores (I don’t have pets) XD – just goes to show that everyone is different. A check in with a doctor is a great idea (though given the wording around health insurance, who knows if they’re even able to do that right now), but also it’s completely okay to try things and see if it works – and if a “normal” life doesn’t, then it doesn’t and LW will find their way eventually

            2. Ace in the Hole*

              Hah, interesting enough my sister and I are both neurodivergent (autism for her, ADHD for me) and we have opposite perspectives! I’m similar to you. I need the structure, stimulation, and social connections from a full-time job to be at my best. Although this does depend on the job being a good fit – working full time in the WRONG job is incredibly draining.

              My sister, on the other hand, can’t manage full time work without burning out. Even a job she enjoys and does well at, with a supportive and accommodating environment, demands enough of her energy that she starts falling behind on basic self-care. Unfortunately it took a long time for her to realize this wasn’t normal because if you say “working full time is exhausting, I feel so overwhelmed and I can’t get everything done” pretty much everyone replies with some variant of “yup, you and everyone else. Being a working adult sucks!”

          2. Zweisatz*

            Hm, I read the comment as acknowledging that something else (including autism or a myriad of other things) may be going on and the comment being kinda supportive of neurodivergent, chronically ill etc. readers. Like finding that out about herself (of relevant), acknowledging and accepting it might help LW to create a solution that doesn’t expect the impossible from her.

            For another perspective in the general thread I am both and haven’t worked full time since the 7th month of my first job. Too tired to make it work and lucky that my job & finances allow it.

          3. Ace in the Hole*

            Yes, that was kind of the point. A neurotypical person with no serious health issues will not be overwhelmed by a standard full-time job unless they have major additional commitments (e.g. caregiving, school, other jobs, etc).

            I didn’t mean to suggest that all issues causing exhaustion can be fixed with a magic pill… or even can be fixed at all. My sister’s autism burnout is actually what I was thinking of when I started writing my comment. In her case the “solution” was temporary disability leave while recovering from burnout and getting access to supportive services through a state program. We’re still not sure how it will work out when/if her permanent disability claim is denied.

            My point was that it is not standard, normal, or expected to be so wiped out from a 40 hour job that you’re unable to do basic activities. That is not the experience most people have – but it can be hard to realize that since (as seen in this comment thread!) everyone is very quick to say that it’s normal to feel overwhelmed or tired as a working adult. Few people will stop to ask “wait, what exactly is it that you’re having trouble doing? And what exactly are all the demands on your time/energy other than just work?” Questions that are necessary to discover that your situation is much more extreme than their own.

            Recognizing a problem doesn’t guarantee a solution. But even if only a fraction of people struggling can get meaningful help, isn’t it worthwhile to point out the possibility?

        3. Seashell*

          I totally agree. I’m a lazy procrastinator regarding household cleaning, but it never occurred to me that I couldn’t work 40 hours a week. It’s not normal in my view to think you can’t do the standard amount of work.

      1. Unkempt Flatware*

        ha! I’m a transportation planner for my large city in a very large metro area. I prepare federal grants, do lots of data analysis, and do your general bureaucratic dance with committees and councils and boards and all that.

        1. Other other other*

          And how does the Netflix watching fit in all that?
          I know a lot of people have down time on the job, but endless hours of Netflix?? *confused*

          1. Unkempt Flatware*

            Well, I don’t actually “Watch” it. I simply always “have the TV on” like I would while working from home. It’s just in my ear in the background. I have severe ADHD so I couldn’t do much otherwise. I don’t really have down time at work.

            1. No clever name yet*

              I have to have Netflix on in the background while I work too (I work from home). I never tell that to my boss bro coworkers because I know that they won’t believe me that it actually helps me focus and I am more productive with it than without it. ADHD is wild sometimes.

              1. TeaCoziesRUs*

                It IS wild. If I need to focus, I prefer to lock into hyperfocus mode – in which I need complete silence. I mean, the cat can breathe, but anything life than her purr pulls me right back out of it.

                If I’m relaxing, I prefer the TV on while I play games on my phone… so I’m not bored for even a commercial break.


            2. I’m thinking this is not a normal Tuesday*

              Fellow “Netflixer”, and I wfh as university staff, for an online program of a traditional college, though I started passive watching a few years back. I’ve settled on watching kitchen competition or kitchen consultant shows (kitchen nightmares, bar rescue) because they’re extremely formulaic. I do have a Masters, it’s hard to move up in higher Ed without one.

      2. Salsa Your Face*

        I have a work from home job that involves doing stuff with data. Sometimes I have tasks that I need to be really focused on with no other distractions, other times I have tasks that I can do (and do better) with a little background noise. During those latter tasks, I either watch youtube, watch netflix, or listen to podcasts. Since I’m not disturbing anyone, not doing it on my work machine, and still delivering on my work, it’s no problem.

    2. Gemstones*

      A job that lets you watch endless Netflix sounds like the dream…are you a closed-caption transcriber?

      1. jane's nemesis*

        I used to do that for a living, and to be honest, it was not as much fun as it sounded like. “Getting paid to watch tv!!” sure, great, but talk to me when you’re captioning the absolute worst, most inane shows with reality people or characters that you hate for 8 hours a day, with maybe one hour a day working on a show you actually like – you really start hating your life. I burned out and left that industry pretty quick.

        1. MigraineMonth*

          No job where you’re paid to do something that would be fun under other circumstances is actually fun, IME. Video game testers get to run into walls over and over again to make sure the clipping/falling through the ground issue is resolved. Library work generally doesn’t actually involve reading books. Making crafts for sale generally forces you to make the same thing over and over and over again while worrying about knock-off competitors.

          Even if you’re actually doing what you want to, like creative writing, as soon as your ability to eat/pay rent/have healthcare is on the line, it’s no longer just an enjoyable leisure activity.

          1. Lydia*

            Yep! I make cards and I have toyed with the idea of selling my creations online. There is a long list of reasons why that wouldn’t be fun for me. 1. I do it for fun. It’s a hobby and I like making the cards. If I HAD TO make them to restock an Etsy shop or whatever, then it would become a job. 2. I wouldn’t be able to just jump right into selling product right away. I would have to work my full-time job with my 40-minute commute one way, and then, on top of that, come up with a bunch of new card designs and make them. That doesn’t sound fun to me!

            1. Zelda*

              One of several major reasons that “Do what you love” is (frequently, although not universally) terrible advice. Becoming an obligation can ruin what you used to love.

          2. Jill Swinburne*

            Most of the work I did in a library involved helping people with the photocopier and explaining what a browser was. You had to read at home.

            1. Merry and bright*

              When I worked at the public library, I did program planning, advertising, and running. For example: book clubs, coding club, story time, workshops, Facebook posts, etc, for the lovely pay of under $14.00/hr requiring a bachelor’s degree. Not what I was expecting at all.

        2. Deborah*

          I love it so much, though, when the closed captioning describes all the music and sounds. “Cheesy 70’s music.” “Tiptoeing footsteps.”

          1. Sharpie*

            I watch some YouTube channels with the captions on just because they’re so wonderfully zany. Bernadette Banner and Pecos Hank come to mind (I… have rather eclectic tastes in what I watch on YouTube!)

            1. not owen wilson*

              Technology Connections is another great one — I keep the captions on just to see how he describes the jazz in the end credits, lol. It’s always something like “exceptionally smooth jazz”

        3. Quill*

          I took one training for that kind of gig and gave up. (It was definitely gig economy type stuff, not professional.) I did the math on how long it took me to do the training course versus how much they paid per minute of video and it came out to less than minimum wage before any taxes were taken out.

          I’m certain it pays even less now.

    3. Melissa*

      Absolutely. I was a SAHM for 10 years, and when I started working in my professional field again, I legitimately thought “I do not think I can do this day after day. Is there something wrong with me? Why is everyone else working and functioning?” But you know what? One day at a time, and now I honestly love my job and love working. Would I love it more if it were 20 hours a week? Maybe. But the bone-deep dreadful exhaustion was really coming from being unused to it.

    4. Dona Florinda*

      I love my job, and would love it even more if I could work fewer hours and still get paid the same. Since that’s not likely to happen ever, I recommend OP to look for a job with at least some flexibility.
      One of the reasons I love my job is that I can tweak my hours as needed (within reason) and that makes it easier to set some time aside to do chores, exercise, etc. So if I’m having a slow day and don’t have a deadline looming, I’ll just clock out early and do other things aroud house. Then I’ll work those extra hours during the rest of the week, especially on days when I’m feeling powered on and can be even more productive.

    5. mcm*

      this! and I think the idea that other people are NOT experiencing this dread contributed to a lot to my own dread or feeling that I, in particular, was not made for it. Knowing that really nobody wants to spend 40-50 hours a week working, even people who like their job, was bizarrely relieving to me, because then it meant that they were ALSO making it work and mostly not unbearably miserable, in spite of ALSO not wanting to, really. Even though almost all of us would not spend so much time working if we didn’t have to, many people are also able to find ways to make work fine or even enjoyable.

    6. ferrina*

      I was the opposite! I was delighted by *just* working 40 hours per week. In college, I was fulltime students and maxxed out the credits I could take, and worked 2 part-time jobs. I was delighted to get down to a single full-time job that paid more than my 2 part-time jobs combined (and it still paid less than $40k).

      1. BubbleTea*

        Same! I graduated from a very intensive degree at a very intense university, where I also worked and did several intensive extracurriculars that were essentially part time jobs, went straight into a full time training course with night shifts, then became too ill to continue and spent several years minimally functional. When I started just working full time (plus a few hours of side job at weekends) it felt like a luxury. The brief period where I worked ONLY the full time job was amazing!

        Then I started two businesses and now I work all the time again… but at least it’s on my own terms.

    7. Goldenrod*

      “In my late teens and early 20s, I was so so certain that I was not capable or willing to work full time.”

      Me too! I’m so glad I was wrong.

  2. PlainJane*

    A funny thing happened when the two-income home became the more common set-up. Prices went up to eat up the extra money. So, yeah, you’re pretty much stuck. Most of us are. Try and find something that at least doesn’t drive you up the wall, and get something that includes insurance; that makes a big difference in the state of mind (not constantly worrying about what happens if you get sick). But really, unless you and your husband can work together and make the insurance thing work on his job–and it sounds like you’ve tried and not been able to–it’s time to go full time.

    1. Sloanicota*

      It’s so hard because a lot of the household burden did *not* shift off the (usually female) shoulders, but now hard working mothers/wives are also expected to pull 40 hour jobs.

        1. Dek*

          For real. It’s the main reason I hate being single, I think. It’s just so stressful, and rent isn’t any cheaper if you’re single.

          1. Quill*

            Yep, and when you talk to your parents it’s all like “we had two little kids and a mortgage at your age!” and I’m like yeah I’m not saying things were EASY for you but you also existed prior to end-stage capitalism, you could afford to have two little kids and a mortgage because there were two of you, and my generation is chronically unemployed and struggling to support themselves plus a dog or cat.

      1. ferrina*

        OP, think critically about how you want to division of household labor to look. Talk with your partner a lot. Multiple studies show that the woman takes on a disproportional amount of the housework in households with 2-full time earners (lesbian couples are the most likely to have a proportional division of household labor).

        This isn’t intentional, it’s usually just the unspoken societal expectations. Girl children being taught to be more aware of keeping a household than boy children. Women being targeted in ads and media as responsible for housework. Phrasing like “helping” around the house.
        When I got divorced, my daily housework actually decreased. It was not a pleasant realization.

        1. MigraineMonth*

          Seconding this, with a reminder that emotional labor is still labor. Make sure that when you’re dividing up tasks, you’re also dividing up responsibility for realizing when those tasks need t be done so you don’t have to keep track/remind/nag.

          If you can afford it, hiring someone to take care of your least favorite parts (e.g. monthly cleaning service, mowing/snowplow service, premade meals) will probably make you happier than buying stuff.

      2. Fishsticks*

        You have to work like you have no children and parent like you have no job. It’s amazing! We’re not all burning out and burning down at all! We’re doing great!!

    2. SauerkrautAxe*

      What my wife and I have done is just make do with less. We live in a fairly high cost-of-living place and I’m reasonably lucky to have a stable job with probably median-for-the-area income. We decided that it was going to be better for the kids if she didn’t work. We don’t have as much stress because our weekends aren’t catch-up-on-the-chores weekend, but more time-with-the-family weekends. We also don’t have the money that all of our friends have so we can’t go skiing every weekend or fun random trips. We’ve just chosen a different lifestyle. One is not better than the other, but you do have a choice.

      1. constant_craving*

        Not everyone has a choice like that though. It’s fortunate your job pays well enough to make a choice about one income or two, but it’s pretty dismissive of the financial reality of a sizable proportion of the population to suggest it’s about choosing ski trips or not. Many families can’t afford all basic necessities on one income alone.

        1. FrivYeti*

          This exactly. Most of the people that I know with median incomes, their choice is whether to be a dual-income household or to be homeless.

          Going skiing every weekend is so far out of the question that I can’t even imagine it, and that’s *with* two incomes.

        2. Jenna*

          I reckon this response is why OP needs to set themselves up today to a job that pays well. And it’s likely OP will have to work at least 40 hours. Feeling daunted by full time work is normal but life is no fairytale and you have to put in the hard yards. In ten years OP could be in a really well-paid job and have the options to take annual leave and whatever else type of leave and enjoy life a bit more.

          (I am now on maternity leave after almost two decades in one job (had a few before that) and it’s the first time I’ve ever not ‘worked’ since being a teenager (I’m an older mum). It’s weird and wonderful. Having a baby is not time off though lol).

      2. Gigi*

        That puts her in an extremely vulnerable position though. You could leave her any time and she would have to deal with the consequences of not having recent work history on her resume.

        Not saying you would do that but it’s not just a “lifestyle choice”. It’s putting one’s entire financial future in someone else’s hands. Very risky for most.

        1. Fishsticks*

          Yep. A friend of mine chose to stop working and stay home once she had kids, because her husband has a very high-paying but also high-travel job (he was home approximately eight days a month on a GOOD month). This way, they prioritized her being there to do all the housework and cooking and keep the house together full-time, so that when he was home, they could enjoy time together as a family without worrying about chores or catching up.

          What they ALSO did was start a secondary bank account that only has her name on it, and moved a big chunk of their savings into that account, and continue to add to it. He also upped the life insurance on himself significantly. Basically, should he (god forbid) die unexpectedly, she’ll be set financially for enough time to give her space to grieve and breathe before she has to figure out what to do next.

          And if you ask her husband, he will tell you (and he has told me, specifically) that having a stay-at-home spouse is a luxury… for the spouse that works outside the home. Because there is a ton that he just doesn’t have to think about anymore, because it’s all handled.

      3. Engineer*

        The fact that you think skiing every weekend is normal is a neon sign that the financial circles you hang around are not the same as 80% of the working population.

        1. SoloKid*

          Well yes, they DID clearly say “don’t have money that their friends have”. No neon sign needed. It can still be isolating if your friends have a different lifestyle.

    3. Charming Charlie*

      Not only the two-income household, but a modern standard of living, where investing thousands of dollars in household appliances and electronics like phones & computers is the status quo for being able to function. Not to mention the cost of energy sources required to run it all.

      1. Yoyoyo*

        Yup, and the fact of things not being made like they used to be. We’ve had to repair our dishwasher 3x in the 4 years we’ve had it. At this point, it would have been cheaper to just buy a new dishwasher the first time it broke but we didn’t know it would keep happening. My parents had the same fridge for over 20 years and it was still working just fine when they decided to remodel their kitchen. I bought a fridge brand new and within six months the freezer handle fell off and a replacement would have been hundreds of dollars so we just…don’t have a handle for the freezer. Planned obsolescence and cheaply-made items make life much more expensive than it used to be.

    4. tab*

      Prices have definitely gone up, but our expectations have gone up too. We want bigger houses with big yards, a room for each kid, multiple TVs, computers, etc. I’m not saying that’s bad, but it definitely makes it harder to make it on a single income.

      1. Green great dragon*

        Yeh. It’s normal to have a car, to fly for vacations, to get take-out. LW’s identified their options really – they can make it work on PT wages, they won’t starve, but they’ll have to do without things that most of their peers have. And this is why Keynes’ idea that by now we’d all be working 20 hour weeks never happened. Well, that and because we have much more non-working time over a lifetime – kids spend longer in education than they used to and considerably longer in retirement.

        1. CJ*

          Keynes got it wrong partly because he didn’t predict lifestyle creep, and partly because most of the increases in productivity have been captured by the super-wealthy rather than being reflected in wages.

      2. Student*

        Bigger houses?! Where do you live that average people are getting bigger houses?

        I’m middle aged. The vast majority of my peers around me either don’t own property, or own places smaller than their parents’ homes at this same age. Housing costs have massively outpaced incomes.

        1. Pescadero*

          Average house sold in 1950’s: 924 square feet
          Percentage of home ownership: 55%

          Average house sold in 2010’s: 2,392 square feet.
          Percentage of home ownership: 65%

          A higher percentage of the population own a house, and that house is ~3x the size, as the 1950’s.

          1. Fishsticks*

            I think this doesn’t reflect what the commenter said, though – they noted “our parents”, and I don’t think too many of us are talking about parents who were adults in 1954.

            I think the big push for bigger homes really kicked off in the 1980s, as baby boomers held much greater wealth than their own parents had at their age. But those of us who follow the boomers don’t have the level of wealth they did, and our ability to buy homes is decreasing.

            I would also wonder what the generational breakdown is on that percentage of home ownership.

      3. Stormfly*

        That’s not really a fair comparison. TVs and computers are way cheaper than they once were and relatively small one-off expenses aren’t the things that are bankrupting people. Health insurance, student loans, (in the US) and sky-rocketing housing costs are the real drains. People may want bigger houses, but people absolutely aren’t getting them.

      4. Pescadero*

        That is a big part of it in the US.

        The average new home in the 1950’s was 980 square feet, 1.5 bedrooms, and 2.35 bathrooms – with 3.37 people. 292 sq. ft. per person, and more than 2 people per bedroom.

        The average home in the 2010’s was 2,400 square feet, 3.5 bedroom, and 3.5 bathrooms – with 2.59 people. 924 sq. ft. per person.

        An average 2010’s home provides an entire 1950’s average home worth of floor space PER PERSON.

        1. FrivYeti*

          It’s worth noting that the numbers for “average home size” are wildly variable depending on which study you use. Zillow and Redfin place the median size of an American single-family home at 1,600 square feet. The Motley Fool places it at 2,000 square feet. American Home Size Index places the average size of homes at 2,400 square feet, but they critically dropped any listing that didn’t list size from their data gathering, and smaller homes are less likely to list square footage, so the fact that their number is much larger than other estimates leads me to suspect that this was a flaw in their process.

          And if you look at the listing by decade, homes are a lot bigger than they were in 1950, but they’ve stayed fairly consistent for the past thirty-five years. The big jump in home sizes mostly happened in the 70s and 80s.

      5. Dek*

        I mean, fwiw, I don’t really think we “want bigger houses.” That’s just kind of…what there is.

        I’d be fine with a small house and a small yard, but even that is priced out of reach.

      6. Starbuck*

        Who’s the “we” that wants bigger houses?! I know the house size keeps getting bigger in the US, but the average household size is declining! I would love to buy a house under 1,000 sft but there’s simply none being built that small, other than “tiny houses” which are not house but actually trailers.

    5. otterpop*

      I just learned this year that the era that we look to as the ideal where only one income was required to support a family was not the norm throughout history. Those post-war years were an anomaly. It’s true that two-income households became increasingly common as cost of living increased. But it’s also true that prior to one-income households it was common and even necessary to have a two-income household.

  3. Susie*

    I don’t understand how someone can work 40 hours/week (without children) and not have time for basic household/self maintenance. Unless you’re commuting hours every day (which seems unlikely for a retail job) I don’t really understand what you’re doing that takes up so much time. I do big chores and yardwork on weekends, pick up around the house in the evenings, and still have time for fun with friends and the occasional home project. However, I know retail hours can be inconsistent so maybe this is less about not having time to enjoy your life, and more about not having enough quality time with your spouse? If that’s the concern, you could look into a job with hours that line up with your spouse so you can enjoy the evenings together.

    1. Kel*

      Because some people live different lives than you, Susie. OP is saying that she’s coming home exhausted and unmotivated and that takes time to come out of before they can tackle chores and emotional labour and taking care of pets and spending time with their partner.

      It’s not just about hours in the day.

      1. Kel*

        Also, most of the people I know with long commutes DO work retail jobs, often because they’re the ones who take public transit that cities have basically defunded because it’s not making as much money as people driving their cars which retail workers can’t afford.

      2. Resident Catholicville, U.S.A.*

        And really, it comes down to finding a schedule and routine that works for that individual person, which isn’t easy to do sometimes and can be a moving target, since situations change. If you’re in your 20’s like the LW is, you barely know yourself, let alone yourself and a spouse. My elderly parents and I live together, so wrangling three different personalities, their schedules, and their habits is a chore unto itself, let alone getting what needs to be done accomplished.

        I’m the kind of person who does the very basics all week (take out the garbage, do the dishes, etc) and then during the weekend, do most of my heavier chores. When I did the chores in the evenings a little at a time each night, it felt like I was just cleaning constantly. But that’s me- I know people who do a load of laundry each day and think that’s a great set up.

        1. Loux*

          Yes!! Adjusting to working life is HARD. That seems to hold true whether you loved school (high school and/or post secondary), hated it, took a gap year, did an apprenticeship, whatever…

          When I graduated university, I was 21. I was one of the first of my friend group to come out of post-secondary and land in a “professional” or “adult” job. I found the transition really hard. I spent a whole bunch of money on takeout and things I thought I needed (but really didn’t), my apartment was a 24/7 disaster zone, etc… So much of my energy went into putting on and maintaining my work persona that there wasn’t much left for, well, me.

          Since then I’ve watched several of my friends go through the exact same thing. It takes a lot of time to get into the groove. Several of us have invisible disabilities or autoimmune disorders that make things tougher.

          Most of us do (eventually) figure it out (at least, sort of). But those intervening years can be difficult, and quite discouraging. You basically transition from full-time student to full-time employee and adult and all the things that entails. It’s quite the shift.

      3. Who Am I*

        It all comes down to spoons. It sounds like you not only start out with more spoons each day than the OP but that you probably need fewer to accomplish everything too. I know I definitely need more than I did not too long ago but I start out each day with far fewer. Have some compassion for those around you, starting with OP. You have no idea when you might be the one who just can’t do what you did even six months ago and reaches the end of every day too exhausted to do as much as wash the dishes. (And enjoy all those spoons while you have them!)

            1. justcommentary*

              While I think people should be mindful of the context for concepts having to do with marginalization and taking that context seriously, I don’t think this is especially helpful. Disabilities, or just the expanse of physical and mental health aren’t static binaries where people are either 100% well or 100% unwell, and always remain as one or the other. Plus there’s rarely that perfect neurotypical, able-bodied person who never struggles with health, especially in a society that’s not built to prioritize the well-being of people in general.

            2. Velma K.*

              I’d argue that, like curb cuts and closed captioning, it’s actually a usefully broad application. It’s better when more people can talk about and understand (and perhaps destigmatize) the concept of spoon sufficiency!

            3. Twix*

              Speaking as someone with several chronic illness that cause chronic fatigue and executive dysfunction, I strongly disagree. I have feelings about the morality of this kind of gatekeeping, but more importantly spoon theory is a perfect example of something where broader awareness is better for everyone. People who are familiar with it in a different context are generally very understanding of how to extends to other situations. More widespread awareness of the concept has made talking to people about my condition soooo much easier, in large part because the wider use of spoon theory has made it more relatable and has started making respecting peoples’ amount of spoons a social norm in many communities. A culture that is compassionate toward peoples’ limitations in general is a fantastic thing for people with chronic illnesses.

        1. Retired Vulcan Raises 1 Grey Eyebrow*

          Now I’ve been retired a few years and it’s absolute bliss just enjoying life every day without work, but I look back and wonder how the hell I managed it all without being destroyed.

          1. Cyborg Llama Horde*

            This is my mom’s take on it, too. After she stopped working in 2020, she went back to 12 hours a week for a while, and commented several times about how much effort just 12 hours is.

        2. Csethiro Ceredin*

          Retail is very spoon-heavy, too. What with often having to stand all day, mistreatment by customers, weird schedules, and having to be ‘on’ at all times, it’s pretty exhausting.

          My current very high-responsibility job is far less of a grind in many ways.

          1. Another Academic Librarian too*

            I came to say this. Retail, public service, anything that is heavy on standing and being “on” IS exhausting. Humane situations have a mix of work so an employee isn’t always on “the floor.”

            1. Wendy Darling*

              I was exhausted all the time when I worked a client-facing job. The company had great work-life balance most of the time and I probably worked less hours than I do now (I’m salaried so we don’t track), but I was SO stressed and exhausted all the time just from dealing with clients and working for a company that never said no to clients. I got so stressed I developed multiple physical issues, most of which magically went away when I changed jobs.

              Now I work a more intellectually challenging job with less flexible hours but I find the work less stressful so I have way more energy overall.

              And that’s not even working retail! Retail is way worse!

            2. Ralph the Wonder Llama*

              When my work was a high level of human contact, eight hours a day, five days a week, at the end of every work day I felt like people had been picking little pieces of me off all day and that there was nothing left of me.

                1. Hrodvitnir*

                  It’s perfect! I so often think that people who denigrate customer service jobs, and think they are easy/should be poorly paid, would die if they had to do it for a year (probably shorter.) Especially when you look at the kind of multi-tasking fast food workers are doing! It’s so intense.

                  The emotional labour is real. I actually very much enjoyed working with clients as a vet nurse when it was a smaller part of my day. All day? It crushed me.

        3. Sparkle Llama*

          Yeah, I think there is already plenty of pressure on those of us with fewer spoons to keep up with others. I know based on the way my brain and body work and my partner’s brain and body we just don’t have as much capacity as some other people and while I often feel ashamed that my house is messier than friends houses even though they have kids and I don’t, that shame isn’t helpful!

          OP – assuming continuing your current employment won’t work for you, some things to consider are:
          – are there options for employment that are less energy intensive? I was great at customer service, but it drained the heck out of me! Maybe you could explore trying to get into a difficult field with less people interaction. Or even just a different retail environment that is lower stress.
          – are there options for paid or unpaid time off either at this job or a different one? Would working 40 hours a week be more tenable if you took a week off every other month?
          – Would working 30 hours a week be an option?
          – If you worked 40 hours a week would you be able to pay someone else to do some of the around the house stuff? Does a neighbor kid mow lawns in the summer?

          1. Anne Shirley*

            I came on here to say something similar. OP, must it absolutely be 40 hours to be considered full time at your employer?

            Have you looked at plans on the Health Insurance Marketplace?

      4. The Unspeakable Queen Lisa*

        Thank you. I get so tired of “my own world view is the only possible one, you must be lazy or lying” attitude.

      5. Elitist Semicolon*

        +1. I’m not going to be able to walk in the door and immediately begin prepping dinner/cleaning the catbox/emptying the bins to get it all done before bed if I’m so stressed and unhappy that I have to lie on the floor and cry for a bit first.

      6. Awkwardness*

        Exactly. I am single and with the job I started during the pandemic, I am constantly tired and exhausted. I like my job, but the mental workload is extremely high. I am no comparison to the energetic self I was five years ago.

        Susie – would you appreciate if I said I am happy that your job does not ask much of you so you have all this energy left for your free time? I guess not. Judgement always goes in two directions.

      7. jasmine*

        This, and also people have different levels of energy. I’m someone who’s very low energy, it’s not bad enough to be called fatigue, but it took me a long time to stop getting down on myself for being “lazy” when other people seemed to be able to do so much more because they needed less rest.

        But without that rest, I literally start getting ill. We’re not all built the same.

    2. Box of Kittens*

      You don’t? I used to not understand this, but in our busy season, I use so much brainpower at work that it’s seriously difficult to use any at home sometimes, even simple things like making a grocery list or planning when to clean that week. I guess I’m glad this works for you, but I really don’t think it’s uncommon to feel this way. I feel like this was a pretty dismissive comment.

      1. Butterfly Counter*

        Yes. There are some days I cannot and will not find a way to decide what to have for dinner. I am just intellectually, emotionally, and spiritually spent. That is a bridge too far.

        1. Kel*

          I spend a little bit more money to do a food box service so I don’t have to figure out what dinner is each night. I just come home and cook it. Four days a week of food box, two days of something I plan, one day where we usually end up getting takeout or something.

          1. Box of Kittens*

            We did those for a couple of years, but then my husband took a pay cut as part of a career change and it stopped making sense financially. So we gave up the convenience of easy, good food for the savings. It’s worth the trade off for our situation right now, but there is always a trade off. That’s the thing I think Susie doesn’t get lol. We all have to live with these trade offs, but also why? It doesn’t have to be this way.

          2. EmF*

            This! I don’t do food box, but in the last year I’ve been able to pay someone to come over every two weeks and clean my bathroom/kitchen/living room, and it has been such a gamechanger. (They do it better and faster than I would do it, and wanting to make sure everything is ready to BE cleaned works really well to get me over the executive function hump of clearing the counters and making sure the sink is empty. Hiring a cleaner has helped me to do more cleaning myself.)

        2. UKDancer*

          Same. I know by the end of the week I won’t have energy for innovative cooking. So I always do something that makes plenty of leftovers on Sunday and freeze some and then defrost it for Friday night. If I don’t meal plan at the weekend, come the end of the week I am too tired to think about what I might want to eat.

        3. Wendy Darling*

          At a particularly stressful point in my life my partner asked me what I wanted for dinner and I burst into tears because I simply could not handle even the IDEA of making another decision that day.

          If I’d lived alone I probably would have ignored the entire concept of dinner until I was intolerably hungry and then eaten whatever was in the house and involved no effort. Since I don’t, my partner kindly procured dinner and placed food in front of me.

          1. Be Gneiss*

            During the busiest time of year when I was at OldJob, I used to eat cereal every night for dinner because that’s all I could do. The hours were long, and theoretically I could have had salad or soup or a sandwich or any other easy thing…but I could. not. make. decisions. So, I bought a couple boxes of the same kind of cereal, so I didn’t even have to choose which kind, and took one to work for lunch and left one at home for dinner. it was surprisingly liberating.

        4. JB*

          Yep. There is a reason why I read less for fun than I used to and do mindless things like watch South Korean dating reality shows in the evening, even though I don’t actually care that much for reality shows. I do so much think-y stuff at work that when I get home, I do not want to have to do anything that requires brainpower. My house is consistently more messy than I’d like it to be because I’m too tired to tidy when I get home and can only do the bare minimum. Then the weekends are spent trying to relax and also frantically catch up on chores and errands. A lot of things just don’t get done.

          1. Zelda*

            There really, really needs to be a standard social phrase for “I am so sorry you are in that situation and yet I am so glad it’s not just me.”

      2. Mal Voyage*

        I usually spend the last 3-ish hours of my day at work putting all my willpower into just continuing to be at work and not losing my cool, and I actually really like my job. By the time my workday is actually “done”, I’m a wreck. The rest of my day tends to pass in an exhausted blur. So sure, the clock says I have several hours between work being done and going to bed to start it all over again, but it’s a struggle to actual perceive that time and feel like “I have it”.

        And even though absolutely no-one is getting any value from me being there those last few hours, I still have to be there because… I have to?

      3. Freya*

        I have only so many decisions in me for any one day; the more I use at work deciding whether the balls I’m juggling are glass and need to stay in the air or are rubber and can be dropped, the fewer I have left to do anything else.

    3. Em*

      As a general rule, this kind of comparison is neither useful or kind. You are not OP. Your life is not her life. Your limits, boundaries, and values are not hers. Your experience about what you find doable are not illuminating.

      1. I'm just here for the cats!!*

        exactly! I wonder if Suzie works full-time in retail, which is really hard work. Even part-time is hard! Plus you’re more likely to be on your feet all day.

      2. ZugTheMegasaurus*

        And also, those limits, boundaries, and values can vary wildly *within the same person* at different points in life. There have been times in my life where I could work 50 hours a week in food service and go to school and party every night and get by on 3 hours of sleep and have tons of energy.

        Contrast that to now, I have a WFH office job that I’m really good at, lets me stay at home with my partner and pets, have a great work/life balance, and never have to commute – and I hit such a stress level that I entered a full-blown dissociative state for *months* before seeing a professional who diagnosed it just a few weeks ago.

        I have a hard time understanding it, and I was there! Knowing how wildly that can change in just one individual, I think it’s downright impossible to do that kind of comparison between 2 totally different people.

    4. Double A*

      I have two children and I look back on everything did when I was single or before kids and am amazed. I really had time to do almost everything I needed and wanted to do.

      Having children and working 40 hours a week is a meat grinder.

    5. jsyk*

      for real? ok so, for an 8am-5pm job (1 hour lunch) with a 45 minute commute, here’s my schedule: wake up at 6am, leave around 7am to arrive slightly early. arrive home at 5:45. make dinner. now it is 6:30. eat dinner now it is 7pm. go to the gym now it is 8:30pm. get home now it is 9pm. oh shit it’s basically time to get ready to bed! go to bed at 10pm bc i have to get up a 6am. put literally any Single Task into that after dinner spot. there is three hours in the evening to do anything that isnt working/preparing food/eating/commuting.

      1. Seashell*

        If you’re at the gym or traveling to/from the gym from 7-9 PM, then you’re prioritizing that over household chores. That’s fine, but it doesn’t mean you don’t have time to do any household chores during the week – you’re choosing to use your time another way

        1. jsyk*

          it’s just an example to show that literally there are 2-3 hours of ‘free time’ in a work day after work, which is why i said “put any Single Task” in that spot. yes you could spend all of that time doing chores, but the question was how people struggle to do both chores and have a balanced life with hobbies etc.

        2. Ticotac*

          Remove the gym and now you have time to do the household chores, but not to exercise. How are you going to keep your level of fitness? You don’t!

          1. Elitist Semicolon*

            And if you’re someone who relies on exercise to regulate/maintain mental health or physical health, your choices are do the thing that keeps you healthy or clean the house.

          2. Emma*

            Agreed! One of the best decisions I ever made for my ‘free’ time management was biking to work. It’s marginally quicker than any other mode of transport, but the real benefit is that instead of losing that time to a commute, I’ve spent it exercising; so I then don’t have to find time elsewhere in my week to exercise. So much less stress (and so much more exercise).

        3. wordswords*

          That’s fair, but as jsyk said, swap out literally anything that’s not chores for that gym slot. See friends, go to the gym, watch a movie, read, play a video game, chat with your spouse… those three hours are all you have to allocate.

          And, okay, obviously, time is finite and life is always going to be about picking between mutually exclusive ways to use your time. But it can feel pretty soul-killing to be like “okay, all of my daylight hours were given to work or commuting, so now do I do something fun or do I do the grinding everyday maintenance of life? Whichever I pick, the other’s not getting done.”

          Also, I’ll point out that OP mentioned taking care of animals, and living in a low cost of living area. They didn’t specify the animals, but this could be anything from a couple of cats to a room full of lizards to livestock, and some animals involve a whole lot of time-consuming chores on their own. It can be extremely worth it, but it’s still another demand on your time and energy, and yet another thing that needs to get done when the dishes and the relaxation aren’t. (And taking care of animals isn’t something you can generally let slide, even for the tasks where you can be a bit flexible about the timing.)

        4. kiki*

          Some people consider exercising a similar to chores– it’s something you have to keep up on for life maintenance. I have depression that is deeply helped by movement. While I understand I have to make choices to prioritize things differently than others, it can be frustrating when people jump in and insinuate that my time to exercise is optional. I skipped it for years due to limited time and the mentality that it was optional. I got very close to not being alive.

          1. OutofOffice*

            This! Lots of people have all kinds of medical conditions where exercise is, frankly, less optional than sweeping the floors!

      2. Peel Me a Grape*

        It really depends on what options are available for you where you live, but 25 years ago, my husband and I had a regular rotation of low-priced (but not burger chain) restaurants that we typically hit 1-2x a week (ie., sushi, Mexican, Chinese, etc., sometimes as takeout) It wasn’t even an official “date night” per se, but we found that the combination of not having to prepare and clean up, in addition to usual leftovers to eat the next day, was almost as cost effective as buying the ingredients, and more recharging. But I’m not sure the math still maths these days.

        1. Starbuck*

          I don’t think it does; where I live anyway even at a “cheap” Mexican or Thai takeout place, dinner is going to be at least $15, before tax and tip. My food costs for dinner at home work out to around $5 per meal, so that is a pretty significant difference to be doing more than just a couple times a month.

    6. blossomcat*

      I think the problem is not that there is no time to manage a household and have occasional fun–it is the fact that our work time is disproportionate to our free time. That’s the society in which we live, and I think it’s totally fine that the LW is expressing a dread for this lifestyle even if it’s unavoidable. So much of the vibe these days is set up to encourage people to love their work, be super ambitious, have their jobs be the central focus of their lives. I think a dread for this kind of lifestyle is something more of us should feel free to express, honestly.

      Also, remember that not everyone has the same capacity to manage a household, regardless of their work time. I struggle with ADHD, so having just a couple of hours per night and a weekend is *still* a challenge when it comes to getting everything done.

      1. Lola*

        Agreed. I can do everything I “need” to get done, but when the weekend comes, I want to have fun/do what I want. Lately, I’ve been feeling pretty resentful of the fact that so little of my time is devoted to fun activities. And not just “for fun,” but activities that I find restoring and necessary for my mental health.

    7. Awlbiste*

      Mental illness and physical disabilities can make a person extremely tired and make household tasks seem insurmountable. Just to add that perspective.

      1. Keeley Jones, The Independent Woman*

        It’s like those stupid “cleaning hack” videos that just say “The way I keep my house clean all the time is…I clean all day long! Soo easy! Just clean every day!” Ok, cool. Would love to do that by my chronic depression and ADHD say it’s not happening.

    8. Sloanicota*

      I do think full time retail is more demanding that full time office work, TBH. You’re standing on your feet all day, you’re dealing with the grouchy public, and there’s less flexibility for being late / leaving early / taking breaks. “If you have time to lean, you have time to clean” is not something I hear daily in white collar work.

      1. Eldritch Office Worker*

        Agreed. The mental/emotional/physical energy of retail is so exhausting. I couldn’t go back at this point in my life.

      2. can't think of a name*

        Full time retail is absolutely more demanding than full time office work and it’s ridiculous that retail work is paid so much worse and considered less valuable/difficult. I say this as someone who only worked retail part-time as a teenager and now has a full-time office job.

      3. kiki*

        Full time retail is SO much more demanding than office work. A lot of office workers forget how much flexibility they have in their day that retail workers don’t. I can quick take a call from my doctor, I can take a minute to write down a grocery list for later, I can send off some texts to friends and family. That’s not possible during retail and has to be saved for your off hours (or break).

        Retail is also emotionally exhausting because you have to be “on” the whole time in a way office workers are not expected to.

      4. fine tipped pen aficionado*

        Just about everyone hates micromanaging but retail and food service micromanaging is on a different level that adds so much fatigue. Being watched and judged in such a minute way for such a long period…. I don’t have the words to describe how exhausting that is.

      5. Itsa Me, Mario*

        This. Fundamentally the answer to OP’s question probably at least starts with “get almost any job that isn’t retail”. And this isn’t because there’s something wrong with retail or shameful about it, but just that it’s uniquely energy-sucking unless you are a serious extrovert.

    9. Celeste*

      “I don’t understand how someone can work 40 hours/week (without children) and not have time for basic household/self maintenance.”
      I don’t know if I understand it really, but this describes me. I feel like I’m always scrambling to get just enough done so that my life doesn’t fall into chaos. I never feel I can keep up with everything like I want to.

      1. alienor*

        I think part of it is that even if you don’t work overtime, which a lot of people do, most full-time jobs are still more than 40 hours a week in real time. When I worked in an office, it was a 9-hour day because lunch was unpaid, so that was 45 hours right out of the gate, without any commuting or prep time factored in. My college job had been an 8.5 hour day with a 30-minute unpaid lunch, and I remember being amazed at how much longer (and worse) that extra half-hour made the day feel when I first started out.

      2. I'm just here for the cats!!*

        Thats me too! I am really struggling, and feel like i’m getting farther and farther behind. There’s so many little things around the house that need to get done but there’s not enough time and energy at the end of the day. I live with my mom, who has phyiscial limitations. She helps when she can, but the majority of the housework is on me. She’d love to help with laundry but can’t go down to the basement to do the laundry. Right now I have an injury and so things like dishes are really piling up.

      3. jane's nemesis*

        Same. I even only work 35 hours a week (considered full time at my job), and I literally never have a clean household or a fully maintained self. People are different! Not everyone has the same energy levels or organizational abilities! This is okay!

      4. MigraineMonth*

        Just popping in to plug Laziness Does Not Exist, which is about how exhausting it is to expect so much of ourselves and constantly fail. Working 40 hrs/week is hard.

        Working 40 hrs/week; managing health conditions; staying physically active; taking time to plan, shop for and prepare healthy food; managing budgets; spending time supporting friends; being politically active; taking care of daily household chores; volunteering for all those committees we’re “encouraged” to join; and keeping track of all the things we’re forgetting to do is pretty much IMPOSSIBLE. Then we’re told that in order to handle that stress, we should spend even more time we don’t have in bubble baths/yoga/meditation.

        1. Celeste*

          Thank you for this. I’m going to check it out.
          Not feeling like I’m doing enough (= not feeling good enough) has been really getting me down lately.

    10. Beth*

      I personally work a 40-45 hour week, spend roughly every other night with my girlfriend, see friends for at least an hour or two daily, have a couple hobbies that I try to spend time on at least weekly, and need to sleep 7-8 hours a night to keep my brain functional enough for work. My life is really rich and full, and it’s rare for me to have more than an hour of unscheduled time in my day.

      That unscheduled time goes to whatever household/self/life maintenance I need to do, and it’s not enough time for all of it. I’m good at keeping my apartment clean, which is something that matters a lot to me. The trade-off is that I almost never cook–I either sacrifice money to eat out, or sacrifice food quality to eat some quick pre-prepared thing from the grocery store. I could cook more if I spent less time with friends, or gave up my hobbies, or slept less, or decided I don’t care about my space being neat and clean…but there’s not enough time in the day to cook the quality of food that I’d ideally like to be eating AND to do all of the things that I really want to be doing. So I make my choices and accept my sacrifices, like I think we all do.

      1. Typing All The Time*

        Same. I freelance for a living and I work just about all the time out of fear of not having enough income for the month/year. I try to clean my house regularly but I’m worn out at night and Saturdays are meant for errands. I do make sure my kitchen and bathroom are clean but other things often wait. I hate when people suggest I hire a housekeeper; I can’t afford one.

      2. Myrin*

        Oh, I love how I’m basically your polar opposite and yet can relate so much!

        I’m generally managing really well on that front, but it’s definitely because I’m single, don’t have any children or pets (I mean, I have a cat but she lives with my mum and sister so functionally, I don’t have pets), am a loner by nature and choice (I get along well with almost everyone I meet and am friendly acquaintances with a lot of people but I basically have one “real” friend and no desire of my own to meet up with people during my free time; I enjoy it when I do but I don’t seek it out, I’m simply not wired that way), and my biggest hobby – gardening – isn’t something I can do in my current living situation anyway.

        The one thing that really is important to me is my other biggest hobby – cooking. I’m from a culture where we don’t generally eat full warm meals in the evening and I couldn’t do that anyway because of my removed gallbladder so during the week, I only eat some yoghurt or a sandwich or something similarly small after work which doesn’t require any cooking at all during the week. But that means that I spend literal hours of my weekend cooking the upcoming week’s lunches and doing the dishes as well as cooking a real breakfast and what I’m actually eating for lunch on those weekend days.

        I’ve streamlined the process to a point where I’m at my most efficient and people at work regularly admire my ability to do so but, well, I simply don’t have what a lot of people would consider “a life” in many aspects. Again, that’s by choice and I enjoy my life very much but it’s definitely not a tradeoff many – or even most? – people would and could do.

    11. JP*

      I’m glad you’re able to make it work, but everyone is different. Some people struggle with burnout, depression, anxiety, ADHD, etc. Any number of things that can make simple tasks a lot more difficult or time consuming to complete. If you have high energy animals or livestock (I live in a rural area and a lot of my coworkers also farm in addition to their day jobs), that can be a ton of work.
      I just really dislike the “it’s fine for me so I don’t understand why other people struggle” mentality.

      1. Risha*

        That’s what I said too. Many people struggle with mental or physical issues that make completing daily tasks very difficult. Sometimes, you don’t even know where to start. You see everything that has to be done around the house and feel so defeated. My husband and I struggle with these due to both of us having mental illnesses, and we don’t know who to reach out to because everyone judges. They say things like how can adults not manage their house, or things like Susie’s comment. Just because you don’t struggle with anything and can get it all done, doesn’t mean everyone is like you. If you weren’t given the tools to manage, you don’t magically learn it once you become an adult.
        We pay people to do things for us, but if we weren’t in a position where we could afford it, the OP’s situation would be ours too.

      2. Irish Teacher.*

        Or people can have other committments. Even without kids, people could have elderly parents who need support or a sibling who is struggling and needs a lot of support or they might help with childcare for nieces or nephews.

        And retail often means mixed schedules. I only had a 20 hour a week contract when I worked retail. I usually worked more hours in reality, but not necessarily a 40 hour week, but I’d have things like work from 4pm-11pm Thursday, then 9am-2pm Friday. That leaves you exhausted in a way a regular 9-5 doesn’t necessarily. They also changed my hours on a regular basis, calling me to come in extra whenever anybody called in sick, which meant I often had to change minor plans at short notice. If I had an appointment or something, I could say “no” obviously, but things like plans to tidy out a cupboard or do my shopping got changed around a lot.

        And then people have other activities, which I know you could argue is a case of them choosing something before home maintainence/self-care, but…for example, in Ireland, GAA is an all-amateur sport, but…I don’t think many of the players with a chance to play for their county would be likely to turn that down so they have enough time to do their shopping. These are the country’s top sportspeople. There was actually one player who apparently emigrated to the UK for work and flew home at weekends to train with his county. I don’t think many people are playing sport in a national championship as amateurs, but…people are involved in amateur dramatics or have side-gigs or volunteer with causes they feel strongly about and don’t want to let down. Sure, these things are choices, but “you should be able to fit in the necessities of life so long as you give up everything of value to you and focus solely on your job and household chores” doesn’t exactly support the idea that full-time work is easy and not a major impediment to other priorities.

    12. Nethwen*

      It depends on what you define as “basic household/self maintenance.”

      If you define “basic” as eating self-prepped and cooked meals (90+ minutes a day) and being in bed for 8-9 hours a night with at least 30 minutes of wind-down time before bed, plus 30-60 minutes a day of exercise, that’s something like 10+ hours out of your day, probably closer to 14. And we haven’t even started on taking showers, doing the dishes, the 30-minute commute each way, wiggle room in case of traffic or you spill on yourself right as you leave, etc.

      Then consider people who attend religious services. They basically lose one day a week, depending on their specific situation, and have to cram everything else into the remaining one day off.

    13. Unkempt Flatware*

      it simply takes conditioning. But while you’re unconditioned, these things are overwhelming. Add in executive dysfunction, ADHD, or any number of things, and these tasks are hard.

      1. NothingIsLittle*

        I agree that these tasks are hard, but it absolutely is not simply about conditioning. Yes, habits make housework easier. However, I have a significant autoimmune disorder that comes with severe fatigue as a symptom. I physically do not have the energy to chores when I get home most days as a result. Heck, most days I don’t even have the energy to do things I enjoy because I’m too exhausted. If I have to work an event for work, I typically end up bedbound for at least a day after.

        Conditioning and routine may be an important part of keeping on top of chores, but I disagree that it is even the primary factor in whether these tasks are maintained. Even someone without a fatigue disorder may be too physically exhausted after work to do any housework, particularly if they work in a physically demanding job like certain sectors or retail or any type of shipping. Additionally, mental stress from a job can have significant physical repercussions that similarly make keeping up with housework too demanding.

        I’m very happy that you have a routine that works, but please understand that routine is not going to make a significant difference for all people, even if they are neurotypical and able-bodied.

    14. FrivYeti*

      It’s lucky that you have a job that leaves you with enough energy to pick up around the house in the evening, but that’s not true for everyone, especially people who have pets that need to be walked after breakfast and dinner, which OP has specifically mentioned having.

      Also, if you’re picking up around the house, I’m guessing you have a dishwasher and don’t have to spend time every evening dealing with dishes? Because let me tell you, that is a hellish time sink that burned through my chore time when I was in my twenties.

      1. Me*

        This! I’m in my mid-30s and I have never in my life had a dishwasher. :( Someday when we can afford a kitchen remodel, I hope! But people never account for the time it takes to do all the dishes by hand!

        1. amoeba*

          There are small ones that go on the counter, no remodeling necessary – bought one for my boyfriend’s place because no way I’m ever washing dishes regularly by hand ever again! (Grew up without a dishwasher because my parents hated the dished, yet always refused to get one, so I’m slightly scarred…)

      2. kicking-k*

        Yep. I have a broken dishwasher, a young family, and not quite enough executive function to have managed to replace the dishwasher in the last 18 months. It shouldn’t be hard, but picking out appliances is something that my little ADHD brain does find disproportionately difficult.to tackle. Meanwhile the dishes take me a ridiculous amount of time each night (because lack of focus) and loom over the entire evening. We need to replace that stupid dishwasher!

        1. jane's nemesis*

          Aw, I wish someone could help you with picking out the appliance! can you post on a Friday open thread and let the commentariat here help?

          1. kicking-k*

            Part of our problem is that our kitchen is so old that few appliances fit exactly in the space! We’re considering a kitchen remodel which would improve several other niggling things, although that is obviously a bigger job overall. We have other appliances that are probably about to die too, though, and I feel like modernization/future-proofing is inevitable really. But meanwhile… no working dishwasher.

      3. OutofOffice*

        I’m in my mid-30s and I’ve never lived in a place with a dishwasher. I dream of it sometimes! :)

        Washing dishes by hand takes forever, ruins my skin, and is the exact last thing I want to do after cooking and serving dinner, after working all day, so the dishes pile up and then suddenly we have no spoons (literally and figuratively) and it takes a huge chunk of time!

    15. Your Future*

      Yikes. It’s like looking at my past self. It took me a good long while to learn that everyone has different capacities and needs, and that my own capacity/needs will fluctuate throughout my life.

      I’m glad you are able to function like this right now, truly. It might not always be so easy for you, so please be gentler than this to yourself if/when that happens.

    16. Pickaduck*

      Really? I have a husband, or a cats, and no children. I work a full-time job that is sometimes on call, but even when not by the time we get home, make and eat dinner it’s going on 7:00 and I’m exhausted. I’m lucky to get a couple loads of laundry in, and a couple nights a week for us to either go out or see some friends or something.

      I don’t even know how people with kids do it.

        1. Mill Miker*

          Stretched so thin you can’t even remember if its a husband or cats you have… sounds like it’s time for a vacation (with your husband, if applicable).

          1. MigraineMonth*

            I spent a long time trying to find an SO who made me as happy as my cats do. I’ve given up and embraced spinsterhood with cats.

        2. I'm just here for the cats!!*

          I just figured the husband WAS a cat! Like he was cursed by a witch and turned into one.

          I read too many weird, witchy cozy mysteries

          1. Quill*

            When they used to say two could live as cheaply as one they weren’t taking into account the absolute fortune in kibble Pickaduck’s husband eats.

      1. Yoyoyo*

        “I don’t even know how people with kids do it.”

        We don’t. I have no friends and no hobbies because by the time my kid goes to bed, I am just too exhausted to do anything other than the bare minimum chores that need to be done in order to maintain a safe and healthy environment. And that’s with only one kid!

        1. ferrina*


          You survive it because you need to. It’s not gracefully or pretty- it’s life. Some days you’re exhausted and it’s an accomplishment just to get everyone fed. Some days you actually make forward progress. You make trade-offs, because a kid takes time and that time needs to come from somewhere. Hobbies become a luxury. Time with friends becomes scarcer or looks very different (crashed on a park bench drinking coffee while the kids run around the playground). Conversations are clipped and constantly interrupted with “I said stop hitting your sister! What do you mean, she hit you first? Was that before or after you took her toy?”

          It’s definitely a full lifestyle change, and an exhausting one! It helps when you have support systems that you trust to help with the kid and give you a breather.

        2. Quinalla*

          Yup, it’s rough with kids no matter how you slice it, especially really young kids. Even with a great childcare set up (hah, feel like those are a thing of the past now), it’s hard. I’m so glad I WFH now so at least I can keep the dishes moving, run a load of laundry, etc. and get back my commute time (I basically split the time – give some to work and some to me). I stay very busy at work, but still you have to take breaks and I usually do a quick chore while I’m on break so the maintenance stuff is so much easier to keep up on now. I also eat healthier and cheaper since I’m eating at home almost every day for lunch so that’s great too.

          However, my husband and I are privledged to have good paying jobs and we also pay for lawn service, monthly cleaning and hire out work we could technically do ourselves (painting, easy plumbing jobs, etc.). And we also still eat more take-out that we should because even with all the help we are both still pretty damn exhausted after working all day. It’s hard to work full time and if your job is physically demanding too, you aren’t just mentally/emotionally drained but also physically drained.

          The difference between my previous had-to-commute-30m+ everyday situation to now is huge and that is mostly an hour commute and the stress of it and the stress/drain of working in an office (sensitive introvert here!). I still work actually a little more time now, but it’s so much less stress/drain. If I could work part time, phew that would be an amazing burden lifted!

          So yeah, I don’t fully understand OP as I am not them, but I get being exhausted. Even if you are single with little responsibility, a full time job is a lot by itself!

        3. Deborah*

          Yeah, depending on community and family support, a lot of people just go into survival mode FOR YEARS when the kids are little.

      2. Hastily Blessed Fritos*

        “I don’t even know how people with kids do it.”

        We don’t do the “go out or see some friends or something” during the week. That’s strictly a weekend activity, and not every weekend at that – finding a sitter is hard!

      3. Irish Teacher.*

        That honestly gave me an impression of your husband being able to shapeshift, so you don’t know if he’s currently your husband or a cat!

    17. I'm just here for the cats!!*

      That’s great that you can do that. Not everyone can, especially working a taxing job like retail. And add in taking care of animals, that can be extra hard. Depending on the animal and the amount of animals that can take a lot of time, even if you love them.

    18. Petunia*

      Sometimes it’s hard to see how you’ll fit this all in. I remember starting full time work for the first time and I was always wildly exhausted and didn’t feel like I had time for these tasks. It felt impossible for a while. But you get used to it, learn to time manage and so on. I really do relate to her feeling like it will be tough though because it is difficult to make this change.

    19. Pam Poovey*

      How is this helpful? People are not all the same, jobs are not all the same. Comparisons don’t serve any of us.

      1. HR Friend*

        Because OP is asking how people work a FT job, keep up at home, while feeling content. Some people do all of that relatively seamlessly. I actually feel bad for OP who may be reading comment after comment here saying this is impossible and everything sucks. Susie is not being condescending or rude. If as you say, “all people are not the same”, surely you can accept that there are other people who are doing just fine working a full time, with a family, maintaining their responsibilities, who are generally happy. I do it. My friends do it. It’s not an uncommon experience, and frankly if I’m LW reading through most of these comments, I’d be super discouraged! Obviously no one wants to work for a living. But most people need to work, and we can carve out a happy life while we do.

        1. Beth*

          I think all the people saying ” we don’t do it all” ARE encouraging OP to have a happy life! I know for me, part of having a full, rich, happy life while working full time has been accepting that in fact no one does it all. I want social time, I might not have time to cook, or if I want to tidy up my home every day, there might not be time to also maintain a daily gym habit–and that’s actually very reasonable and normal. Realizing that I’m not failing at adulthood by prioritizing the activities I care about has made it much easier for me to arrange my life how I want it.

        2. NothingIsLittle*

          I think “I don’t really understand what you’re doing that takes up so much time,” is both condescending and rude in this context.

          In addition, the response, “I just do, how could you possibly not?” to a question about how people manage a household working full time is not helpful nor actionable, even if it demonstrates that some people are capable of doing so.

        3. Al*

          Yeah – I get why people are pushing back in the comment, but as someone who relates a lot to OP, I find it somewhat reassuring that there’s _someone_ going “of course it’s doable what do you even mean”.

        4. Katara's side braids*

          If Susie had framed her comment in terms of reassurance I would agree with you. Unfortunately, she only expressed bewilderment (and likely some judgment, but she left enough plausible deniability in there that I need to have a caveat) that so many others are struggling.

    20. NothingIsLittle*

      I don’t really want to join a pile up, but it’s important for me to point out that housework is physically demanding and some people won’t have that energy.

      I’m disabled and part of my problem is fatigue, which means I genuinely don’t have the energy at the end of the day to walk around cleaning. I’ve found work arounds for some things, but some things just aren’t physically possible for me to regularly complete working a full time job. And while it’s typically desk work, the times that I have to work events leave me bedbound for at least a day afterwards. I spend the weekend recovering from having worked during the week.

      Even for neurotypical and able-bodied people, if they’re working a physically demanding job they may end up with similar fatigue levels at the end of the day. Would you be able to keep up with those tasks if you did road maintenance or construction, especially during the summer? I suspect not, and that inability is not a moral failing. Even consider the physical repercussions of stress and how exhausting it can be.

      Finally, something I haven’t really seen in the replies, different people have different priorities. Someone may prefer to spend the time and energy it takes to clean on caring for a pet/relative, pursuing a hobby, or visiting with friends. It’s not a moral failing to deprioritize cleaning either.

      1. I Have RBF*

        It’s not a moral failing to deprioritize cleaning either.


        I hate cleaning, my ADHD brain will actively avoid it, and it feels like being a woman sucked back into the 1950s when I get pressured into doing it. I do not dust, scrub, or any other labor intensive cleaning. My house is a mess, but I keep the floor clear of dirt and the pet barf picked up. I will use the vacuum cleaner monthly, not weekly or daily, and any dusting gets done by that. I will do laundry when I need clean clothes. I deliberately bought a big washer so we could do bedding and large loads.

        I have roomies, so we split up the chores. I do the one thing that the others hate: Manage and pay the bills. When I was in the hospital for a while my spouse had to handle the bills. She actually brought the stuff to me in the hospital to review, she hated it so much.

        If there’s something that must be done but no one can do it, I’ll hire it done. If it isn’t absolutely necessary, it won’t get done.

    21. Alex Rider*

      Because if you live alone and work and demanding job like retail you may not have time? I work in unemployment and live alone. Some days it’s great that I’m able to do the dishes. OP’s life is not your life.

    22. jellied brains*

      Well that’s great for you. Wish I lived in your universe.

      I did the math and after my commute + 9hr work day, I get 4 hours to myself after work. So I spend an hour making dinner. 30 minutes taking a shower/getting stuff together for the next day. 15 minutes cleaning the cat box/feeding my cat/washing his bowls. 10 minutes washing the dishes.

      Suddenly all my free time is gone.

      Blessedly the trade off of working 9hrs M-Th is I only have to work 4 on Friday and at home but it all adds up. All that housework I couldn’t get to during the week has to be done on the weekend. But what if I want to spend time with my family or friends? Something will end up sacrificed.

      But I doubt you care.

      1. Hannah Lee*

        Plus for many people, they are not able to shift from one “task” to another like automatons, micro scheduling all their to-do’s and just knocking them off 1 by 1. Sometimes it’s firing up different parts of their brain from tasks to tasks, sometimes it’s an interruption that knocks things off balance for a bit – a spilled bowl of soup, the printer jams, the cat barfs, your brother calls to vent.

        On that last one, I remember some commercial about a couple not getting around to do ? something? Spouse 1 “My mom called” Spouse 2 “well, there’s the day right there” never had a random ad hit a nerve so much for me. I get completely derailed by even a 10 minute interruption to talk with other people, and it takes 30-45 minutes to get back to the headset I was in before.

        And then if you add in chronic pain or any health issue that take management, or any caregiving situation and it is very easy to completely lose any windows of time to be “productive” on the stuff on your hit list.

    23. Risha*

      Because many people struggle with executive functioning tasks, which is not something that can be controlled without professional help (which also costs $$). I’m not saying the OP has this issue, I don’t know her at all. But it’s something to keep in mind. Just because person A can manage their chores on their time off doesn’t mean person B can. Or some people have depression or medical issues that prevent them from getting things done. We’re all different.
      Unfortunately, thought processes like this prevent people who do struggle with day to day tasks from reaching out for help.

    24. Myrin*

      I reckon this is one of those situations where technically speaking, you are fully correct, but you are not thinking of how vastly different human experiences of the same thing are.

      Just technically, yes, all time you don’t spend at your job – and for practical purposes, I’m counting commuting under that umbrella as well – can be used for basic household/self maintenance. But you have to have the physical and mental capacity for that.

      I’m actually very similar to you so I get where you’re coming from but you can’t really measure your own lived experience with that of others.

      I’m of robust mental health and as such unlikely to be mentally drained except for on rare occasions – my sister, on the other hand, has had mental health issues since she was a child and even when she’s in good condition, when she comes home from work (which is also in retail, coincidentally), she needs at least an hour to herself where she just reads or watches youtube to recuperate. When she’s in bad condition, that becomes anything from three hours to a whole day.

      So that’s where that time goes, and we haven’t even started with physical limitations or living conditions which don’t lend themselves easily to managing a household/self care or even simply not having a knack for certain tasks so that everything takes much longer or yields only half-baked results or whatever.

    25. Former Young Lady*

      If you’ve never clocked out of work after a full day and felt just absolutely SPENT, it is possible your job is less demanding (emotionally, physically, intellectually, etc.) than many other jobs. Did this possibility occur to you?

    26. Modesty Poncho*

      When I was working 9-5 in an office 20 minutes away, on a morning schedule with my night owl brain, I would get home with barely enough energy to shove something in my face before I napped for at least an hour. Now it’s 7:30 and I have until maybe midnight to do housework, maintain relationships, exercise three times a week, find doctor and therapy appointments, pursue hobbies, and attempt any kind of relaxation. On weekends I was sleeping until noon to try to catch up. And I was single with no pets. Life’s a lot harder when you’re burned out all the time.

      OP, this is another large reason I became a freelancer. I was very afraid of the lack of stability and I have been lucky to get the support I’ve had. But I wake up at 10, work 11-4, and then have the entire evening to do the rest of my life. I’m not continually sleep deprived. When I do have more work than I can do in that afternoon time slot, I’m not exhausted and demoralized, so it’s easier to go back to work for an hour or two after dinner, or work through the weekend. Weekends matter a lot less when you’re resting adequately during the week. I also have the freedom to fit my life around my work by doing laundry or exercising in the middle of the day.

    27. Wait, did I write this?*

      I’m so glad for you that you don’t relate.

      I still don’t understand how anyone does it without hitting a mental health crisis every few years.

    28. DameB*

      Also, it may depend on exactly how she keeps house. If she’s used to cooking from scratch (like really from scratch — like bake your own weekly bread) and her yard job includes a garden and chickens and maybe she feels strongly that she wants clothes that fit instead of crap from Walmart…

    29. Violet Sorrengail*

      I work 40 hours a week and commute 40-45 mins a day. No children, but I have a partner and a dog. My partner and I have jobs with similar hours and maybe get one hour of downtime to “enjoy the evenings together.” Here is my schedule:

      4:40am – wake up
      5am – gym
      6:15 am – walk dog
      6:45 – feed dog, get ready for work
      7:30- leave for work
      8-4 work
      4:30pm – home, training with dog
      5pm – feed dog and do chores
      5:30pm – cook, eat, and clean up dinner
      6:30pm – walk dog
      7pm – downtime/freetime
      8pm – get ready for next day, meditate
      8:30pm – get ready for bed
      9pm – bed

      I recognize that this schedule shows a lot of privilege. I have the energy to exercise in the mornings, I feel ok on less than 8 hours of sleep, I am physically able to care for my home and love my dog, I am mentally able to work. AND I can recognize that this schedule would not be feasible for everyone. You mention doing yardwork, which means you are privileged enough to have a yard. Dog owners without a yard have at least 4-6, 5-15 min increment potty breaks a day to leash up their dog, walk them outside, and give them enough time to go potty. You must work a job that isn’t mentally or physically draining. I work a desk job that requires a lot of deep thinking and problem solving and some days I get home so mentally exhausted I can’t even fathom cooking the dinner I pre-planned or doing anything that requires thinking. The above schedule is assuming everything goes perfectly. It doesn’t account for when my dog throws up on the carpet as I’m leaving and makes me late for work, or for when I get a meeting that runs until 5, or when I have a busy weekend and can’t do laundry/food prep/cleaning on a Sunday. And even when I can take 3/4 of my Sunday to do chores sucks. Take a step back and try to understand that life looks different for everyone.

    30. the bat in the office popcorn machine*

      I’ve seen this exact comment on mommy forums, except with just a slight modification:

      “I don’t understand how someone can work 40 hours/week and not have time for basic household/self maintenance. Unless you’re commuting hours every day (which seems unlikely for a retail job) I don’t really understand what you’re doing that takes up so much time. I do big chores and yardwork on weekends, pick up around the house in the evenings, and still have time for fun with friends and the occasional home project AND take care of my children. However, I know retail hours can be inconsistent so maybe this is less about not having time to enjoy your life, and more about not having enough quality time with your spouse and children? If that’s the concern, you could look into a job with hours that line up with your spouse and children so you can enjoy the evenings together.”

      Pro-tip: It’s more helpful to meet people where they’re telling you they are than chide them for not being where you are.

    31. Katara's side braids*

      It’s super great that you’re able to just jump into household tasks without having to mentally and physically recover from a full day of work. For a lot of us, the vast majority of our waking ours are spent either preparing for work, working, or recovering from work.

      In my case, I also have ADHD to contend with. Forcing myself to get up before my body is ready, commuting half an hour, spending 8 1/2 hours (mandatory lunch!) trying to make my brain do the things it needs to do, then commuting back absolutely uses up my executive function allotment for the day. By the end of the week, I’m spent. Doing “active” things I would normally enjoy on the weekend just makes the next week worse.

      And don’t even get me started on sleep. I’m one of those people whose body just does not respond to light the same way others’ do. No matter how early I go to bed, I have to fight with my body in the morning to make it to work on time. But I don’t always go to bed early, because between my mandatory post-commute dissociation time and chores, I have no choice but to eat into my sleep time if I want a few hours to feel like a person and not an automaton.

    32. Dog momma*

      Susie,I agree, I was single til my 50s and a hospital nurse for most of that..every other w/ e & holiday & 2 different shifts. I had dogs I showed on my time off & was on my 2nd house, so did without A lot bc I wasn’t about to pay rent. and in the end worked to my benefit.
      so I worked at least 40 hrs..sometimes more, and was responsible for EVERYTHING. Paid bills, shopped, groceries and everything else, yard work on weekends or after work. any repairs or home improvements I had to figure out. But I had time for friends and socializing & doing things. No backup for questions. I was doing what needed to be done and had sufficient quality time. and I wasn’t 20, I was in my forties.
      Does LW expect to fall back on mom and dad bc they don’t want to work ft? I’ve said enough, thanks. wow

      1. Katara's side braids*

        If you read the letter, you’ll see that LW HAS accepted that she needs to make the switch – so no, she does not “expect to fall back on mom and dad.” Her letter was entirely about her emotions regarding the change, which are more than warranted. If you’re going to be judgmental, it helps to at least read the letter carefully.

        “I was able to do it, so what’s the problem?” is generally not a helpful reaction to people who are struggling. In every work structure, there will always be a subset of people who can thrive. I’m genuinely glad you’re one of those people who could thrive under our current structure. That doesn’t mean we shouldn’t try to improve that structure, or that it’s some kind of moral failing to dread entering it.

    33. Grith*

      Wow. There’s been a really unnecessary pile-on here. The OP asked questions: ” Is this normal? How do y’all manage a house and a life when you work eight or nine hours a day and only get two days off in a week?” and they have been answered by Susie and nowhere near as harshly as a lot of lower comments seem to think.

      Yes it’s normal. Managing a household is done by cooking and carrying out small bits-and-pieces jobs (washing up, loading/unloading dishwasher, wiping down the kitchen, taking out bins and we also tend to book an online shop while on the sofa watching TV) during the weekday evenings and accepting that bigger jobs (hoovering the house, cleaning bathrooms, deep-cleaning the kitchen, washing and ironing clothes, any garden work) get put off to the weekend.

      For us, I see each weekend as averaging out to roughly 1 day of doing general cleaning bits and 1 day of free time. That’s not to say that I clean 9-5 on Saturday and socialise on Sunday – some weekends I’ll be busy both days and the piles of ironing sit in the cupboard for 2 weeks, sometimes I’ll have no real plans and I can potter around and catch up on the less-frequently required jobs. Being comfortable with the idea of “doing what I can when I can” is an important part of it.

      And I also agree with Suzie’s note that OPs current job being 20 hours of retail work is going to make the idea of going up to 40 hours more daunting. It is undeniably more tiring, and also the very distinct possibility that they won’t end up doing a routine 9-5 5 on/2 off pattern is also going to make it more difficult. But when the question is “can it be done?”, I think it’s really unfair to pile on someone who’s answer is basically “yes, and here’s how”.

  4. High Score!*

    I’m an engineer and I found a company, a fortune 100, that allows employees to choose 40 hour work weeks or 32 hour or 24 hours. All the options have insurance.
    Keep looking! Or Try for something remote or partially remote. Not driving to the office saves a lot of time.

    1. Sloanicota*

      Yeah, FWIW I have had two FT jobs in nonprofit that were 35 and 32 hours a week (pay wasn’t great, but probably better than retail, and benefits were included) so it *can* happen.

    2. ButtonUp*

      Any hints on what company? I’m a mechanical engineer that’s dreamed of working part time since having kids, but I thought it doesn’t exist in my field.

    3. LJ*

      The danger is that you’d have to be really careful to disconnect if you’re working less than 40 hours. You don’t want to be paid for only 32 but still thinking about work during the extra “day” that you theoretically have off. It’s easy to think about work above 40 hours too, but at least you’re getting the full-time compensation.

        1. LJ*

          Well, plenty of salaried folks end up working 50-60 hour weeks from time to time. It’s easy for the lines to get blurry especially during a crunch (poor work life balance, yes). But at 32 hours, suddenly you have to draw more explicit lines than your co-workers might be, even though on paper it’s simple math

    4. Lizzie*

      In my company, people working 80% are assimilated to full-time for the benefits. I have an office job, but the company also employs technicians etc, all kinds of skill/education levels.
      The company is based in Europe, which is maybe why they are more understanding/encouraging of part-time? They also give quite a lot of PTO, good parental leave etc, because they try to align the conditions between their offices in different countries. The OP mentions a LCOL area so maybe there’s not a lot of international companies, but if there are, it might make sense to focus a job search on those?

      1. wordswords*

        Same, from 41! I love my job, and if I won the lottery tomorrow, I would want to keep doing the same job for the same company. But you better believe I’d cut down to part-time hours! I daydream sometimes about what the ideal schedule would be, but of course the answer is always “something totally unaffordable under our current system,” alas.

      2. bamcheeks*

        44 and me and my partner both work 4 days a week (30 hours each, not 4 x 10 hours.) We have kids who are both at school, so we both get one day which is free from 9-3pm, and the kids get three days in after-school club and two days where they get picked up and brought home.

        It’s LOVELY, and I would prefer not ever to go back up to 37.5 hours/full-time. So far I’ve managed to change jobs twice and negotiate 0.8 or 0.9 FTE, although I like to change jobs pretty often so it’s possible that at some stage I’ll have to go back up to full-time.

        Fortunately where we are the only thing that gets reduced when you work less than full-time is your pay and your annual leave pro rata— healthcare etc isn’t tied to employment.

        1. Part time lab tech*

          30hrs each would be my ideal situation but I doubt we’ll ever do it. When we’ve reduced our current mortgage to a manageable amount in couple of years, I’m going to bring it up though.

    1. allathian*

      I’m 51 and I enjoy my job, but I’d still prefer to work 4 days/29 hours a week if we could afford it and if my employer would be willing to accommodate it.

      When I returned from maternity leave I worked 5 days/30 hours a week for about 6 months, but I didn’t like that at all because I had no unpaid lunch hour and only one 20-minute paid break, which didn’t leave me enough time to go to lunch with my coworkers and I had to bring my own lunch from home, which I hated. It was also out of sync with my coworkers’ coffee breaks.

    2. londonedit*

      Yep, I’m 42 and would happily not work at all if I had the money. I’m fortunate in that my job doesn’t stray much outside of my contracted 37.5 hours a week, but I’d still far rather work a four-day week (while getting paid the same, obviously!) I’d love an extra weekend day.

  5. hellohello*

    retail/food service/any job that involves both being on your feet all day AND dealing with customers directly all day really are special level of draining, like Alison said. Most people would rather work fewer hours (and I’m a huge proponent of a four day work week – we absolutely do not need a 40 hour standard any longer) but you might find full time less draining if you’re able to find something that has less of either the constant standing or the constant customer face time.

    1. Richard Hershberger*

      This. I worked retail in my twenties. It was exhausting. Some of this was physical: hours spent on my feet and moving around on a not-great surface. But more of it was the requirement to be constantly “on” for the public. That was brutal. I’m not talking about the customer-from-hell horror stories, but being an introvert in front of the public for hours on end.

      1. allathian*

        I worked retail in my early twenties and in call centers in my late twenties and early thirties.

        Thankfully I was allowed to sit as a cashier, so it wasn’t quite as draining physically as standing all day would’ve been. The only standing job I’ve had was a 24/7 fast food place, and that was brutal. That said, the jetlag from constantly having to change shifts was worse than simply standing for hours on end. I must admit that the night shifts on Fridays and Saturdays were no fun because some of the customers were so drunk, but at least it was a kiosk, so although some of them were verbally nasty, we were out of their reach physically so they couldn’t get handsy with us. The kiosk was also in a railway station where security guards walked by regularly and that helped. I only had to call security once to get rid of a customer who was making a disturbance. Oh well, at least we got hazard pay (double on Friday and triple on Saturday nights). I was in college at the time, so I could mainly work Fridays, Saturdays, and Sundays.

    2. Sara without an H*

      +1. There’s a reason there’s a lot of turnover in retail jobs. Even if you have a decent manager and coworkers, all the emotional labor of dealing with customers is a huge energy drain.

      The LW doesn’t say anything about their level of education and/or training, but I’d definitely suggest looking for something that doesn’t involve customer service.

    3. Alpacas Are Not Dairy Animals*

      One of my pet peeves is that retail, to be performed at the level a lot of people commonly expect/desire, should be considered a skilled trade with real training and also top-tier benefits to avoid burnout, absolutely not a catch-all for folks who are very young or have significant challenges to a more “prestigious” career. But that would cut into profit margins, and also remove a whole caste of people that serve as accessible punching bags for the frustrated middle class.

      1. hellohello*

        The hardest job I ever had was working at an ice cream shop. You’d have to pay me *more* than my current salary to go back to it, but it was and continues to be a minimum wage job that only hires people who don’t have any other real options.

    4. Middle of HR*

      Yes, I went from retail before and during college to workingafter graduation in chat/ email based customer support and it was WAY less exhausting, with solid insurance. I also had a hybrid schedule years before it was commonplace. I was able to relax and update documentation during slow days unlike in retail where in a slow day you’re still wandering aisles tidying and stocking every “free” moment.

  6. i like hound dogs*

    I relate to this question. I work full-time in a job I mostly enjoy, but I can remember getting my first full-time job and wondering how people do it — it feels like you basically have time after work for the gym or to cook dinner, and that’s it! (At least for me. I need sleep or I’m a grouch.) Then I had a kid and that changed by perspective, but that’s neither here nor there.

    I think it’s good you’re in a low COL area — so am I, and it allowed me to spend some years working part-time when my son was younger. Is there any chance you can get a different job that you like more? Or supplement your income with a side hustle like dog-walking or pet-sitting or something you can do from home?

    Also, I’m not sure if it’s available to you, but working a remote or hybrid schedule helps SO MUCH. In my current job I’m able to care for my pets and do laundry and stuff while I’m taking breaks or listening to calls.

    I also want to say that sometimes things seem really hard at first but then get better once you have systems and habits in place. Good luck!

    1. Cats & Coffee*

      I was coming here to say the same thing! Working a hybrid schedule has given me so much more balance. I can turn on the TV while filling out boring paperwork, or snuggle my cats while responding to emails. It’s easy to catch up on chores in between meetings and on my remote days I have extra time that would otherwise be spent commuting.

    2. sacados*

      It’s interesting because for me, transitioning from school to the working world was both easier and harder in different ways — I did find that the concentrated workday was more tiring than a class schedule… but on the other hand it was kind of a relief to know that when the workday was done, it was DONE. As opposed to the life of a student where even when you’re on the weekend or relaxing at night, there’s always something you *could* be studying, so it never feels like you can 100% relax.

      Then I spent many years working in a 60+ hours/week industry and became inured to that life. So a few years ago when I moved to a 40 hour, hybrid, flexible schedule type of job it felt absolutely LIFE-CHANGING haha. Leaving at 5pm every day … I remember thinking — I guess I need to get some hobbies, what do people DO with all this extra time?!?!?!

      1. Loux*

        I feel the exact same way! I found the student life to be quite stressful in a lot of ways. Working was, in some ways, less stressful. But it’s definitely tough sometimes to sit at work for 8 hours (or whatever) straight.

    3. MigraineMonth*

      Quick caution that many “side hustles” are not worth it monetarily, particularly since they don’t provide benefits and can take a lot of your time.

  7. Box of Kittens*

    I want so badly for the world to collectively switch to a four-day work week. I like my job and am good at it but I am part of the late 20s crowd having the slowly dawning realization that I’m about to work my life away. When I got my first full time job after college, one of the people interviewing me made a comment about how it was great they all got along as a time because they spent more time with coworkers than they did their own families. And this was at a job where we worked no overtime; it was a straight up 9-5 and go home. I don’t remember anything else about that interview to be honest. That one comment made such an impression though.

    Up until this year, my husband also worked a daytime office job, but he’s recently switched to the night shift. I get to spend about 30 waking hours with him each week. It makes me so angry that that’s less time than I spend at work. I want to say that if I could do something else, I would, but I don’t know that that’s true, because I also genuinely like my job and want to advance in it. But not at the expense of my actual life! There’s no reason we can’t collectively say this is too much. I do not live to work, and yet here I am. Bleak.

    1. Gerri’s Jaunty Hat*

      Yes! The campaign for a 32 hour full time work week has made some excellent strides lately; I encourage everyone to check them out!

    2. Duckles*

      I’m worried because most of the narrative I’ve heard around this isn’t a 32 hour workweek but four 10- hour days and I very much do not want that.

        1. Gerri’s Jaunty Hat*

          That’s why the 32 hour workweek campaign has to be so specific, since 4/10s is what people already think when they hear “four day week”.

          1. Box of Kittens*

            For the record, when I wish for the 4-day work week I’m wishing for the 32 hour one. Given the amount of studies that have been down showing people are just as productive (not that we should be measured by the money we can make for businesses, but that’s beside the point), I’m surprised it’s not more talked about yet among workers.

            1. Green great dragon*

              I’m currently part time for childcare reasons, with school age kids, and I don’t know that I’ll ever go back to FT. I’m lucky that my company is pretty open to part time working. I’m a little torn between 4/8 hour and 5/6 hour, but I don’t see the extra £s being worth it. I’d love to see more people doing the same – there’s a mix of people doing standard hours and compressed hours (usually 9 days/fortnight) but I don’t think that many do fewer hours.

              In the UK, 4-day week is getting talked about a fair bit, but not that many examples of it actually happening.

      1. MigraineMonth*

        I used to work a job that occasionally required us to take several 12-hour shifts in a row, and I discovered what it felt like to be one of the living dead. It wasn’t just the exhaustion; I was constantly cold, hungry, slow and having mood swings.

        It terrifies me that 12-hour shifts are standard in many fields.

        1. Me... Just Me (as always)*

          I’m i. healthcare and a whole lot of nurses love their 12 hr days. Three 12 hr days & you’re done. If you plan right, you can schedule a nice long 6-7 day stretch here & there off while still working your full-time hours. But 12 hours is really 14 hours if you factor in lunch break and commute. Most nurses I know are work-aholics, though, constantly picking up extra shifts.

      2. Quill*

        Yeah, my industry has a lot of 10 hour for four day shift schedules and it’s actively preventing me from getting jobs in my industry. I tried a four nines and a four schedule at one job and the problem is that I’m tired by hour six. Eight is already a lot!

  8. Em*

    All parts of this response are spot-on. Yes, it sucks. Yes, it’s normal. Yes, importantly, retail, food service, and other customer-facing jobs suck a lot in particular ways that other jobs don’t. All of the hardest, most exhausting, most demoralizing jobs I’ve ever worked were in retail and food service.

    Working 40 hours a week in an office of some kind has its own issues, but I’ve generally found it to be much less existentially draining. If an office isn’t your jam, there may be other kinds of active/interesting jobs that still suck less (or in different ways) than retail. I have friends who have found fulfillment in all kinds of jobs: parks and forest service, lock and fire system inspection, dog training and pet sitting, etc. Don’t be afraid to seek less drudgerous pastures.

    1. Aggretsuko*

      Office jobs don’t have “you have to be on your feet busy, if you have time to lean you have time to clean” drama going on, and you can wander off to talk to people periodically or pee without it being A Big Deal. There’s a certain amount of being allowed to have your own quiet time and space (because you’re supposed to be typing on your computer) at them that helps. There’s set 8-5 work hours so you don’t have the problems of constantly changing shift work. That’s probably why office work is 40 hours a week/full time by design and retail/food service are a neverending roller coaster of changes and hell.

      1. Mal Voyage*

        That depends on the type of office job as well though. There’s a lot of “knowledge worker” jobs that end up managed as an assembly line, with the goal of “maximizing utilization”. Where you’re salaried and non-exempt but never actually get to do less than 40 hours, only more, because there’s always a steady stream of tasks so you can never actually “finish your work for the day” with carve-outs in labour laws saying you’re not actually entitled to breaks, and time tracking requirements that make any “downtime” a disciplinary issue.

        There’s a reason game development companies are staffed almost entirely by young people.

      2. Lyngend Canada*

        Last 3 office jobs said that if you weren’t helping customers you had to be reviewing resource. No excessive talking, no fun stuff. Not not work related reading.
        thankful the rules have never been properly enforce.

      3. Gerri’s Jaunty Hat*

        This plus you can to some extent control in what order you do things, whereas anything involving customers usually has to be done immediately. Plus at least 30% of customers treat service workers as the scum of the earth, especially if they have to wear a uniform.

      4. Irish Teacher*

        When I worked retail, the bathroom was in a locked staff area that only the managers had keys to, so if you needed the bathroom during a shift, not only did you have to close up your checkout (a pregnant coworker once had to go urgently and just asked me to cover her checkout while she did; we weren’t really supposed to do this, but…needs must sometimes) but go and find a manager and get them to let you in to the bathroom area. I think that would be rare in white collar work, at least in any decently functional company.

        (One could debate if the retail company I worked for was “reasonably functional.”)

    2. Richard Hershberger*

      Don’t forget the trades. This is a weird blind spot with a lot of middle class people, but a plumber or an electrician can made very decent money, can easily relocate pretty much anywhere, and isn’t grinding through mindless repetition all day. And they don’t require a four year degree. It isn’t for everybody, but for someone with the aptitude I think it is a good option. Also, plumbers aren’t going to be replaced by AI any time soon.

      1. Hiring Mgr*

        It’s true you don’t need a college degree, but at least in my state it’s still a lot of training and hours required (like nearly 10,000) before you can start working as a licensed or plumber (you can still become an apprentice )

        Definitely a great option though- the demand is mind blowing

      2. Work, Schmerk*

        Thank you! More of an active bias than a blind spot, IME, but that bias goes out the window when someone needs their basement remodeled. I’m including hair stylist, massage, etc in trades. Jobs that pay well enough per client that you don’t do them 40 hours a week.

        And second the upthread that working full time can be easier when you’re younger (and builds up your retirement funds) and not a given, health wise in your 50’s and 60’s. Something to really think about for the LW, although I sympathize 100%.

      3. Pescadero*

        I’m a big supporter of the trades – but the money (while good for a non college diploma job) is not that spectacular unless you own your own business, and for many trades (carpenter, paramedics, construction laborers, roofer) doesn’t even pay above median wages.

        …and a surprising amount of trades work IS grinding through mindless repetition all day. Ask any electrician who spends 6 months, 8 hours a day, doing nothing but installing outlets in a giant condo facility (or auto plant, or…)

    3. ferrina*

      I loved transitioning into an office. Even though I was technically working more hours at the office (my VP’s philosophy of “you’re salaried so you work until the work is done”…then kept the department chronically understaffed), it was less exhausting than retail. A big part was that I wasn’t on my feet all day and that I didn’t have to deal with customers.

      When I went to remote work it got even better. No more commute (which was 30-60 minutes one way). I could curl up in a blanket while I wrote my report. When I did brainless work, I could put on TV in the background.
      Which reminds me, I need to go switch the laundry. Excuse me.

    4. Irish Teacher*

      I also think a 40 hour week in retail is often a lot more than a 40 hour week in a lot of white collar jobs because in a lot of retail jobs, you are literally supposed to be working every minute. I know when I worked retail, if we had a break between customers, we were supposed to start tidying up or something and you did, because the alternative was staying late to do it, whereas in a lot of white collar jobs, it’s expected that people will go get coffee, include some chat in discussions with colleagues, take a brain break by checking AAM or stretching their legs, etc. Some jobs even have times when you can’t do anything until say the client gets back to you with the changes they want or something like that. As a teacher, I have free classes, some of which I use for planning, but not all, and also moments like this when one of my students is working on some Maths problems and I am supervising but only actively engaging if he gets stuck on a problem and needs help.

      With retail, you often need to take all your brain breaks once you get home.

  9. Beth*

    Re: the how do y’all manage? question: Most people genuinely don’t manage to work a 40+ hour week, maintain their home/food/chores to their ideal standards, and have the kind of hobbies and social life they would ideally want. Basically everyone is compromising somewhere!

    What that looks like depends on your choices. Some people accept that their house is always going to be a little messier and their food is always going to be a little more pre-prepared than they’d like, because they need the time for work, pets, child-rearing, friends, family, etc. Others hire a cleaner, meal service, driver to get their kids to after-school activities, or other support, because they value getting it all done more than they value the money that the support costs. Others live a quieter life during their working years, focusing their energy on work and home and not necessarily having much hobby or social time outside that. (I’ve seen that path backfire when people hit retirement and don’t know what to do with themselves, though.)

    But basically nobody is actually doing it all. Don’t hold yourself to that standard. Pick what’s absolutely top priority to you and focus on that, and if some less-important balls get dropped, that’s life.

    1. Garblesnark*

      Also OP some of that assistance – like the house cleaning – might be far cheaper than you think.

      1. UKDancer*

        Yes. My quality of life improved immeasurably when I could afford a cleaner. It gave me several hours back and made me happier for not having to clean the loo.

        I think if you can afford to outsource some things then the quality of life benefits can be exponentially more.

        Obviously this requires you to be in a position of privilege to afford it.

      2. Emma*

        If you can’t afford a cleaner, I would also like to evangelise on the topic of robot vacuum cleaners. I know, I know. I looked at them a few years ago and concluded that I would have to spend WAY too much money to get a decent one, but then looked again recently and discovered that the technology has improved and the prices have gone down.

        I got a decent one like-new for 270€ recently, and it’s honestly fantastic. I have it set up on a schedule so the floors are always clean, I never walk in from work, look down and think “oh, god”. I just have to empty the dust collector when it beeps and carry it up and down the stairs on the weekend to do a different floor.

        1. Middle of HR*

          Mine is annoying but also delightful. I put upwith its (admittedly entertaining) bad navigation and tendency to curl our rug corners because I hardly need to vacuum or sweep.
          Ours was a hand me down from a downsizing parent, otherwise it never would’ve occurred to me to get one.

      3. Gumby*

        Yeah, just spitballing numbers – if going full time gets health insurance and OP hasn’t qualified thus far I’m going to say she’s currently working less than 30 hours per week. So we’re adding at least 10 hours/week * 4 weeks * 7.25 (we’ll assume minimum wage at lowest possible rate) = 290/ month. Take out 25% for taxes (being generous there probably) = ~217/ month. For that I could have a cleaner come twice a month, for two hours each time, even in my HCOL area.

        Granted there are a lot of internal money ideas I’d have to get over to justify such an expense for myself. Like “house cleaners are only for rich people” and “why am I paying someone to do something I could do myself for cheaper.” But it’s possible. And I’m now perilously close to talking myself into it even though I do have time to do it myself. I just don’t like most cleaning…

    2. Cascadia*

      Yes to this – no one is doing it all. Now that I’ve had a kid, my house is soooo much messier, and I really don’t want to spend my precious few hours of nap/night time cleaning. So, we bit the bullet and hired a cleaner. It’s a huge privilege that we have the money to do so. It’s also money that we’re choosing to not spend on other things so that we don’t have to spend our precious little free time cleaning. Even with a cleaner, our house is still messier than I would like because we have a toddler. Also, I don’t exercise much at all anymore, because I’m not quite sure when that would happen in the day? There are different seasons to life, and some seasons you will get more personal free time, and others less. But no one is doing it all.

    3. middlemgmt*

      THIS. You have to accept that there is no “having it all” and decide which parts are most important, and let some of the rest go. (to me at least, having healthcare is a pretty valid priority)

    4. Ashley*

      I would check out productivity /organizational podcasts. It might help you rethink some of your organizational habits. One tip I picked up years ago is to just suck it up and go the grocery store on my way home instead of wasting hours on a day off. It is definitely a juggle but hopefully you have a supportive and helpful partner to better divide and conquer. (And curbside pickup has really helped on top of that so I only need to go into a store typically monthly.)

      Also double check the health insurance marketplace. You are young enough rates might be be better then going on your spouses. Or if you spouse has a place where they cover more of the family costs that helps too.

      1. The Unspeakable Queen Lisa*

        Similarly, a few years ago, my husband and I decided spending the weekend doing chores instead of getting out of the house sucked. We decided to do chores on weeknights after dinner instead, especially since most other people are also busy during the week. Then we could get out for a hike or see friends on the weekend. It did help that I had 1 day WFH so that I could do laundry during the day.

    5. wordswords*

      Yes to all of this!

      I do think the fact that retail is an especially draining job might be relevant; OP might find herself with some more energy to go around in a different job. (Though there, too, it’s worth considering what aspects of a job you find rewarding, what you find exhausting or mind-numbing, and what you’d want to do sometimes but not all the time; I’m not saying a quiet office job is right for everybody.) But I think everybody is making compromises somewhere, to try to make sure they have the parts that matter most to them and that they only drop the balls that matter less.

    6. Beth*

      Adding on to this, one thing I wish younger-me understood better is that some careers give you more flexibility than others–and that doesn’t just mean part-time vs full-time.

      I knew that e.g. teachers nominally have summertime off, part-time workers work shorter days, freelancers can control their own schedule. But I didn’t really understand that working remotely or hybrid means you can do chores in the 15-minute breaks that you’d spend getting coffee and stretching if you’re in-office. Or that being highly paid means you have the option to hire help with managing your life, which can buy back a lot of hours. Or that developing a really niche and in-demand skill gives you much better odds of being able to negotiate shorter standard hours (even if you have to be on-call for emergencies), better benefits, more vacation time, etc. Or that in some fields, putting up with a more intense entry-level job for a few years is the path to much more relaxed hours mid- and late-career.

    7. MigraineMonth*

      I know this isn’t everyone’s cup of tea, but I’ve experienced wonderful benefits from having a roommate to split rent and chores with. Plus free cat-sitting when I travel!

      1. Modesty Poncho*

        Haha, and I’m the opposite. I make do with a VERY small apartment because I need to be alone! This is the biggest I’ve ever had, and it’s still only two rooms + bathroom (one bedroom, the other living room/kitchen studio situation)

    8. Bird Lady*

      Understanding this was immensely helpful to my mental health. Yes, there are some things that just need to be done at specific times and really can’t be put off. We have parrots, so things like cleaning cages, and changing water and food can’t be put off. But you know what can be done later? Laundry. Cleaning the windows. It’s also okay to have clutter. You do not need to be able to eat off floors at all times. It’s okay to prepare dinner as opposed to making everything from scratch.

    9. Catwhisperer*

      Also, it’s ok if the less important ball is work. We’ve been trained to prioritise work over our personal lives, but if you and your husband can get your needs met in a way that lets you prioritise your home, go for it. The rat race is exhausting, so don’t feel like you have to stick to a certain timeline or always be a top performer. I’m a massive perfectionist and overachiever but all that resulted in was me severely burning out in my early 30s and having to re-think my entire approach to life. These days I refuse to put work first and am much happier for it. You and your family are much more important than making money for a company.

    10. another fed*

      I had a mentor tell me “You can have it all, just generally not all at the same time.” We were discussing BigLaw employers willing you to pay fantastic salaries but you were giving them minimum 60 hours a week and expected to use additional business development time too. And usually, you spend some of that money paying for more flexible childcare options, house cleaning, yard work, etc. so you can actually spend time with your family. Life is trade offs, and to build a business and life you love may require entrepreneurial pursuits, but one must have the constitution for risk which I decidely do not. So I trade only working 40 hours a week in a mission I enjoy qnd admire that has good health insurance, decent retirement benefits, a steady if medicore salary, and intermittent stresses about federal government shutdowns. WFH has made all this more palatable, saving money on commutes and clothes, but also attractive by allowing me to transition to personal activities within a few minutes of logging off each day.

    11. Van Wilder*

      Well said. I work full-time and take care of my kids but we are always cutting corners somewhere. My house is messier than I’d like. My kids are often running out the door with a granola bar for breakfast. My exercise routine is inconsistent at best. We are all just doing the best we can.
      I’d rather work fewer hours but I can’t complain. We have money for my kids to participate in activities, we get a couple vacations a year, it’s a good life.

  10. Hills to Die on*

    I’ve been working full time since I was 15. I am 48 and I still don’t want to.
    Find something that isn’t awful that you can reasonably tolerate and make the best of it when you are there.

  11. Kiki Is The Most*

    Yep…super normal. I completely agree with Alison on reflecting on possibly taking a job that might bring more to YOU rather than just getting through each shift (and maybe retail does bring that joy to you). Something that wasn’t mentioned is SHARING your home and pet parent responsibilities. It is a challenge to make sure your pets are cared for when both of you work full time, so I suggest having that conversation with your partner before taking a full time position so that you’ll have peace of mind for your pets and your personal sanity when keeping up your home together so that you can share your free time together.

  12. Butterfly Counter*

    Alison is spot-on with her response here.

    You need to get your spouse on board here. With both of you working outside of the house full time, both of you will need to find a way to split the work inside of the house, too, in a way that seems fair. My spouse and I have needed to hire in someone to help because neither one of us was willing to take on the extra work at home.

    Also, you could find a job that has flexible hours or seasons. I worked in fast food for 3 months of my life. I still look back on that time, when I was paid the least I ever have been, with a shudder. It took so much of my bandwidth at the time that when I moved to a new job and worked twice the hours, I still felt like I came out ahead. Currently, I teach in academia. I have some say in my schedule (though not total say). I can spread my teaching out with both in-person and online teaching. I can also opt out of teaching summers. There are some jobs like this out there. They are still draining, but only draining twice a week vs. five times a week.

    It’s interesting: I often feel different when I have had the summer off. I start wanting to contribute to society more. I feel like a lump if I’m not out there and contributing what I can to both my family and to society. Basically, though jobs can be draining, they can feed you, too.

    But for real, get your spouse on board with splitting work at home. It goes a LONG way into keeping the marriage going.

    1. ferrina*

      Co-signing to get your spouse on board. This is a joint lifestyle decision. Talk about where you each are willing to compromise and what you are working for. Make sure that the division of labor takes account for working hours (whose job is more hours, whose job takes more mental bandwidth, etc).

      Marriages have ended because of the division of housework. It’s really common that the woman ends up taking on more than her fair share of the housework in a household with two full-time working adults (numerous studies have been done on this). You can’t take on more work without that time coming from somewhere- that somewhere can’t be your mental health. Talk to your spouse and make sure that the compromise is fair (Spouse takes on more of X while you continue doing Y, etc)

    2. Risha*

      I didn’t see anywhere in the OP that her husband doesn’t do any chores (or doesn’t do his share of them). Maybe she did say that and I missed it.
      OP, if that is true that your husband doesn’t do enough chores, then that is something that needs to be addressed ASAP. Two people live in the home, so two people need to contribute to its upkeep. I understand you doing more chores if you’re working parttime. But once you go to fulltime, chores need to be split fairly. My husband is disabled due to a very bad back (he still works fulltime remotely though) and he does all the chores that can be done while sitting or that don’t involve bending/twisting. If your husband is 100% able bodied, he can do any chore around the house. Leaving the majority of the household tasks for you is not acceptable, if that is what is happening.

  13. Awlbiste*

    I resent just about every single second I’m at work. Even when I’ve found the work fulfilling, or had coworkers I really liked, I’d always rather be doing something of my own choosing. I don’t like that most of my waking hours are spent at work. I deal with that by accepting that I need to, and in order to afford my hobbies (the things I actually like doing!) I need to have a job (as well as things like health insurance). I do my absolute best to not spend a single second thinking about work when I’m not there, and I use all of my PTO each year.

    1. Aggretsuko*

      We have to pay rent/work in order to stay alive. That’s how it goes. Very few people have someone else supporting them so that they don’t have to. It’s why you have to work 40+ years to have the privilege of retirement.

      I have friends that are too disabled to work/are put up by their parents and good lord, am I ever jealous of their sleep in, go out to lunch, call Aggretsuko at 2 p.m. asking if she can come out and play or if she’s busy lifestyle. YES, I AM ALWAYS BUSY. I WILL ALWAYS HAVE TO BE GODDAMNED WORKING.

      1. Budgie Buddy*

        Trying to explain to retired parents who keep asking “So what are you doing this [weekday]?” Making money just like every other weekday! “Can you take a couple hours off?” Only if I work all evening or use my limited paid time off I’m saving for sick days. -.-

      2. LGP*

        I get what you’re saying, but I don’t think it’s fair to put people who are “too disabled to work” in the same category as people who have the financial security to not have to work. Sure, (some) disabled people may not be going to an office for 40 hours a week, but that doesn’t mean they are living a life of leisure. Simply existing as a disabled person in our society is a huge undertaking in and of itself, and is something that often costs far more time/energy/money than it does for non-disabled people. I know plenty of disabled people who *wish* they could work a 9-5 job somewhere instead of being stuck in their house all day, or whatever the case may be. Just because they don’t work doesn’t mean their lives are an endless vacation.

        1. Irish Teacher*

          And they are likely to be dealing with financial insecurity. If they are reliant on government benefits, in most countries, those aren’t much and if they are getting support from family, those family members could die, they could fall out with them, etc and they likely feel some guilt at not being able to contribute.

      3. I Have RBF*

        I have a physical disability that knocked me out of my previous career when it happened. Like I was barely back to 30 hours a week when they had to lay me off because I could no longer do half of my job.

        I had a choice: Change fields completely to something that was mostly desk work, or try to get disability.

        I looked into disability – it paid less per month than my rent, and it would have taken a lot of time and effort to even qualify for. Sure, I wouldn’t have to work, but I would always be broke, would have to completely downsize my lifestyle, including giving up all my hobbies and moving to somewhere really cheap that was hot and dirty. Plus I would have had to cut my roomies loose, because they were less economically stable than I was.

        I changed fields. Took me three years, and a lot of soul-crushing temp jobs just to bring in money while I was making the switch. But I succeeded. It was hell interviewing for jobs in person – watching people freak out when they realized I was disabled was not a great feeling. I went in to an office for years, with the occasional one day a week WFH. I worked my way from a junior, to a mid-grade, and finally to senior in my field. Then came Covid and remote work, and I was in heaven. I can interview remotely without even having to disclose my disability.

        Did you know that if you have a physical disability that is neurological (ie stroke) with memory issues that many people assume that you are now completely stupid? They assume that you are dumb as a box of rocks because you can’t tie your shoes like a person with two hands? That if you don’t have the memory of an unimpaired 22 year old RCG you are stupid, math impaired, a vegetable, and incapable of even using a computer, much less administering a bunch of systems? That most people think that the best job for someone with a disability is “greeter at WalMart”, “telephone survey taker”, or “sorting clothes at Goodwill”?

        I successfully changed careers in spite of that. Needless to say, I resent it when people call remote work “privileged”. I worked hard to get where I am, able to work remotely. It wasn’t handed to me on a silver platter by accident of birth to rich parents.

        Living on disability income is very difficult financially. I have a lot of friends, and a couple roomies, that do just that. They can’t afford their own place, if they have a car it can’t be more than a $2000 beater, they have to keep all of their food separate in case someone not on disability might eat some of it (nevermind that the roomies that are more affluent pay for most of the groceries and other consumables), and if they can’t afford a car they take three to five times as long to get anywhere on transit, assuming that they can even get there without a lot of walking on top of the slow, sporadic busses.

        Yes, disability beats nothing. If you are very, very good at finding bargains and living cheaply in cheap but undesirable areas, you can do okay. But that’s not the norm. If having a disability makes everything twice as hard, living on a disability income is four times as hard. At least in the US, even if you are visibly disabled, you are treated as some sort of slacker and waste of oxygen if you can’t work a regular job.

        So no, disability is not the same as being supported by your parents.

        I’d love to have enough money that I didn’t have to work. But disability isn’t the way to get there, because it really isn’t “enough” money to live on without support from family as well. It’s only just enough money to exist on, barely, with always worrying about even a small rent increase throwing you out on the street.

    2. Angry socialist*

      Hard same. I am 45 years old, I work only 40 hours a week, I hate every second of it. Only 25 years until I can retire…. at which time I will hopefully be able to afford healthcare….

  14. Caramel & Cheddar*

    “How do y’all manage a house and a life when you work eight or nine hours a day and only get two days off in a week?”

    I think the answer for most people is: you don’t. Usually something has to give because we do not have infinite hours in which to keep up with work and housekeeping and childcare and relationships and leisure and socializing and and and whatever else you might have in your life. If work is busy, your house might be a mess. If your house is clean, you might be ordering more takeout or not seeing your friends as often as you want, etc. Everyone picks and chooses what they’re going to prioritize in that moment and precious few people are on top of all areas of their life in the way they’d like to be.

    People love to say “You have the same number of hours in a day as Beyonce” but always remember: she’s rich enough to outsource all sorts of things that you have to do personally. If Beyonce was working part time retail, I feel confident she’d also bristle at suggestions she had the same time in a day as some other multi-millionaire.

    1. Critical Rolls*

      Yeah, it’s been said money can’t buy time, but that’s a lie. Money can buy labor from others that you don’t have to do — cooking, cleaning, grocery shopping, home maintenance. Money can but a LOT of time for the average person.

      1. Kel*

        (Excellent name, btw)

        This. Outsourcing things like laundry, cooking, cleaning etc. We don’t all have the same 24 hours in a day; pretty sure Kim K and Beyonce can spend theirs differently than the rest of us.

        1. I Have RBF*


          I am disabled, and I literally can’t do some things, or if I can they take me twice as long. For a while I was paying other folks to do my heavy cleaning, laundry and yard work. The hours I got back enabled me to get enough sleep while commuting every day. Now I have a nice, big laundry machine and a spouse who loves it, plus a roomie that likes to garden.

          I took a pay cut to get my current remote job. It was worth getting $15k less per year to work for a company that doesn’t even have an office in my area. I got back about 10 hours a week.

      2. Lana Kane*

        I just, as in 4 months ago or so, hired a monthly cleaning service. If I could afford to have them come 2x a month that would be amazing. But even the monthly help is so….wonderful. I’ve been working full time for 20+ years and just now I’m finally in a place where I could make that room in my budget (tbh, I might have been able to do it sooner but I felt guilty, thinking I should be able to handle that myself and save that money). That and a monthly massage are what I’m giving to myself as a reward for decades of work work work.

    2. doreen*

      I’m not exactly disagreeing with you – but I found it easier to adjust my expectations than to feel like I wasn’t managing a house, a job and a life. Especially since we don’t always know what we would have done if reality had been different – twenty years ago I might have told you that I didn’t make the beds every day because I didn’t have time, between work, the other chores, my kids’activities and so on. Turns out, I just don’t care enough about the bed being made to actually make it every day- but I didn’t know that until I retired.

      1. Lizzie*

        Adjusting one’s expectations is key. When I was younger, living in my first apt, i felt I HAD to clean weekly. But I am easily distracted and it would take me ALL DAY. then I decided on when it needed it. but that meant at times weeks would go by (i did the basics, trash out, dishes done, kitchen cleaned). Then I settled on a schedule. But i still felt the need to do it all at once and would still get annoyed with myself when i didnt.

        Now? It gets done when I have time, or feel like doing it. I don’t stress over it. I make my bed on my WFH days and weekends. my in office days, it stays unmade. I try and cook on days I don’t go to the gym after work because I am tired then, so I’ll cook enough on other days so I have leftovers.
        Am I ever caught up? No, but I have less stress about it.

      2. allathian*

        Yes, I agree. I cared about making my bed for as long as my sister and I shared a bedroom as teenagers (or rather my mom cared) and later when we shared a one-bedroom apartment. She had the bedroom and I slept in what was effectively a studio apartment, our living room with kitchenette and I definitely didn’t want to look at or sit on my unmade bed, never mind invite folks over to sit on my unmade bed. When my sister moved in with her then-boyfriend and I got the bedroom with a door, I no longer made my bed every day because I didn’t have to look at it all the time I was at home. I basically only made my bed when I had invited people over and keeping the door open made the apartment look less claustrophobic, or when I changed my sheets.

        Now that I only use my bedroom for sleeping and sex, the bed pretty much never gets made. This is not because I’m so busy that I don’t have the time to do it, but simply because I need to rest for most of the time I’m not working so my husband and I have elected to skip the chores that aren’t absolutely essential for hygiene and because I’ve realized that I don’t care enough about the bed being made to bother.

      3. I Have RBF*

        Yeah. Even when I’m unemployed or on a staycation I don’t make my bed every day. I gave that up in my 20s as “why make the bed every day when I’m just going to unmake it that night?” Boom, 15 minutes a day back.

    3. catsoverpeople*

      I’ve always hated that Beyonce saying! I’m not claiming she doesn’t work hard, but she’s been extremely successful and wealthy since she was a teenager. Google tells me she has 32 Grammy Awards. Our lives are not the same.

        1. Double A*

          She’s not even having to hire someone to do those things. She’s probably not even having to notice those things need doing! She’s got an assistant or twelve to do all that intellectual labor, not to mention the physical labor most of us have to do.

          1. Relentlessly Socratic*

            ^^^this. She herself outsources to a small cadre of outsourcers who ensure everything is done.

  15. Lilo*

    I’ve worked quite a few jobs and retail is uniquely draining. So instead of doubling down on retail, maybe try to find a better fit?

    1. catsoverpeople*

      I’ve got retail experience and definitely agree, but the OP seems more unhappy about the idea of working full-time at all, not just in the retail sector. OP could try temping in a few offices (or whatever they’re qualified to do) on their days off to see if they like it, and if not, could still go back to doubling down on retail — perhaps with the goal of upper management?

      It seems like store managers have much better wages and benefits, including PTO, and spend some time on tasks that allow them to sit down and get away from the general public a bit more — scheduling, conference calls with other stores and corporate overlords, submitting payroll, onboarding new hires, etc.

      1. ferrina*

        Temping is a great idea! Office work is a whole different thing from retail- I definitely had more energy after an 8 hour office day than an 8 hour retail day. Temping would give OP more information about what types of work are out there. Even if it’s just a case of finding a least-bad option.

  16. D*

    I tried to work a higher paying, 40hr/wk office job last year (I’m 30 now) and only made it about six months before I realized I was absolutely losing it. I ended up going back to a 32hr/wk barista job that I enjoy, and while it’s a pay cut on paper, I have more energy to cook for myself and walk or take the bus instead of calling cars, so I’ve ended up almost breaking even. If there’s an option for you to do something like that– a job you don’t actively hate that’s in walking distance, has you out the door by 3pm, and that you never have to think about off the clock– that might be a good option!

      1. Kel*

        No problem; I’m trying to change that into something hopeful but sometimes it’s just cynicism all the way down.

    1. Chairman of the Bored*

      I don’t think it ever was?

      When I hear about the lives of regular working-class people in previous eras I do not regard them as being especially comfortable.

      1. Kel*

        You’re totally right; I was definitely speaking about the idea of a two salary household middle class sort of thing, where you could like, go on vacations and have a house and a car etc etc. That doesn’t exist anymore. There’s no middle class, there’s poverty, near poverty, paycheque to paycheque and super wealthy.

        1. Trawna*

          Nah. We still exist. We went from poverty (20s) to near poverty (30s) to paycheque to paycheque (40s and 50s) to Young People Scorn Us as Super Rich When We’re Just So Glad We Can Finally Afford Nice Things (60s).

      2. Sloanicota*

        Yeaaah I think I agree, and I’m the first to dump on our crappy system because it could easily be better, but being a serf in the fields wasn’t necessarily all laughs, neither was being a slave in Rome, or whatever the people were called in the biblical era, etc.

      3. Spearmint*

        Yeah, there’s this meme that we’re working longer hours than ever, but if you look at government statistics employed people today work free hours than employed people 50 years ago, and that’s not even getting into the lives of guilted age factory workers or medieval subsistence farmers.

        1. The Unspeakable Queen Lisa*

          Ah, but they have estimates of working hours from past eras of history. It’s not a meme, it’s historical data. The Industrial Revolution was the worst. Subsistence farmers still had holy days and festivals and seasonality that we don’t.

          “Before capitalism, most people did not work very long hours at all. The tempo of life was slow, even leisurely; the pace of work relaxed. Our ancestors may not have been rich, but they had an abundance of leisure. When capitalism raised their incomes, it also took away their time.”

          I’ll put the link below.

          1. bamcheeks*

            I can’t see the link yet, but I’ve always wondered about the definition of labour vs leisure with that medieval stuff though. I can believe that people weren’t out farming 10 hours a day 6 days a week, but what about things like minding children and preparing food, which doesn’t stop or slow down for specific seasons or holidays. Is it really leisure time if you’ve got a spindle or knitting needles in your hands? I just wonder how much of it overlooks the kind of labour which is nowadays counted as “leisure” because it’s unpaid time, but which was just as much part of the essential maintenance and reproduction of the household.

            1. Relentlessly Socratic*

              Excellent point. I spend my leisure time with yarny things, but it’s my hobby. If it takes me 4 years to complete (checks piles of WIPs) a pair of socks, any of 5 sweaters, any of 3 shawls, or an embarrassment of unfinished blankets, that’s fine, because I don’t need the socks/sweaters/etc to actually clothe myself or my family.

              If I have to make those socks to keep my feet warm and would otherwise have no socks, spinning, knitting, etc is no longer a leisure activity.

              Same with gardening or quilting or what have you.

          2. Spearmint*

            My understanding is that this ideas was based on a flawed book from the 1980s. If you google it actually historians say it’s much more complicated than that. For example, medieval peasants often still had to do work on holidays, since the farm doesn’t simply stop existing on those days. Also, during planting and harvests drowns they’d have to do backbreaking labor 12-16 hours a day every day to get everything done. I’ll have my own link below.

            1. Spearmint*


              I recommend reading the whole thing (which is by a historian, and includes citations), but here’s the conclusion:

              “ So, to sum it up, free medieval peasants and craftsmen were not required to ‘go to work’, as they were essentially sole traders, who had more or less full control over their work and income, but unlike modern people in developed countries, they also spent much more time on various activities we now either do not perform or take for granted. In other words, modern people go to work to get money they use to pay for almost everything they need (e.g. they usually delegate such work to others). Medieval sustenance agricultural work was usually seasonal and less time-consuming overall, but everything else, from daily house chores to procurement of various goods required a lot more time and effort, often much more than the ‘work’ associated with agriculture. Thus, it is not incorrect to say that medieval peasants had much more work on their hands than modern people.”

          3. Alex*

            The book “Bullshit Jobs” has an interesting section on this–not that people in the Olden Times had less to do, exactly, but that how time was perceived and purchased was different. Highly recommend that book.

          4. Dust Bunny*

            Capitalism isn’t directly the same as the Industrial Revolution. People were doing and making [stuff] and amazing gratuitous wealth and had to work for meager livings for, well, thousands of years before that. It’s pretty much why we have ancient coins.

      4. Quill*

        Most of us are probably doing better than a 13th century serf but we’re certainly not feeling better. Largely because society has made stresses like “will I have enough food and firewood to survive the winter?” much less material and more dependent on markets and businesses, which, not being people, we can’t have personal confidence in.

    2. Double A*

      I don’t think it ever was. Human existence has always been tough. What’s so frustrating about the modern age is that we have the tools and resources for it to be much, much, much more comfortable for far more people, but we don’t distribute those resources so the world would be more comfortable. Honestly, that is my Roman Empire (i.e. what I think about constantly: how the world could be so much BETTER).

      1. CommanderBanana*

        ^^ This. I live in a country where there really is no reason that any kid should go hungry, anyone should be homeless, or anyone should be unable to get medical care. There’s no reason that we can’t offer paid family leave and universal healthcare. We can do it. We have the money.

        But it’s more important that we punish people for the unforgiveable crime of being poor, it’s more important that we piss away billions of dollars for warplanes we don’t need and warships that don’t work, and it’s more important that 8 white guys be billionares because the only reason we aren’t also billionaires is because we didn’t want it hard enough or work hard enough or grind hard enough and if we’re poor it’s not because of systemic racism or unchecked capitalism or the constant weakening of worker protections by a cadre of, let’s see, white billionaires, it’s because we’re bad because only poor people are bad.

      2. Richard Hershberger*

        Also, civilization sucks. A hunting-gathering lifestyle requires far fewer hours and less onerous labor than does farming. Look at 18th century North America and there was a lot of crossing over between White and Native American cultures. Countless individuals, given the choice, strongly preferred the Native American life.

        1. CommanderBanana*

          Seriously. I know Fruitlands failed the first time, but as I get older, the urge to just go live in a vine-covered hut in the woods is getting stronger.

          1. Richard Hershberger*

            My understanding is that Fruitlands engaged (or tried to engage) is more or less modern (for the time) agriculture. The thing is, this involves a lot of very hard, mind-numbing physical labor. Even with modern machinery we see city people try to become farmers, with predictable results. The eastern North American Indians used much less intensive agriculture techniques, combined with the ol’ hunting and gathering, resulting in a much more pleasant lifestyle. The problem was that it required far more land per capita. The Europeans could, once they got a firm foothold on the eastern seaboard, simply out-reproduce the Native Americans.

            As for Fruitlands, their thing was to have no economic ties whatsoever to the outside world. This is tough. The self-sufficient frontier farmer is largely a myth. Look beneath the surface and there were ties to the east and to their neighbors. Fruitlands also went in for communal ownership of property. This has been tried countless times. It can be made to work under very narrow circumstances. The only two long term successes I know of are some (but not all) monastic communities, and the Hutterites. The Hutterites are very interesting. They have made this mostly work for centuries now. Even for them it is only mostly. When a Hutterite colony goes bad, it gets very bad. They tend not to talk about this beyond the occasional vague mention.

        2. Foila*

          Yes, not all of The Past was the same, there’s a big difference between agriculture and foraging. Sure, neither of them had antibiotics, but the foragers had way more free time and better health overall.

        3. Pescadero*

          “A hunting-gathering lifestyle requires far fewer hours and less onerous labor than does farming.”

          …and it involves much higher rates of starvation, much higher rates of homicide, much shorter lifespans, and because it can support significantly lower populations inevitably gets overrun by the farmers.

    3. Me... Just Me (as always)*

      the world was never set up for the majority to comfortably exist in it. Ever. The idea that there existed in some previous time a society where few people had to spend their life toiling for the bare minimum is a new one.

  17. Carolyn*

    Others have covered it but yea very few people like working.

    I’ll also add that it’s also pretty typical that adding another person to a health insurance plan doubles it. Your husband also likely can’t add you to his plan anytime – often you can only be added in a time period after a qualifying event (like a marriage) or once a year during open enrollment. It still might be worth being added to his health insurance just in case you can’t get full time hours at your job. And of course you can still seek additional hours for that additional money

    1. Relentlessly Socratic*

      I think a change in her access to healthcare is also a qualifying event outside of open enrollment.

  18. Janne*

    I’m about your age and I work 36 hours a week (alternating 40 and 32 hour weeks actually). I did feel exhausted after work when I just started working, but now (2 years later) I’m fine. Probably because it’s an office job and most evenings I can’t wait to get moving after sitting all day. I would be exhausted and unmotivated after standing and walking and dealing with people all day too!

    I try to make my evenings a mix of interesting and useful. For example, tonight after work I went running in the woods for an hour, then got some groceries, heated up and ate a meal (mealprepped this Sunday) and later this evening I’m probably going to clean some things up in the kitchen and do some yoga. Tomorrow I’m going for a walk with a friend during my lunch break, that’s also a nice way to break up the week. And when I get sick of my colleagues I work from home for a day and spend my lunch break doing laundry.

  19. Ellis Bell*

    When I worked in retail, I needed a special half hour after work lying on my back with my legs up the wall just to get my ankles to depuff and my arches to stop aching. It’s not an easy job to do full time.

  20. Keeley Jones, The Independent Woman*

    I’ve worked full time for 20+ years. In my early 20’s I didn’t have a degree so jobs were low pay and crappy. Sucked the life out of me. But I like eating and having a place to sleep, so I pushed through.

    Eventually I built my skills and now In my 40’s I have better jobs for better pay. I definitely enjoy my current job more. It’s still work, but far less soul sucking. However, if I could afford to quit tomorrow, I would. I’ll never love working, and like Alison said, most people don’t. I just focus on what working lets me do. I can travel, now we can build our dream house. But more importantly, when my husband became disabled at 38, I was able to support us.

    Good luck OP, you’re definitely not alone!

  21. Gerri’s Jaunty Hat*

    Retail and food service are absolutely two of the options which will leave you the most demoralized and exhausted. If you could get an office job that doesn’t interact with the General Public, the hours worked – to – hours needed to recuperate at home ratio will probably be much better.

    1. Sloanicota*

      Yeah, realistically a lot of hours sitting at a desk reading emails is going to be significantly less draining than hours standing / cleaning / serving people.

      1. I Have RBF*

        Yes. Everyone I know who has done both never wants to have to go from a desk job back to retail/food service.

  22. Bubble*

    Why not work 75% time? My company if you work 60% you qualify for health coverage. It’s not all or nothing. Or find a side job doing data entry etc to make ends meet. Many options out there to avoid the scheduled daily grind. Seems like this writer hasn’t found her passion in life. Keep looking.

    1. Sloanicota*

      This is actually a great point. If the LW finds that they need more money, it may actually be less unpleasant to combine two different jobs – say, retail and ride-share, or something – than take the job she currently isn’t that enthusiastic about full time.

      1. Beth*

        If OP was in a country with nationalized healthcare, I’d encourage this. But it sounds like her main goal with going full-time would be to be able to access employer-sponsored health insurance. It’s possible to get that without working full-time in the US, but it’s a lot harder than just going full-time ar your current job.

  23. WhyAreThereSoManyBadManagers*

    Find an employer who offers 30 hrs/wk as a work option and considers that full time in terms of benefits (you get the same benefits as 40 hrs but only work 30). Many large universities offer this as an option for some positions. You may have to negotiate a 30 hr position if they want a full time person. And of course the portion of your paycheck going to pay for benefits and health insurance will be much larger than someone working 40 hrs, but it is possible. I once had a 40 hr position that (because of bad managers, see AAM precious post just before this one!) destroyed my mental health and started to make me physically sick. I took some FMLA time off, then renegotiated to come back but only at 30 hrs. Life is hard. Adulting is hard.

  24. Alton Brown's Evil Twin*

    OP, if you find yourself unable to take care of your home, animals, etc. in the time you have after working your job, I think it would be worthwhile to do a clean-sheet-of-paper exercise about all the obligations you and your husband have in your lives, and what each of you are doing to meet those obligations.

    Part of this involves tradeoffs between money and time. If it takes you 5 hours every week to do chore X, would it be better to work 3 more hours and pay somebody to do that chore out of those earnings? Which gives you 2 extra hours in the week. This is for the obvious things like lawn, house cleaning, laundry, dog walker, etc. but really think outside the box about grocery shopping vs delivery vs meal service.

    Also consider which of those things really make you happy as a function of the time you put into them. If you spend a lot more time cleaning the tropical fish tank than you do sitting there and watching them, then do you really want to have fish?

  25. Full Time Busy*

    Welcome aboard, kiddo! We’re all in that boat, just one Powerball win away from having all the free time we want.

  26. Beth*

    I enjoy being paid to do work that I do well. I enjoy doing the work itself — there’s a lot of problem-solving, and my current job has a nice mix of responsibilities and requirements that keep things interesting for much of the time. I genuinely like and respect most of my co-workers.

    I do NOT work in retail, obviously, and I had luck and privilege as well as plenty of hard work to get here. I’ve had some really awful jobs, awful co-workers, awful bosses. I’m damned glad to be as well placed as I am now.

    All that said, I’m looking forward to retiring in about a year and a half.

  27. Alex*

    I find that our perception of time changes as we adapt to different circumstances. Once you get in the routine, it probably won’t be as bad as you think. I work 55 hours a week now, and live alone so I have to do all of the chores/cooking/household tasks myself. Do I wish I had more time to myself? Sure. But it’s not as soul sucking as my friends, who work fewer hours, make it out to be.

    1. Weaponized Pumpkin*

      Or, maybe it really that soul sucking to them because they live in a different brain/body than you do!

      I’m someone who never adapted. When I work full time (with a commute particularly) I am drained by Friday and spend the weekend just trying to recuperate to a functional level. I barely do the necessary. When I work fewer hours, life is a lot more manageable! This used to really confuse me, but now that I understand how my life is impacted by executive dysfunction it makes more sense.

      1. Eldritch Office Worker*

        Same. I’ve had to make an active choice to prioritize my job (because you know…food, shelter) and my health, marriage, and happiness have all suffered for it. I don’t work much more than 40 hours a week, and I’m not in a physically exhausting role or anything. It’s just a lot. I figure it out, but it’s not ideal.

      2. Ellis Bell*

        So many things can affect energy: if you have good physical health, mental health, good executive function, don’t have to mask a condition, aren’t expected to do emotional labour for others, your commute, what your family are like, your caretaking responsibilities, your romantic relationship, how many conveniences you can afford etc….

  28. Jane Bingley*

    It really does suck.

    There are lots of posts online about people’s “5 to 9″s – the ways they get things done between either 5am to 9am (for morning people) or 5pm to 9pm (for evening people). That’s way too much time for me to dedicate to working essentially a second shift, but I do try to keep a focused to-do list of things I cross off. Mine includes:
    – 5-10 minutes of prayer/meditation
    – 15-20 minutes of cleaning tasks, sometimes by a to-do list and sometimes just whatever seems most urgent or gross
    – 25 minutes of exercise (I try to alternate between cardio and strength, plus take a couple of rest days off)
    – 20-30 minutes for hobbies (right now I’m trying to write a few hundred words a day and complete 2 DuoLingo lessons)

    That typically takes me around an hour and a half, give or take, and I try to get started right after work – I know myself well enough to know that once I sit down on the couch, it’s game over. Others might find it easier to take a rest before diving in. My personal standard is “more often than not” – I don’t get everything done every day, but I try to make sure most tasks are done at least 3 days a week (with Sundays as an off day). I’ve found this system, and tracking it in a simple habit tracker in my bullet journal, really helps me feel like I’m never too far behind on everything there is to do.

    Another habit I have, since I work from home, is that I typically make lunch my biggest/fanciest meal of the day, since I’m fortunate to get an hour lunch break. It makes my work day a little longer, but I find I’m more motivated to take a break and cook something. Then I’ll have leftovers or a simple meal or convenience food for supper, when I’m tired from a day’s work plus my habits.

    1. BubbleTea*

      Interesting concept. My 5-9 (both of them) are filled with either getting the child to or from childcare, feeding and dressing us both, and cleaning up after those processes.

      When I stop to think about how my time is used, it does strike me how little there is left over and how much I cram into the spaces around the core tasks of work, dog, toddler. The main cost is that I’m exhausted and ill basically all the time.

      1. allathian*

        Thankfully all but the most disabled of toddlers don’t remain that way forever and they require less immediate physical care and supervision as they grow older. When you’re in the middle of that it feels like it’s going to last forever, but soon your toddler will be old enough to go to school, and then sooner than you’d guess they’ll hit adolescence. I’m lucky in that my teen is well-adjusted, doesn’t totally hate going to school (as much as I don’t totally hate going to work) and is motivated enough to try his best but doesn’t seem to stress unduly about grades. I find it much easier and much more rewarding to parent a teen than a toddler, even if he was an adorable toddler, too.

  29. The Person from the Resume*

    Yes, it is normal. I think it is just “life” or just American life.

    I’m single and live alone so anything the needs cleaning, cooking, or buying falls on me. It seems like I spend most of my weekend taking care of the house, grocery shopping, and cooking. I am perpetually tired.

    I can’t really feasibly work less, but OTOH I do go out and do stuff on weekends and the occssional week night that people talk about how busy I am with “fun” stuff / social life. If if I wanted less life, I might be less tired and more able to get ahead on the weekends. It’s not really worth it to me to reduce my social life to be less tired and able to rest more on the weekends.

    But I do think it would be awesome if full time was 4 days a week and 6 hours a day, or even just 4 days a week. I don’t see that change coming soon, though.

    1. Spearmint*

      I don’t mean this at all in a critical way, but I’m curious how you end up spending most of your weekend on chores. I live alone, work full time, have an active social life, cook most meals, and yet I still feel like I have tons (perhaps too much) downtime at home.

      Now, I do live in a small apartment, which probably helps.

      1. Mal Voyage*

        I can’t speak for The Person from The Resume, but I do know plenty of people who were brought up with (or live with someone who was) the idea that responsibly doing “chores” is just a matter of having things clean, but also a matter of investing a certain amount of time (like 20+ hours a week). If you run out of superficial cleaning, you move onto deep cleaning. If there’s nothing to deep clean, you work on a larger project (major repairs, renovations, re-arranging your gardens, etc.) until you’re exhausted or have invested “enough” time. Then you can move onto things you enjoy without considering yourself lazy.

      2. BubbleTea*

        I have a toddler, a hairy dog, no tumble dryer, and a three bedroom house.

        I have laundry to deal with every single day: if I’m not washing a new load, I’m putting away one clean load and hanging the next to dry. The whole process of a single load takes at least an hour of active hands on attention (lots of small fiddly baby clothes, and cloth nappies). I have a minimum of five loads a week.

        Vacuuming just the bits of floor we use in the whole house would take a couple of hours – moving toys and random items that Toddler has scattered, not even moving furniture. I never actually do vacuum the entire house in the same day, but if I did, it would easily be two hours of work.

        Making a shopping list, loading Toddler into the car, going to and round the shop, coming home and unpacking… minimum another hour, maybe more. We shop for food twice a week because I can’t keep enough fresh produce to feed my fruit bat Toddler for a week without it going off.

        Washing up and cleaning the kitchen surfaces is half an hour. Cleaning the blasted highchair (who DESIGNS these things and WHY are there so many crevices for food to get stuck in?!) takes another half hour at least.

        Emptying the bins, changing the binbags, sorting the recycling, hauling everything out, another half hour.

        Changing the bedding, plus switching out all the towels for clean ones, up to an hour.

        Even if I only did all of these things once a week (and cleaning the kitchen, washing up etc, vacuuming all ideally would be more than that), that’s 12 hours a week of housework and chores before you’ve even started to factor in stuff like vet visits, doctors visits, car maintenance, gardening, managing household finances, buying clothes…

        Running a house is a full time job.

        1. Glen*

          I say this as an environmental scientist – if you’re using cloth nappies to save the environment, that’s admirable, but please consider going to disposables if they would be easier for you. While it’s great to do everything we can, it has to be reasonable. It’s far more important to hold companies and governments accountable then for individuals to work themselves to the bone trying to compensate and the lie that we, the consumers, are responsible for the state of the environment – rather than the corporations who only present us bad options and the governments who let them get away with it. It’s also worth being aware of where the “personal responsibility” line has come from. Carbon footprint was a BP advertising campaign in the early 2000s specifically intended to shift the blame and therefore responsibility onto the consumer while appearing to care. One of the most insidious pieces of green washing ever.

          That being said, I’m not going to tell anyone how to raise their child! If you prefer to use cloth for whatever reason by all means feel free! I’m just making the case that you should also feel free to try options that may make things easier for you (if indeed they would).

        2. allathian*

          You don’t mention a partner here at all. Are you a single parent? If you’re partnered, maybe a more equitable sharing of chores would make life easier and less frustrating for you?

          Perhaps lowering your standards would also help. For example, when my son was a baby and toddler, I never, ever, EVER changed his clothes in the middle of the day unless his diaper had leaked or he’d soaked himself washing his hands, no matter how messy they got, at least unless we had guests that day. Food stains, snot, or the blood from a minor nosebleed (he was prone to those as a toddler and had them more or less weekly until he just grew out of them), I absolutely couldn’t care less. He also didn’t use a pajama until he was potty trained. I changed his clothes in the evening after his bath, and he wore the clothes he’d slept in the next day. I did exactly one load of baby clothes a week and we didn’t have a tumble dryer, although we had a laundry/utility room then and still have one now, so putting the clean, dry clothes away didn’t have a high priority.

          I don’t remember ever cleaning his high chair, either. Wiping it down with a damp cloth when he was done eating, sure, but that took seconds or a minute at most. Wiping the kitchen counters, five minutes at most, usually less.

          It helps that in my family my husband’s always been the main cook (I bake and make salads). He cooks a lot from scratch but we also eat prepackaged food and takeout. He does more of the vacuuming than I do, but I do more of the dusting. I mostly do the laundry and load and empty the dishwasher, more often than not with our son’s help. He does more of the yard work and also maintains our cars (both 15+ years old).

          I’m happy to sit on the couch and read or watch Netflix etc. most of the time when I’m not working but he prefers a more active lifestyle and gets a bit antsy if he isn’t working on some project. Both of us ensure that we have some time to exercise most days, although my husband’s a lot fitter than I am.

          Our son has one extracurricular once a week (coed scouts), on other days he likes to play games on the computer with his friends, watch youtube, watch TV shows with us (currently Star Trek and SW shows), hang out with his friends in person or spend time with his grandparents, or reading. When he’s done his homework and chores, that is.

          1. allathian*

            I’m also somewhat but not extremely introverted. It’s mostly noticeable in that I need a lot of me time and don’t want to maintain a huge network of casual acquaintances although I value my close friends very highly. I enjoy socializing even though I find it draining, and I’m more tired after a day at the office than I am after a day of WFH, although I get more done at home.

            I text most of my friends and my sister and call my mom about once a week, I see my friends once a month or less, and I need at least one weekend per month without any social outings at all to maintain my mental health. If I can spend a few hours of it alone doing what I want while my husband and son are out of the house, so much the better.

          2. BubbleTea*

            I’m a single parent – not separated, solo from the start :) I’m actually not too overwhelmed, I let a lot of stuff slide and I’m okay with that, but I wanted to illustrate that you don’t have to be doing a lot of really intense deep cleaning to take up a lot of hours. I actually do a lot less cleaning than I’ve listed, but those are the things I’d consider reasonable if there were two adults around or if I didn’t have other commitments. (Toddler has some skin issues that mean changing and washing clothes happens more often than I’d otherwise bother.)

      3. Courageous cat*

        Yeah, I live alone and work full time with an active social life too and I also have tons of downtime. I think a lot of it depends on how much you are a “clean as you go” person. I put my dishes in the dishwasher when I’m done, do laundry every Sunday, clean my kitchen when I mess it up, and I feel like I spend very little time doing chores ultimately. My place is pretty clean, largely.

        Some people let stuff build up and I think they might be more prone to feeling like they’re doing more chores. OR, they’re just doing much deeper cleans than I am, haha.

    2. Aggretsuko*

      My place is a mess and I. Do. Not. Care. I live alone so what the hell does it matter if I do the dishes on a weekly basis. I do the bare minimum of “heat food up” and I prioritize life outside the apartment, as it were, rather than making the place sparkling clean for nobody else coming over.

    3. Andrew*

      I’ve always said I wish there were 3 weekend days in every weekend, so I could have 1 day to socialize / go out, 1 day to take care of the house (grocery shopping, cleaning, cooking) and 1 day to just…do nothing. In two days I can get max two of those three things done, and end up feeling tired anyway!

      1. Tango*

        I was saying this to a friend after the last bank holiday! What works for me is a day of productivity, a day of fun and a day of rest.

      2. londonedit*

        Yes, definitely! Especially now I’m over 40 and if I go out on a Saturday night that’s me knackered for most of Sunday. I’d love to have Fridays for going out and socialising, Saturdays for relaxing and Sundays for exercise and housework to get me ready for the new week.

  30. She of Many Hats*

    As others have said, we gotta work but…..
    1) Find a job or career that uses skills you enjoy using and is somewhere you respect or like something about eg their product, mission, clientele, etc.
    2) Retail and food service are extremely poorly paid for the demands made of a frontline employee. Look elsewhere (see #1)
    3) Research other companies’ benefit packages. There are companies known for how well they treat part-time employees.
    4) If you do go full-time, it is time to sit down with your spouse and reorganize the family & household responsibilities to be equitable to everyone in the family. To discuss budgets and new costs (benefits/retirement costs, increased transportation costs, how increased income will be allocated, etc)
    5) You are not required to stay at the same company or job for the rest of your life. You may find you grow one part of yourself and your skills into a new job or company. That is a really cool part of working and learning about yourself and your strengths.

    1. learnedthehardway*

      All of this. Plus – make sure your husband / partner is someone who really will pull their weight with household chores, parenting, cleaning, etc. etc. It’s NOT enough to have someone who half-asses it or leaves you to do all the work.

      If you’re working full time, and your partner is working full time, then both of you should be doing a proportional amount of work around the home. Even if one of you makes significantly more than the other, you still have the same number of hours in a week. And housework/chores/repairs/parenting are still physical (and mental) labour. So if your partner can’t (whether physically, time-wise, or simply lacks skills) or won’t do the non-employment work as a full partner, then you need another solution. (Mine is that I have a cleaning lady every 2 weeks. I would have lost my mind by now, without that. I should have a gardener too, but there’s a limit to what I can spend, lol.)

  31. Too Many Birds*

    Thank you, Alison, for not being dismissive and judgmental of this question. I really appreciate the compassion and realism you brought to it (and I’m in my 40s).

    1. gmg22*

      Fellow 40-something here to agree — very appreciative of Allison’s answer as well as the empathy and sharing of experiences in the comments.

  32. Jojo*

    This is coming from someone who may or may not have been crying in the bathroom earlier because she’s just that exhausted. 40 hour work weeks are hard for most of us. But as a former retail manager, I would look at finding your way out of retail and into a less customer facing environment. I actually loved retail work, but it is very emotionally draining. Some customers are just emotional vampires that drain your life force just by being near you. And you have to engage with them whether you want to or not. The lower pay and changing schedules are also exhausting.

    As far as how do I keep my house clean? My husband pulls his weight. It makes things a little easier. Also, lowering your standards goes a long way as well.

  33. DramaQ*

    If I won the lottery I would be gone from here so fast. I wouldn’t even pack up my stuff I’d grab my purse and walk out. I don’t live to work I work to live.

    When I factor in health insurance, retirement contributions, compounding interest, COL raises etc it makes no sense for me to go part time. If I could make all the numbers work I would in a heart beat.

    I manage it by working M-F then the weekends are used to do everything I couldn’t do during the week. It sucks but that is the capitalistic world we live in.

    It does help that my husband has been almost completely WFH since the pandemic. He gets some things done during the day and it’s easier now for us to split up child duties like doctor appointments. Before that it was a game of who can afford to spend capital, that was the person who took time off.

  34. Yup!*

    At 49 I asked myself what I wanted to be doing, and then went back to school for my Master’s. I have been working freelance for years, the hours unstable, but never full-time. I was SO DONE with devoting so much of my life to a company, who got to decide when I could go on vacation, when I could take a day off, when I could book a doc appointment, how much I could make more in a year, when I could arrive and when I could leave… As a freelancer, I could go to the movies on a Friday afternoon and work on Sunday morning. Bliss.

    Going back to school was the cherry on the sundae, and I hope to make my life more about adding to knowledge, creativity, and ideas to the world rather than helping a company make more $. The huge caveat is that we are a 2-income family, and I could not do this w/o the other income. That also leaves me with time to spend on our kid, time to volunteer at her school, time to shuffle us around to activities/appointments, and so on. We have no car, a small condo, and lots of extra freedom.

    Would not change this for the world.

  35. Office Rat*

    I work 32 hours a week, with the help of an FMLA. I have medical issues. I hate the FMLA process. I can’t stand the mandatory doctors visits for a condition that is never going to change, and likely get worse. I hate having to give FMLA paperwork to my place of employment before they would even consider dropping me one day a week. I’m paid hourly, and I get my insurance through my wife, so I am not sure the objection other than they “Don’t do part time.” Considering the difficulty keeping my very technical financial audit workplace full of employees, you would think they’d take on a few part time retirees, or mothers with kids, but they won’t.

    In an ideal world I would just say I wanted 32 hours a week, and that would be it, without all the invasiveness of it all.

    I don’t know the answer to how to work less than 40. I literally can’t. I don’t think you should have to be disabled to be able to work less than 40, either.

  36. ThatGirl*

    Working retail is exhausting. Not that office jobs can’t be mentally draining, but it’s different – I worked at Target/Starbucks for about 8 months between “real” jobs and even though it was part time, I was so much more physically tired.

    What helps me feel like I have enough time now is a) not having a long commute b) ending my workday promptly at “done” time and c) having a flexible schedule so I can deal with life as it comes up.

    Also: home life routines – we plan meals for the week every Sunday, do laundry every Sunday, and generally have routines to reduce the amount of on-the-fly decision making that can be stressful.

  37. Spearmint*

    It sounds like you’re more concerned about having enough energy rather than time for the rest of your life. I have a couple of thoughts.

    First, I think it gets easier after you adjust to it. During the first six months or so when I worked full time, I came home exhausted every day. Now I feel that way much les often, even though I work jobs that are in many ways more demanding.

    Second, I agree with Alison that if you can get out of retail that would help. A lot of jobs do have downtime, or time spent on easier tasks (like driving or mindless data entry), that leave you feeling less exhausted at the end of the day. This is especially true if the job lets you work from home or have a short commute.

    I also think it’s helpful to take a bigger picture perspective on things. If you work five eight-hour days, then you still have half your waking hours for non-work activities, plus 16 hours every weekend. That’s only about 35% of your waking hours.

    1. AnotherSarah*

      The difference between time and energy is important! I’ve had jobs where I worked my butt off for many hours a day but came home with some extra energy, and jobs where I objectively worked less hard and fewer hours, but had more energy. I think there’s a piece of the puzzle that’s about knowing your own energy ebbs and flows and trying to find a job that works with those (whether it’s the schedule or the type of work or something else). Medical stuff can be at play here too, but even without a medical cause, energy can be a tough thing to harness. But it’s worth it to try.

  38. Anon Today, Gone Tomorrow*

    I’ll join the chorus of people who really don’t want a full time job either. However, I’ve also been homeless and was living on the street back in my early twenties. Yes, work sucks, but it sucks way, way less than living on the street does.

  39. Jen*

    I’m 53 and don’t want to work full time… but I’ve done it for almost 30 years. One job I had was super rewarding and I loved it. The one I have now is a paycheck. Regardless, I always wanted to work less but don’t. It’s a financial necessity. I wish I worked in a field that allowed 4 ten hour days or 3 12 hour days to give me more days off. I wonder if you could find a job with more flexible hours?

  40. Bitsy*

    Something I’ve found that makes work more bearable is finding jobs that let me be around “my people.” It almost doesn’t matter what I’m doing as long as I’m around people who are on my wavelength, like to talk about similar things, and get each other’s jokes. 40 hours of work is still 40 hours of work, but it feels less like drudgery when you’re around people who understand you.

    If you haven’t found your people yet, keep looking in different jobs and industries. They’re out there somewhere and they make a world of difference.

  41. John Smith*

    I work full time, live alone and a carer for my mother. As well as doing my own chores, cooking washing cleaning etc etc, I have to do most of my mothers. Then there’s things like shopping trips, lifts to hospital or clinics. There’s no-one to do any of my things except me – it’s something you learn to deal with.

    Even if it weren’t for all of these, if I won the lottery, I’d email my employer the next day and I’d never ever go back to working. I’ve never been abroad nor had any more than a few days off at a time. I’d like to see some of this thing other people call “life”.

    1. LCH*

      this is hard too! depending on how it is done. my place that did this was 10-hr days. i hate that. unless you are advocating for a 32-hr workweek. yes, please.

      1. Aggretsuko*

        Oh god, I can’t deal with a 10 hour workday. I barely drag through 8 as is.

        Problem being, who’s going to pay you for 40 hours to work 32? Nobody.

        1. catsoverpeople*

          Exactly! The only way I would consider working 4 10-hour days is if it was 100% WFH so I could do things like laundry, dishes, and exercise during my breaks throughout the day. If I’m at the office for eleven hours a day, there’s no way I’ll be motivated to get any of that done by the time I get home and have dinner.

        2. Budgie Buddy*

          I’d argue they already do pay 40 hours of salary for 32 hours of work, it’s just that currently the 8 hours is people goofing off around the office. but they’re still technically there so the optics are better. :P

          1. allathian*

            Yes, this. My nominal working day is 7 hours 15 minutes although I have a lot of flexibility. But when planning the schedule for a project that was much larger than what we typically do, my manager straight up said that she doesn’t expect anyone to actually work effectively for more than 6 hours per day at most and admitted that she certainly doesn’t… Everything else’s microbreaks, going to the bathroom, coffeebreaks and socializing when talking about non-work stuff, AAM…

            It was very refreshing to hear her actually acknowledge it.

    2. Just why*

      I’m at a company and the point in my life where I have the option to work 4 day or even 3 day weeks but there’s no need anymore. my kids have left home and they work all week. if they need me during the week, I’ll take off but now I’m sad that I missed spending more time with them when they were young. There were vacations we dreamed of taking but never the money or time. It’s sad to think of.

      1. i like hound dogs*

        This makes me sad. Thanks for the perspective as I am occasionally driven bonkers by my eight-year-old constantly wanting my attention.

        Can you still take a vacation with them now? It’s not too late!

    3. Sleepy in the stacks*

      I’d rather work 5 shorter days than a 10 hour shift, and I doubt employers would pay 40 hours worth of work for 32 hours.

      1. hellohello*

        There are a number of studies out there that show, for many jobs, 32 hours a week is exactly or even more productive than 40 hours a week. Will employers ever willingly admit they could make the exact same value off their employees in a shorter amount of time? Not without a lot of external pressure, no, but the idea isn’t ludicrous. Organized labor got weekends invented once. It could happen again with concerted effort.

  42. LCH*

    my first FT job after graduating from college was so hard. not the job itself, but getting up to go to it every day. and then being at it for 7-8 hours. it is definitely an adjustment.

    i mean, it still isn’t always easy (not a morning person), but not that crushing feeling i had way back then. i think it does help if you have a job you don’t hate which is going to be different for everyone.

  43. Pyanfar*

    Check out the insurance available on the ACA exchange in your state. You may find a policy that covers enough for you now, that you can afford on your current part-time wages/hours. No guarantees, but work looking at all the options. Some policy costs are subsidized based on your income.

  44. Heather*

    It wouldn’t hurt to consider how some jobs that don’t require much education other than on-the-job training can be much easier on the mind and body. (We don’t know the LW’s education level.)

    Reception work is busy but not terribly hard and many people enjoy the somewhat limited interactions with specific clients. This is especially true in an office that does one kind of business like a doctor’s office or a law firm or engineering firm. Data Entry pays about the same as retail but doesn’t require the mental work of dealing with customers. Stocking shelves pays more than minimum wage and can be laborious but stockers usually work 4 days a week (in my area) and have three days off.

    Full-time work seems daunting to young people but if the LW went to public school for high school or college, that was a full workday. It seems the LW survived so switching fields might be a better option.

    1. Irish Teacher*

      I think the difference between high school and work is more in the level of responsibilities people have outside work/school. I have never had a job that required the hours studying for the Leaving Cert did, but…my school was a 10-15 minute walk away and I had my dinner on the table for me. I wasn’t caring for anybody or doing the housework or commuting and my friends were at school with me, so there was no keeping in touch. I saw them in school and basically did no socialising outside it. It was also just for one year and I don’t think I could have sustained that long-term.

      School is a full-time workday, at least, but it is generally done by people who don’t have adult responsibilities. College students may, but college is generally more flexible than either schoo, or work. In a lot of courses, you can get away with missing the odd class. And you can generally do your assignments at the time that suits you.

      Not to disagree with your advice or anything, just to say that I can see why full-time work might seem daunting. It’s not that it’s harder or longer hours than education, more that it is different and adulthood also involves many other responsibilities.

  45. A.J.*

    Yeah, when you’re young you have to do what you have to do. Definitely look at options besides retail— it’s draining and low paying (maybe not for everybody, I don’t know). When I was in my 20s I waited tables. I didn’t love it, but it kept me housed and fed, which was good enough for me and my desire for independence. When I was 30, I started nursing school only because I knew I could get a full time job with three 12 hour shifts per week and really enjoy my time off. Big game changer, and now in my 40s I work 2 days a week as a nursing professor, and do my office hours via Zoom and grading from home. And I still hate having a job, I wish I didn’t have to work at all! The days I do work, I’m basically useless before and after, but I plan for that. The days off are often lazy and I spend a little time keeping up with the other dumb parts of being an adult— helping my mom out, keeping my house semi-presentable, etc. What I’m saying is, there are options out there that don’t involve working 9-5 M-F, which I found out early is not my preference. Being 25, you’re in a place to weigh your options and consider what you can do to bring in the income you need AND do the things you want to do. And what you’re willing to give up if it means you work less. Being grown up sucks sometimes, but you have to do something to have anything!

  46. higheredadmin*

    OP, I moved from the UK where I had six weeks paid vacation PLUS all holidays/bank holidays, to the US where I have what is considered for America a very generous three weeks paid plus holidays (and we close over Christmas to New Years, and “unlimited” sick leave). It took me several years to adjust and not be exhausted. So yes, you can adjust. Yes, it will be a tiring and long process. Someone mentioned above the “spoon” theory – I think those people who are the best adjusted are those who are not mentally worrying about work when they are off plus their jobs are not physically exhausting.

    1. allathian*

      Yeah, reading this blog has taught me a lot, but I think the biggest lesson is recognizing my privilege as a government employee in the EU and that under no circumstances would I want to work in the US. There are parts I’d love to visit and some places I’d probably enjoy living in for a time, but only if we had an unexpected windfall so that neither I nor my husband would have to work (assuming we’d even qualify for a green card/work visa, that is).

  47. Petra*

    Ok two things that might be helpful:
    1) in many workplaces, 32 hours is the benchmark for being considered “full time” — receiving full-time benefits and whatnot. Look into whether that’s the case for your company or other companies in your area.

    2) For this very reason, a 4 day work week is gaining LOTS of traction. Many companies have trialed it and some have adopted it permanently. (To clarify, this would be working 32 hours without reduced pay from working 40 hours.)

    Secret #3) Retail has its place but it is CHALLENGING and exhausting. You may feel less spent at a non-customer-facing job.

    Good luck!

  48. cosmicgorilla*

    I like that Alison called out the specific job as problematic. I worked retail years ago. Retail as an introvert is hell. Retail for anyone might be hell, but as an introvert, I found the need to be “on” all day long exhausting. 20 hours was fine. 30 was pushing it. Anything over 30 hours in retail, and I was drained. Drained physically, mentally, and emotionally.

    I also found the need to constantly be busy and to have tasks with no end (if you aren’t helping a customer, you’re straightening a shelf! Refolding clothes! Adjusting hangers! Look around and find something to do!) to be taxing. In my current job, I work on something, I deliver it, it’s done. Not that I am not sometimes drained from my current job, but it’s such a different form of exhaustion than it is with retail.

    1. some days you're the bug some days you're the windshield*

      Don’t forget the horrid music at top volume all day and that one weird coworker who tries to hum or sing along

      1. jellied brains*

        The devil help you at holiday time when it’s the same 10 terrible Christmas songs played on repeat for 8+ hours…

    2. LCH*

      i don’t know if retailers still do this, but the jobs where you aren’t allowed to sit down except on breaks. my feet tried to explode. i just wanted to perch on a stool behind the register in my completely empty dept.

      1. allathian*

        I’m so glad that I was allowed to sit when I worked as a cashier in my late teens and early twenties. I’m in Finland, and here customers pack their own groceries so you don’t have to reach so far.

        Sure, I still had to clean, fill shelves, etc. between customers, but I wasn’t on my feet all day. I worked 20 hours a week during the school year and sometimes less during my exam periods, and full time during vacations from school. It helped that this was in the early 90s when only kiosks and stores that were smaller than 400 square meters (about 4,000 sq ft) were allowed to be open on Sundays.

  49. Anonny*

    I love my job the hours makes it impossible to get anything realistic done during the week. Planning ahead works for me. Weekdays everything that HAS to be done to maintain life gets done. No more. I designate time for the importance of taking care of my animals and my mental health. So if a shortcut needs to be taken (like cereal for dinner) it does not affect my most important items that needs to be done each day. Most important being my mental health (downtime) and my animals. Work is next . The rest I try to plan ahead for on the weekends (food laundry cleaning etc.) Maybe I will take 5 or 10 minutes each day to plan ahead for the next couple days but thats usually for meals.

  50. sofar*

    LW, dig deep, plug your nose and go full time. Stash away the extra money. That way it’s there in case you need to quit and take a BREAK. And while you’re young is the best time to get solid work experience. Look for better jobs you might like more (or at least pay you more). Get those. Stash away money. Repeat.

    If you don’t plan to have kids, and you keep your costs low, you could conceivably take months off at a time and temporarily eat the cost of being added to your partner’s plan for that time. Then, use your kickass work experience you have to get another job when you need to.

    I’m almost 40. And I have friends who were in your position who didn’t want full-time work, who felt unmotivated outside work, and who avoided full-time work and managed to scrape by part-time while traveling or whatever. MOST of those people have run into issues at some point, where they’ve needed to crash with me/couch surf, and had no savings and no solid work experience to qualify for a better job.

    So just work your full-time hours, stash the money and live for that time outside work. It’s a grind, but it is what it is.

    1. jellied brains*

      you could conceivably take months off at a time

      Genuinely where do you live where that is affordable and actually feasible to still have a job when you’re done??

      1. Mill Miker*

        I think Sofar is actually advocating for quitting the job, and getting another when the money starts to run out.

        1. sofar*

          Depends on the field. The folks I know who do this work in the restaurant industry, retail or in medical fields, all fields that are thirsty for workers in my city. They keep their expenses low, live with others and take months off, getting hired almost the moment the re-enter the market. Heck, sometimes they’ll go to their boss to quit to take a break, and their boss will be like, “I’ll give you a raise, please don’t quit now.” This recently happened to my friend who works at a tire place — they already have to close two days a week d/t not enough workers, so my friend got a tidy raise by saying he wanted to quit.

          So yeah … it’s possible.

      2. sofar*

        Austin. It’s expensive, and having the supportive spouse is key here. But if LW can swing it, they could work, save, quit, take some time off and live on the spouse’s income. Especially if no kids/pets. It’s more common than you’d think, but you really have to plan and it’s a risk.

  51. Turtlewings*

    I had the very same dread when it was time for me to get my first full-time job, LW. I completely understand. And you know what? It does suck in ways that are just inarguable and inevitable. But you also get used to it. And I don’t mean “you get used to being miserable,” I mean you get used to the new structure of your day/week and learn how to work with it. Your energy level will adapt to an extent. And you’ll find that most full-time jobs have more freedom and more downtime than you expect, coming from a retail background.

    I strongly recommend getting out of retail, though. For most people, full-time retail will destroy your body, your spirit, and your will to live. Maybe you have to start there, in your situation, but keep looking for a job that you will like more, something that isn’t so physically exhausting and gives you a calmer environment. In my case, it was important that I have a job with lots of downtime, kept me OFF my feet, and was work I could 100% leave at the office at the end of the day. I found library work, and even though the pay is not awesome, the work and the environment is, and to me it’s worth it!

  52. Pet Jack*

    It helps me sometimes to think about previous generations and what they went through. My grandma had to stop school after 6th grade because her family needed her to work. After my grandfather died she had to work two jobs. Not that it’s a competition for worst life, but it does help me to put in perspective that 50 years ago I probably would not even have the opportunity to do my job as a female. That I’m not outside in 90 degree heat digging ditches. That I don’t fear for my safety at work. I don’t want to be toxicically positive, but it really does help for grounding purposes. Unless you are independently wealthy, you’re going to have to work, but maybe another type of job will be less draining. Maybe more help from your partner, etc.

  53. seespotbitejane*

    I largely agree with all the comments saying “yep, jobs are miserable and everybody feels like this,” but I do think we should be a little careful with statements like that because it sets people up to assume that shitty working situations are normal. In my 20s I tried to “stick out” multiple really toxic work situations because “work is just like that and nobody actually likes it” and it was really bad for my physical and mental health and has also had a lasting and probably lifelong negative affect on my career trajectory.

    So like, yeah it’s normal but to be psyched about the concept of work but if it’s draining you more than you can replenish, if it’s making you cry or despair, that’s *too much* and you aren’t lazy or entitled for wanting to make a change.

    1. Cedrus Libani*

      Yep. On the one hand, it’s important to set expectations. Jobs pay money for a reason; that reason is “no sane person would do this for free”. On the other hand, there’s a very wide range of jobs available. You should be able to find something that’s a decent fit.

      Also worth noting that the “subject matter” of the job isn’t the only variable. There’s a wide range of workplace cultures; some are just toxic, others won’t work for you in particular. If it’s the people, not the work, then a change of scenery can be a real sanity saver.

    2. Pescadero*

      “because it sets people up to assume that shitty working situations are normal.”

      They are normal.
      They aren’t acceptable – but they are the norm.

  54. pally*

    My world: kinda of like an old Judds song:

    Friday finally came around
    This girl’s ready to paint the town
    Tonight ain’t nothin’ gonna slow me down

    I did my time workin’ all week
    Tonight’s all mine, tomorrow I’ll sleep
    I want to hear a band with a country sound

  55. RagingADHD*

    Does your husband work full time because he loves it? Or because someone has to?

    It strikes me a bit odd that you both seem to have considered it optional for you to work full time up to now. Did you not need to support yourself before you got married?

    1. Daisy-dog*

      When I first got married in my early 20’s, I (a woman) worked part-time and my husband worked full-time. We actually were both working the only jobs that we could find that were reasonably within the same geographic area. It was just happenstance that it was on the gender lines like that. It can be hard when you’re young and trying to get jobs in the same place.

  56. E*

    I think you will find that you can adjust to a different schedule after a couple months. It’s just something that we all do moving through different stages of life. I went back to college at 38, which resulted in 2.5 years of working 45-50 hours a week plus 1.5 hour daily commute, spending 25-30 hours on school, along with the daily home life of being married with a young teenager. It was brutal but we adjusted as a family. Now that I have been done for almost a year I have no idea how I managed it all! The important things get done but like others said the house may be dusty and maybe you eat a frozen dinner more often than you like. Getting the entire household on board with splitting chores fairly is critical as well. I also would look for a different type of job that will leave you less drained after work. Having a job you don’t dread makes a huge difference in how you feel at the end of the day.

  57. Cascadia*

    Check out the book “The Defining Decade: Why your 20s matter and how to make the most of them now” by Meg Jay. I found it really helpful when I was your age and having a little quarter-life crisis. By the way, I’m 36 now and ALL of my friends had some version of a quarter-life crisis in their mid-twenties about work. For many people you go to school to go to college, all in this pursuit of a “good” job, and then you start working and you realize – “WHAT? Is this the rest of my life until I die?!?!?!” And it’s a shocking and hard realization. It’s also super normal to feel that way in your 20s, and to some degree many people go through the same thing. But you get through it, and you adjust, and then you settle in to life. And then life changes, and it’s hard, and then you settle in again. On repeat. I second all of the other comments here that it’s totally normal to feel this way, that most of us don’t want to work full time, and wouldn’t if we didn’t have to – and that the household management tasks are just not getting done.

    Please do a major reassessment with your spouse though, if you do go to work full time. Maybe it makes sense for you to do more household management stuff since you are part-time, but if you’re both working full time, then ALL of the household tasks should be split 50/50.

    Also – working part-time jobs is a time suck in and of itself. I worked two part-time jobs for a year and had commute times to job 1, commuting from job 1 to job 2, and then commuting home. Plus there were lost minutes in there from waiting for shifts to start between jobs, etc. I actually found I had far more free time (and way more money!) once I started working one 40-hour a week job than I did balancing two jobs pieced together, just from all of the commuting/scheduling/logistics of two different jobs. Also, in my full-time office job I can – go to doctor’s appointments with sick time, take my dog to the vet if needed, WFH occasionally when there’s a repair person at the house, flex my start/end times when needed on occasion, and more. I basically have a lot more leeway to do life stuff during the day, as long as it’s not excessive – and knowing that sometimes I have to work longer hours, and sometimes I work less, and it all balances out. Obviously not every job has this level of flexibility, but some do!

    1. Bunny Watson*

      Nice to know that quarter-life crises are a thing. 25 hit me so hard! Way more than any other age, and I’m over 50 now.

    2. Office Skeptic*

      I’d be careful about “The Defining Decade” – the author of that book outlines a toxic, borderline abusive boss (one that Alison would definitely call out) and then says it’s just “paying your dues.” I like other parts of the book, but heavily disagree with the author of it about what is “paying your dues” and what is abuse that no one should have to put up with.

  58. ragazza*

    And as an added kick in the pants, so many companies expect you to act like your job is your ultimate passion in life. Most of us work because we have no other choice.

    1. catsoverpeople*

      Add to that all the dumb platitudes like, “if you do what you love, you’ll never work a day in your life!” Sure, maybe one in a million people feels like that, maybe a few more feel like that some of the time, but for almost everybody, it’s not like that at all. It’s a job — that’s why they have to pay you to work it. Even going into business for yourself can present you with tasks you don’t always think are FUN.

    2. DramaQ*

      Right? I can never understand why “I want to be able to have a roof over my head and feed myself” isn’t considered an acceptable answer to “Why do you want this job?” Why do we have to play this game when we both know that you’ll fire me as soon as it suits the company line and I’d be gone in a New York minute if I became wealthy?

  59. Eulerian*

    For what it’s worth, I spent over 10 years of my adult life feeling like a loser for never having enough energy when everyone else seems to have plenty – only to find it’s super common for people with ADHD and ASD, which I have both. As is interest based motivation – I think most people can agree they’re more motivated by something when they’re interested in it, but for ADHD/ASD it’s not just a nice extra – it’s essential. Realising both helped me manage my energy, as well as accepting my limitations and work out exactly what I want or need out of life (professional and personal).

    It’s not unique to people with those conditions either! But if either sound like you (no evidence from this letter though) these are symptoms that often get missed / ignored.

    1. kicking-k*

      For me too. Even when I did NOT work full time, I can’t motivate myself to do something I’m not interested in unless someone is holding immediate and unpleasant consequences over my head, and sometimes not then. It’s not great for the working world. My solution has been to work in either the public sector or for nonprofits, and to go into a line of work that is interesting and can be done in bouts of hyperfocus. I have never made very good money, however.

      I have still only worked full-time for about half of my working life, and I still find it difficult to fit a life in around the edges. I have children and I didn’t really realise how much I got done on non-work mornings when they were at school (at the time it felt like nothing got done).

    2. Goldenrod*

      Agreed! I’m not ADHD or ASD, but I am very low-energy, and always have been. Some people naturally have high energy, others of us…don’t.

      The important thing is to just know it about yourself, and accept it. To some extent, it’s hard-wired and not something we can change.

      1. allathian*

        I’m the same way, although admittedly it only gets worse with age. I don’t remember being this tired in my early 20s when I managed to work 20+ hours a week and go to college full time, and find the time and energy to socialize and go clubbing on Saturdays and those few Fridays when I wasn’t working the next day. And sometimes even when I was, if I had the afternoon shift and could count on not being noticeably hungover when I went to work at 10. Now I get tired just thinking about the schedule I had when I was young.

  60. EcoBee*

    If you need full time hours, one thing I’d consider is working in a field that has different types of schedules. I work in healthcare- most hospitals offer different options with 8, 10, or 12 hour shifts. I tried a job for awhile working 8 hr days, 5 days a week, and I loved the job but hated the schedule. I’m much happier with 3x 12hr. The shifts themselves are exhausting, but the trade off is 4 days off weekly, and that makes a huge difference for my life.

  61. Retired Vulcan Raises 1 Grey Eyebrow*

    My ft jobs were very flexible 35 hrs per week (Europe, so state health insurance, long vacations bla bla) no kids, but even so I had to gain time by:
    – not getting another pet after my dog died
    – paying for a cleaner
    – moving to a smaller property and without a garden/yard to look after
    – eating a big lunch in the work canteen and making that my main meal of the day, so I just had a v quick breakfast and light supper at home, almost no cooking.

    Also, in your case if you significantly increase your working hours, then you and your OH would need to divide up chores again so that you have similar amounts of free time. Assess if it’s feasible to lighten the load by paying for cleaners, pet-carers, buying more takeout or ready meals.
    Try to keep at least 1 weekend day where the 2 of you do no chores at all, just have fun.

  62. Duckles*

    I do feel like this gets worse instead of better and don’t know how people do it their whole lives, if they do. I’m in my mid-30s and very, very close to quitting my FTJ because living for the bits of enjoyment in life you can scrounge here or there when the bulk of your life is work politics, stress, chores, and human maintenance just isn’t worth it.

    1. Eldritch Office Worker*

      My boss is in her 70s and seems to have no intention of slowing down or retiring. I don’t get it at all. I’d be done the second I can.

      1. Lana Kane*

        I was just reading an article about how taking early Social Security affects your payout, and how retiring at 70 is the best way to get the most monthly benefit dollars. My reaction to that was so visceral I had to laugh at myself. No effing way, unless I absolutely have to.

        My parents and in-laws weren’t even 60 when they retired and this makes me happy for them, but also quite bitter lol

      2. gmg22*

        I have a theory about this and it’s essentially based on autonomy: If you are in a position at work where you have confidence in your ability to call the shots — for yourself and if applicable for others — then work will take a key place within your conception of self, and you won’t want to leave it. I see this a LOT among my baby-boomer colleagues. (And when outside circumstances force retirement time before they are ready, damn is it hard for these folks, because it is calling their sense of self/autonomy into question.)

        I state this by way of contrast with a situation of someone like myself, sitting in a place at my organization where I do not believe I have autonomy or ever could get it — in practice, someone else’s preferences, ideas, experience or expertise always take precedence over mine. Hence I would retire tomorrow if I could, but I’m 48 and single and my job happens to have good pay and even better benefits, so onward I trudge through the ever-shifting sands of nonprofit life …

    2. Foila*

      I’m with you. All these folks who had the experience of needing to acclimate to working full time and then finding that it felt easier after a while… are not me. I’ve worked full time since I finished college and it was not bad at all at the start! But now I am Dragging, and it’s worse every year. I don’t even have kids!

      It probably has a medical component for me, but go on, walk into a doctor’s office and say “I’m a middle-aged woman with mild fatigue,” and see just how much help you get.

    3. Mal Voyage*

      Same here, every day it gets a little bit harder. I find it’s the same thing with establishing new routines or habits. It actually starts out easy, and then every day feels like a rubber stretched tighter and tighter.

      I do have ADHD though, so that probably factors in.

    4. Anonymous octopus*

      Hi, this is me. ADHD, C-PTSD, bipolar type two (well managed thank god, but extra pressure to keep my health insurance) with 2 extra fun chronic physical illnesses on top of it.

      Nothing gets done when I get home from work. If I’m lucky I have some energy to move the toy for my cat. “Girl dinner” every night because no energy for anything else. Weekends are for catching up on literally everything else. And I never ACTUALLY catch up, I’m always behind.

      And I have a few friendly coworkers who try to make plans for my weekends, and they don’t understand why I have to say no so often. I can’t hang every f*cking weekend. I’m dying in here as it is, and I’m already stretching myself thin making the social plans that I do. I’m not like them, and even when I tell them I’m disabled and have limitations it’s in one ear and out the other.

      1. virago*

        I can relate to everything that everyone is saying.

        I’m 58 and I feel like I’m just dragging myself to the finish line until I’m old enough to collect Social Security and Medicare.

        I have generalized anxiety disorder and severe recurring depression; in my 50s, I was diagnosed with hypothyroidism, and my doc is still tinkering with my med dosage to address the crushing fatigue.

    5. Generic Name*

      I’m 44 and I started to feel this way. I as despairing that I have 20+ more years of this. Then something happened at work that made me job search, and I got a new job that i’m really, really enjoying. I feel more energized than I have in a long time. And that’s even going from a job I worked from home most days to being in office with a bit of a commute most days. So it might not hurt to put out feelers for a new job if you’re feeling this way.

  63. iKit*

    One thing I want to say… if you’re working part time hours and you are ROUTINELY coming home “exhausted and unmotivated”, I am worried that you have a presumably undiagnosed mental health condition or disorder. Both ADHD and autism (which I have and which were undiagnosed until I was 36/37 respectively) can cause this. As can anxiety disorders, depression, and other neurodivergencies. And these can all be disabilities. Not saying you have any of these, but if you are routinely feeling these things, I think you should do some research when you have the time and motivation to do so and then try to set up an appointment with a psychiatrist.

    Having the diagnosis, the language, the treatment (for the ADHD), to understand why I think how I do, act how I do, feel how I do has been IMMENSELY helpful… and it’s only been about two months for the autism diagnosis. It’s allowed me to research tools and tips to help reduce anxiety and start seeing how certain reactions aren’t a panic attack but overstimulation. Just knowing that certain things aren’t me being weird/broken but are the results of a a neurodevelopmental disorder has helped me FEEL better and just knowing that helps me feel less exhausted because I no longer have to fight MYSELF on things.

    This may not be the answer you need to help you work a full time schedule. This may be EXACTLY the answer you need. But I felt it needed to be said.

  64. saskia*

    Do you know how much you’re paying out of pocket for medical costs currently vs. how much you’d pay being on your husband’s plan? That may help you figure out what’s ‘worth it’ for insurance costs.

    The IRS considers 30 hours a week or more to be full-time, so if you find a place that will allow you to work just 30, you may find that a great compromise. I used to do 32 hours/week at a hospital. Tough work, but I set my own schedule when I started, which was nice. I did one weekend on, one weekend off. And my weekly schedule looked something like off Monday, Tuesday day shift, Wednesday double shift, Thursday evening shift (to recover lol), Friday off. Having >2 days off in a row is very helpful.

  65. LucyGoosy*

    My first thought is that an administrative role may be a good fit for you. You don’t necessarily need to work full-time, but you could find a job you like a little more that pays better and has more flexible hours.

  66. MillennialHR*

    I talk to my sister about this all the time. It is exhausting to come home and deal with life after working all day! Honestly, if I didn’t hold the insurance for my husband and I, I would consider not working as much, just to be able to come home and take care of things. I also have animals (a high-energy dog is one) and it is a lot to come home from work and walk 3-4 miles with her, then make dinner, clean up, find time to relax, etc. Work is a necessary evil and I’m very lucky that I love what I do, but you are not alone.

  67. Box of chocolates*

    Almost every job I had was draining but retail was on a whole other level. While you are still young and figuring out life, now is the time to explore other industries. Once life kicks in, it will be much harder. And if this exploration takes you nowhere, you can always return to retail because retail is always hiring. Plus, if you have more experience, you should have more opportunity for a full-time position.
    (Life is like a box of chocolates, you never know what you gonna get.)

  68. Working mom*

    You certainly have valid concerns and trust me, most of us feel this way! One way I’ve tackled this is to find a job I like. Notice I didn’t say love, because I don’t love working full time. But I like the people I work with. I get to work remote from home most days (hybrid). I like the benefits, which include a generous vacation / paid time off benefit. If you find something that balances the hatred for working full time, you may find some balance.

    How do I manage? I worked FT through raising children from babies to adulthood and I managed just fine, but it included letting go of a spotless home, of delicious home cooked dinners every night, etc. I used my weekends wisely, ensuring I had enough time to fit in things I love. That also meant saying no to people when they invited me to things I didn’t want to do.

    I hope this helps. Know your not alone in these feelings. Full time work can be managed if you find the right job. I hope that happens for you!!

  69. Lacey*

    Totally normal. Retail especially is bad. I hated working retail.

    And getting an office job isn’t a guaranteed fix either. My first office job made me absolutely dread going into work. I called off sick all the time, because I just couldn’t face it.

    But then I got a job with reasonably pleasant coworkers and a good boss and I didn’t feel that way anymore. I almost never took sick days then, because I really don’t get sick that often & I enjoyed what I was doing. I mean, enjoyed it enough – it wasn’t my dream job and it was still work, but it was a reasonable level of pleasant and that’s all you actually need to make it through.

    I will say also, I’ve had 2 short periods of unemployment in the last few years and aside from the stress of job searching – it was glorious.

    Mine were not intentional , but I think everyone should take a 6-12 month sabbatical in their 30s if they can afford. It was so restorative, even with the job hunting stress.

  70. Tammy 2*

    Retail is especially draining. OP, do you think you might find it easier to do something that doesn’t involve dealing with people as much? If you can transition to something that involves working at home and/or working alone or with a small team, you might find putting in the hours of work a lot easier.

    1. catsoverpeople*

      Even a different type of retail job might be helpful, although we don’t know exactly what OP does now. They could pursue a supervisor-level position that focuses on recruiting, interviewing candidates, and/or onboarding new associates. Perhaps there are off-hours floor sets, shipment processing, restocking of shelves, or supervising those who do those things instead of 100% customer service like a cashier or sales floor associate. Some of those positions will offer better benefits, too.

  71. i_also_dreaded_a_lifetime_of_labor*

    Maybe one thing that could be helpful to OP is some kind of process or journey of identifying strengths/challenges and the most suitable type of job for their personal needs that would lead to less physical and/or emotional burnout than retail. Some people ‘deal with the customers so the engineers don’t have to’ but other people love digging in to complicated, detail-oriented and even picky analytical tasks. My job can include both and I find the amount of burnout I have, so thus the bandwidth I have left for home and family obligations, is really different depending on which I’ve been doing more of. For me, lock me in a room with spreadsheets and don’t make me talk to people and I’ll come home with high energy and able to take on anything, but make me engage appropriately in meetings or evaluate others’ emotional needs and deal with hierarchy and I will be a slime mold by the end of the day. My husband would much rather a work day of sales, taking orders, talking to customers, rapport with coworkers etc., and comes home cheerful and energetic after that. I truly think this has the potential to make a big difference for people.

  72. LR*

    Nobody has a Goop-level ideal work/life setup; everyone is doing what they can to make what they HAVE to do compatible with what they WANT to do. where that balance lies is different for everyone, and will be different at each job and stage of your life/career.

    it’s also a big shock (at least it was for me but I graduated college in 2008, ugh) to go from the structured, achievement-based environment of college to the just constant/endless feeling of fulltime work with no crowning achievement on the horizon. that is just the reality of American work culture, mostly.

    I encourage folks at the start of their career to invest energy in finding a group/activity/hobby that they really like. It’s bad to have most of your waking time taken up by your job because it subsumes your identity; give yourself other outlets so that when you have a bad day at work you can remind yourself that there’s a different place/group of people that you’re also part of. I’m part of a choir and if i didn’t have rehearsal every week i would be a lot more upset by vicissitudes at work.

  73. Jennifer C.*

    “slowly dawning sense of horror in your 20s” – LOL! SO true. But I eventually found a career that I like enough that I sometimes actually look forward to going to work.

  74. Office Skeptic*

    Thanks for saying this! Sometimes I feel gaslit by the folks who are like “suck it up, this is life!” or “it’s not that bad!” It’s totally normal to feel sad about having huge chunks of your one wild and precious life sucked away by work. Especially when that work feels intangible, meaningless, or disconnected (see social scientist David Graeber’s Bullshit Jobs). But even when I work jobs that are meaningful, with nice people, it makes me sad. I have limited time on this earth and I spend so much of it away from the people and things I love? Depressing.

    1. Katara's side braids*

      Not just that – even the time we spend at home is largely spent either preparing for or recovering from work. Then when you “revenge bedtime procrastinate” to reclaim just a shred of time to feel like a person, the “solutions” always involve just accepting that your weekdays will never belong to you or gaslighting yourself into thinking a cheeky 5-minute walk on your work break is enough.

  75. aebhel*

    This is all super normal, and also, seconding that retail is a special kind of awful. I don’t mind working full-time at my current job, because it’s reasonably slow-paced, I get a lot of control over how and when I do things, I have my own private workspace, et cetera. Working even half as many hours as I do now in retail was nightmarishly draining and miserable. So a different type of job might suck exponentially less.

  76. some days you're the bug some days you're the windshield*

    I am so glad all the comments I’ve seen so far have been kind. I’ve seen far too many instances where someone says this and then it is implied by the listener that the person is lazy or that younger people expect everything handed to them, etc. I’m 40 years old and here are some of the choices I’ve made that have helped make it a bit more bearable. Everyone chooses their own adventure, but in case you can glean anything from this…

    – Are you an introvert or an extrovert? I’m an introvert. I realised just how intensely introverted I am when I spent a few of my younger years working retail and waiting tables in busy bars and restaurants. I listened to other people who said I just need to put myself out there. Ignore other people. Know yourself and spend some time considering what kind of jobs will be fine for that core part of yourself.

    – I agree with everyone who suggested trying things like dog walking, etc. I ran a dog walking/pet sitting business for a few years in my 20s and it was great. If you’re in an area where something like that isn’t really an option or doesn’t appeal to you, consider what kind of service you can provide that might benefit the locals. Get creative and weird and you’ll have more fun. The best businesses are the ones that have found a need not being met.

    – Go remote. Seriously. Especially if you deal with social anxiety. Just google remote job boards or look them up on Linkedin. Filter job searches by remote. I went fully remote 5 years ago and I will never look back. Days can still be stressful but it’s so much more manageable.  

    – And this might be a wee bit controversial to some, but if you and your husband can move to Europe and get visas for your pets, DO IT.  They actually treat citizens like people* here. You get at least 20 vacation days and healthcare, not to mention unemployment benefits aren’t a hassle if you need them. 

    I hope that helps and I hope you find something that works for you!

    *asterisk because from what I can tell people with disabilities don’t get as much support as they should anywhere but that’s another convo.. 

  77. ZSD*

    The page ate my first response, but the bottom line was as follows:
    1) To be less exhausted at the end of the work week, get out of retail and into a job that lets you sit down if at all possible.
    2) If you’re allowed to telework at least a couple days a week and avoid a commute, that’s even better.

  78. Goldenrod*

    Yes, OP, I feel you! I had this same feeling when I was working in retail in my 20’s – I worked part-time in a bookstore (massively underearning) for most of my 20’s, and was absolutely horrified at the thought of working more hours.

    What I wish I knew then – and I really want you to know now – has to do with this:
    “All that said … retail is notoriously terrible, and you might find that you dread a different type of work less.”

    This turned out to be MASSIVELY the case for me. Do yourself a favor and try an office job! A good way to “get in” is by temping, if you can. Sitting at a desk doing office work is WAY less draining than retail and customer service, which is very hard on the human spirit.

    The weird thing is, the better my jobs got and the more they paid, the easier the work. What I didn’t realize is that 8 hours of office work was much slower-paced and much less draining than a hard-core, high-interaction retail job. In office work, you can work smarter not harder (meaning, there’s more responsibility for managing long-term projects, but the day-to-day can be fairly gentle).

    Of course, there are some offices where the work can be draining. But I think you will find that the type of work you do will make a huge difference in how you feel about it.

    1. Goldenrod*

      OP, I forgot to specify what I meant by “office work.” I’m talking about clerical, basic admin work, which I personally find soothing. It’s not overly stressful – it’s scheduling meetings, mailing stuff, ordering supplies, just the ordinary work that helps offices run. Even an entry-level admin job will usually pay more than retail (in my case, much more)!

      The key is to find a low-key office, because some offices are very stressful – but many are not. Good luck!!

      1. catsoverpeople*

        Temping in an office is definitely the way to go if OP thinks they might like it. IME, the reception desk person is often the lowest paid in the office yet they are expected to know a little bit about everyone else’s job so they can direct phone calls correctly (and answer questions if the caller can’t get ahold of the right person), some deal with incoming callers who are just as grouchy or rude as any retail customer, and many are micromanaged regarding PTO because no one else wants to cover the phones while they are out of the office. YMMV, of course!

  79. Penny*

    As I tell people often, I don’t want to work, but I like to eat, have a place to sleep, take vacations. Work is simply the way I pay for the things I want to do/have.

    1. Me... Just Me (as always)*

      Exactly. Work is how we pay for food, shelter and the fun we’d like to have. I don’t know anybody IRL who would continue working if there weren’t monetary reasons involved. I currently work with a doctor who is 83 years old. Sweet, wonderful doctor. He obviously has the money to retire, but he also is paying for some of his grandchildren to go to college & other things. Would he work for free?- probably not. But his $250k+ salary makes it worth it. Plus, some people enjoy what they do for a living. Personally, I would definitely be bored without something structured & challenging to reliably do most days. Sometimes, I’m bored on the weekends & think about getting another college degree in my spare time.

      1. allathian*

        This is definitely a YMMV situation, because I can’t remember when I was bored last, and my life isn’t particularly busy compared to most other commenters. Obviously some work tasks are more engaging than others, and I’ve certainly experienced tedium at work when faced with a task that simply has to be done but nobody enjoys doing (or at least I don’t enjoy doing), and at home when faced with a tedious chore, but boredom? Nope. I guess I’m more tolerant of boredom than some, but I also have a reasonably active imagination. If all else fails, I can usually take a walk or rest on the couch and let myself daydream.

  80. Risha*

    I feel you OP. My husband and I both work fulltime and we have 6 kids (our youngest is special needs as well). My husband also has a very bad back so he’s limited in what chores he can do. The way we manage the house and all the other things that need to be done is to create a plan and stick to it. We both struggle with executive functioning too so sticking to a chore plan is super important to ensure everything gets done. We have one of those chore apps on our phones.

    For example, every Monday is laundry. I wash/dry and my husband will fold and put away. Bathrooms are Tuesday and Thursday. We sweep the house every night and also purchased one of those robot vacuums that do their thing while we’re sleeping. And of course, we have the kids do age appropriate chores.

    We also both work from home. I do know this is not possible for everyone, but if there’s a way that you and/or your husband can find a fully remote job, that would give you a lot of time during the day. Try to get into an admin position in retail, or even customer service jobs that let you work remotely.

    If you’re in a financial position to do so, consider off-loading as many tasks as you can. For example, we use Instacart for groceries so we’re not spending time in a supermarket (and it actually saves us money because I’m an impulse shopper). We have a housekeeper come in once or twice per month to do deep cleaning. We use landscapers to cut our lawn/shrubs or shovel snow in winter. I do all the cooking for the family, so on weekends I’ll make food for the week and freeze it. Whenever I have extra time, I’ll cook a lot of food and freeze it so I’m not cooking every single day. I buy fruits/veggies already cut up. I try to get meats already marinated from the store. Pretty much anything that saves us time.

    Of course, I realize all of this costs money. But you can never get your time back, so IMO these costs are worth it. Just do whatever you can afford until you’re in a better position to off-load more tasks. If you’re able to at least do Instacart right now, it would take grocery shopping off your plate. And when you’ve been working fulltime for awhile, you’ll get better at managing the time off. It’s definitely difficult at first, but after some time, you’ll be able to get everything done that needs to be done. I don’t have much advice for the health insurance, but if you can go on your husband’s insurance, then you can waive insurance at your job and get more take home money.

  81. Frankie Bergstein*

    Commenters – thank you so much for validating my struggle with working only forty hours per week (it’s a lot of hours, but many jobs take up much more time than that!) AND still struggling to handle my house / keep up with friends / exercise / cook / clean / laundry. I seriously thought I was the only one who couldn’t hold it all down. My friends seem to accomplish WAY more than me.

    Thank you all!

    1. Pet Jack*

      I would never say this in an interview, nor would I hire someone who said this as it’s completely disingenuous. (I don’t work saving the whales or anything.) A job that wants you to be super excited about the work is not a place I want to be. (And yes, I’m successful, like my job enough, etc etc, but again…not saving the whales.)

      1. Pet Jack*

        This was completely put in the wrong place. Sorry Frankie!

        To add, I am a messy person, my kid gets his clean clothes from the dryer, and we have a lot of time to play and have fun together.

  82. Thegreatprevaricator*

    I just want to offer the possibility that this isn’t what your life has to look like forever. Working 40 hours in retail might be your option for now, but you might work on putting together a screw you fund that allows you some flexibility in your choices.

    I say with the privilege of universal healthcare but I was both underemployed, and part time/ freelance in my twenties. I was working it out. I now work in a job that I genuinely enjoy and am fulfilled by. The full time is hard work but I have a lot of flexibility and autonomy, something I’ve realised I value highly. I’m physically incapable of doing stuff I don’t like or get something out of. I have managed stints in fairly boring jobs by having a clear purpose and timeframe around it. So one finance admin job was because my aforementioned underemployment had left me in a tricky financial situation.

    Also don’t let people tell you that this is the way it is. It doesn’t have to be. There is always a trade off – I earnt very little for a long time and in comparison to my peers I still earn less. But in return I had time, flexibility and autonomy. I just had different priorities. Those priorities are also allowed to change as your circumstances do. I am certainly more interested in being adequately compensated than I used to be!

  83. WannabeAstronaut*

    I have progressive idiopathic hypersomnia and this is my life. 40 hrs a week is completely exhausting, and I struggle to get it all done and also be able to see people/do life maintenance/do a thing or two I enjoy (really hard when your limited energy supply pretty much has to go towards work!) My only hope is one day our society will move to a 4 day work week, but until then I’m just always tired and always will be. I talk to my therapist a lot to cope, lol.

  84. Radioactive Cyborg Llama*

    Isn’t it still going to cost double, or at least double-ish, for the LW to have her own health insurance? It’s common possibly bordering on universal that the employee has to pay for part of the health insurance. Unless she’s only looking for catastrophic coverage.

    1. Manic Pixie HR Girl*

      Family coverage is typically MUCH higher than single. At my employer, it’s about 4x more to have family coverage. My guess is that the cost would be double what they would pay for both of them to have single coverage.

  85. Weez*

    There’s a bit of stamina involved as well, OP. You’ll get used to working, and you’ll get used to combining work with personal commitments/chores and hobby’s. And you’ll learn what kind of job and what kind of schedule works for you.

  86. SansSerif*

    Another thing to consider is that retail often makes you work different hours every week, changes schedules at the last minute, makes you work nights and weekends, etc. Working full-time, but 9-5 does take up way too much time, I agree – but it does help to have a regular schedule with nights and weekends free. I remember working retail/restaurants, and I couldn’t go to a lot of things I was invited to – because they were on the weekend, when everyone else was off. It’s nice to be off and be available when your friends/family are (assuming most of them aren’t working retail as well).

  87. ENFP in Texas*

    I read the headline and thought “I’m 52 and I don’t want a full-time job, either. Welcome to the adult world.”

    Not particularly helpful, but wishing things were different and saying “I don’t wanna” won’t change them. Alison’s advice is spot-on.

  88. Lucy Valdon*

    Does your area have a temp agency? That can be a good way to get an idea for the kinds of entry-level office jobs you could get. Often they also have part-time hour gigs. That might be a good first step to locating a better-paying part-time job.

    This may be overstepping and out of line, and I sincerely apologize if it is. I know it’s something nobody wants to contemplate: Please consider getting higher-paid work to protect yourself in case you are widowed. (Also make sure your husband has good life insurance.) I have seen too many of my friends and family without good options for supporting themselves when the primary earner leaves for work thinking they’ll be home for dinner, only for a random accident to leave his family bereft and impoverished. It sounds like a thing that could never happen, until it does. Taking steps now to earn a better hourly rate can’t hurt.

    1. Washi*

      I’m a social worker and while it’s easier said than done…yes, getting a job with conditions decent enough to allow you to manage working full time will go a long way toward protecting your future. I work with a lot of people who for various reasons don’t have a solid work history, then had a medical issue and needed to stop, and their disability payment is like…$900 per month. Even for people who worked full time all their lives, with the working class population I work with, the typical social security payment is about $1800/month.

      Retail and fast food are just awful and profoundly exhausting. A reception type job would likely be more palatable for full time even if it paid the same per hour.

      Even for me personally, moving from a chaotic job where I was basically on call 7 – 7 and never ate lunch to a position where I am busy but get to sit at a desk and use the bathroom when I need to has been a huge quality of life improvement. It makes a big difference when you can schedule an oil change, make a grocery list, or go to the dentist during your workday, neither of which you can do in retail (and which I couldn’t do in my horrible previous job).

  89. another day older*

    I wish I had a better thing to say than ‘it’s miserable and it’ll never get better’ but so far- in my late 30s, my house is a mess, my health is in shambles, my hobbies go neglected for long stretches; I’m too tired to cook half the time so I have to order takeout which is terrible for both health and wallet; and presumably this is how it’ll go til I kick the bucket since retirement looks like a thing of past generations.

    I’m very fortunate in that I have health insurance that covers at least some of what I need, I don’t usually have a lot of overtime, and I work in an industry that I don’t hate and which doesn’t usually make me feel too immoral on a basic level. If I was more willing to put in 50+ hour weeks AND do things I found less fulfilling, the economic stuff might be a little better, but this is where I’m at.

  90. Pratik*

    “The plain fact is that you graduating seniors do not yet have any clue what “day in day out” really means. There happen to be whole, large parts of adult American life that nobody talks about in commencement speeches. One such part involves boredom, routine, and petty frustration.”

    David Foster Wallace, Kenyon Commencement Address – May 21, 2005

  91. Isben Takes Tea*

    Also, 40 hours is an arbitrary amount that is much better than the “standard” hours people used to work but is not scientifically or evolutionarily or morally or theologically justified by anything. It’s a lot to routinely dedicate to interests that are, frankly, not your own, your household’s, or even your community’s. It feels exhausting because it is exhausting.

  92. KellifromCanada*

    I think you’re in a really tough field. Retail jobs, dealing with the public every day, can suck the life out of you. I wonder if you could find something more fulfilling, even if that meant going back to school for qualifications. That might make it easier for you to take on full-time work without hating it.

    Of course, strangers on the internet can’t provide a diagnosis, or even know if there’s a real problem, but you do sound exhausted and down to me. It might be worth considering whether you’d benefit from seeking out a doctor/therapist/counsellor of some sort.

    Finally, as a Mom, I’d suggest you and your husband think very carefully before deciding whether or not to have children. They are wonderful if you truly want them, but they are exhausting. And expensive, meaning you’d likely have to work full-time to afford them.

    Best of luck.

  93. CRM*

    The transition from school/part time work/long-term unemployment to a full-time job is a challenging one. I wish the working world could have more direct discussions about this instead of just assuming that all young people are lazy and have no work ethic. Managing life when you have 40+ hours of your week spoken for is actually a skill, and it feels impossible to do if you are used to having an abundance of unstructured free time.

    It takes a few years, but eventually you figure out how to make it all work. You determine what your priorities in life are, and focus on those in your free time. You can’t travel every weekend without feeling spent, but you can make the effort once a month and go to the places on the top of your list. You can’t fit painting classes and yoga classes into your schedule, so you pick the one that is most fulfilling and focus on that. You can’t stay up late binging your favorite show every night, so you save it for a weekend when you have no plans. Also, at a certain point, you just get used to being tired.

    You also discover little life-hacks along the way, whether it’s the coffee preparation has the exact right amount of caffeine to wake you up without making you feel jittery, a playlist that keeps you focused and feeling upbeat, the workout that keeps you healthy without taking too much out of you, the one-pot meal that optimizes flavor and efficiency. Having a good routine and sticking to it also does help.

    Also- really try to limit your time on social media if you can. It will seem like all of your friends are out there doing exciting stuff all of the time. The truth is that the majority of them probably aren’t doing it all and just make it seem like that, but for the lucky few who are (either by being wealthy independent of work or just by having endless energy), the jealousy will drive you crazy.

    Finally – it’s often the case that the more seniority you gain in your career, the more flexibility you are afforded. But most of the time you need to earn that flexibility through years of good work and reliability.

    1. catsoverpeople*

      Best comment yet! You’re the first to mention the social media envy aspect of this, and as OP is 25, this is particularly relevant. The younger generations grew up with not only the carefully curated (not to mention Photoshopped and filtered) images that make life look impossibly glamorous, but also the myth that anyone could potentially be the next “influencer” or reality star and make six figures while only working a few hours per week.

  94. The Ginger Ginger*

    I’ll echo Alison. Retail is a special kind of exhausting and notoriously low paying. And the schedule can be obnoxiously varied depending on where you’re working. It would definitely be worth trying for a different type of work to see if it helps. Obviously the types of jobs available will vary based on your location, and I assume a low cost area may come with fewer opportunities.

    Based on MY experience from transitioning away from retail – maybe check out banks. I switched to being a part time bank teller from retail for a while in my early 20s and NOT working nights, having limited weekend hours, and getting bank holidays guaranteed off was a HUGE improvement in my tolerance for work. Having customer service experience, cash register experience, etc will go a long way on your resume to try to become a teller. There’s a ton of cross over skills, so it is a fairly easy jump to make.

  95. Thatoneoverthere*

    This is incredibly normal. I am 38 years old and graduated in the midst of the recession. I have been laid off twice. I have never really had a “career” of sorts, bc I got a pretty basic degree. At 38, I just hit a certain threshold of salary, that i honestly thought I would hit at like 27. My husband and I work, bc we have a family to feed and lifestyle we like (even though sometimes it still feels like we are living paycheck to paycheck). Its hard for me to work knowing I should be making way more (I’ve looked trust me) and that wages haven’t increased at all. I have never had a job, that I particularly enjoy.

    This may seem silly, but I do try and do things I love outside of work to make up for it. Spend time with my kids, cook fun things, hike with my dog. It makes it somewhat more tolerable.

    If you can try and get out of retail. Retail can be soul sucking and exhausting work. I hated it when I did it. I am much more suited to office life. I also don’t find as demanding. I can take breaks here and there (surf AAM or whatever). This is job dependent though.

  96. BellyButton*

    I love my career, love my job, love my company, love my boss, and my colleagues, and I WFH yet it is still tough to get to get it all done. When I look at parents and especially single parents I am in awe. I just don’t know how they do it.

    I am approaching 50 and I will have to keep this up for TWENTY more years. It makes me want to cry.

    My best advice is try to find something that aligns with the things you value in life and brings you some sort of fulfillment. At least then you can feel good about working for 50+ years.

  97. Michelle Smith*

    Yeah, I mean we’d all probably like to work less.

    “How do y’all manage a house and a life when you work eight or nine hours a day and only get two days off in a week?”

    The best we can? You have a leg up over me as you have a spouse who presumably also contributes to the household. If I don’t do something, since I can’t afford to pay help, it just doesn’t get done.

    What does that mean in practicality, especially for someone with executive dysfunction like mine? It means that I live in a studio apartment rather than the largest place I can afford, so I have less space to clean/manage. It means sometimes the garbage might get pushed down in the bag for a couple of days until I have the time/energy to take it down to the basement. It means that if I’m sick or my chronic conditions flair up, my laundry (which I can’t clean in my apartment) isn’t going to be washed. It means my home is just not museum level clean and never will be and that I have to decide what chores I’m going to spend my precious free time on (mainly survival based ones like cooking, laundry, and very basic level cleaning) and what chores I’m going to outsource or forego so I have time to rest (e.g., I bought a portable dishwasher since my apartment doesn’t have one, I stopped purchasing clothes that require dry cleaning, I do 99.9% of all of my shopping online, having most groceries, hygiene products, etc. delivered, and I haven’t once spent a weekend scrubbing baseboards). It means it’s a priority for me to work from home as much as possible so I don’t spend my few precious hours of energy during my free time commuting to and from an office for no discernable business reason.

    It also means I am careful with my socializing. As an introvert, I find spending time in crowds of people or even spending time with friends to be draining rather than invigorating. So I don’t do it as often as I could. I might talk to my friends over text or chat rather than spending a lot of time on calls after I had calls all day at work. I might think twice about committing to professional organizations, volunteer opportunities, and other things that require me to spend energy I don’t have on being social. And I’m very protective of my weekends. I make every effort not to schedule things on both weekend days so that I have at least one full day completely at home, alone, to get things done that I want to and/or need to.

    Would I prefer a cleaner home? Yes. But not enough to spend all my free time managing a household. So I do what I think is most important and I let go of the rest so I can get the rest I need to be a healthier, happier human being.

  98. Melody*

    I’m at work (ahem) and don’t have time to read all the comments right now. But there are jobs out there that offer benefits for reduced hours. I’ve never worked more than 32 hour weeks in my 30 years in dental offices. Right now I work about 20-25 hours/week and get partial benefits, but I don’t get or need my own medical insurance. Maybe finding a work from home job, or a job with flex hours, or a shift job where you work 4 10 hour days or 4 days on, 3 days off, or something might suit you better? Or maybe a seasonal job where you work gangbusters for 3-4 months but then part time for the rest of the year? If you could earn enough in just a few months to pay for insurance with your spouse, it might be worth it for the peace of mind.

    1. amoeba*

      Yup, I’m not in the US, but my first line of thought would definitely be looking for positions with benefits for less than 40 h! In a lot of countries, anything from 35 h (?) is considered full time, and hereabouts it’s very normal to have benefits at less than that as well. From what I’ve read here over the years, that’s less common in the US, but I’d still assume there are jobs where that’s possible!

      So, if possible, at least a but fewer fours (30-35?) plus maybe a less draining/more flexible job (WFH or hybrid if that’s something you’d enjoy?) could go a long way to make your life easier!

  99. almost retired*

    I would say whatever you do, start saving into a pension when you are young, and if you can, sock away 6-12 months of basic living expenses. having the latter allows you to have more choices instead of having to take a job you hate because you need the money. having the former means you can retire when your body starts breaking down/you get tired. My dad gave me this advice, and it has served me very well. Compound interest is a magic thing.

    For now, I would look for a PT job with health insurance… some of the coffee purveyors have health insurance for employees. I’d also develop a side gig that gets you exercising and uses your love of animals…dog walking maybe? Are you interested in being a veterinary technician, maybe, and work towards that. Retail, as many others have said, is difficult and low paying. More pay=fewer hours working for the man. Good luck. You are totally right to question American capitalism and what it demands out of people.

  100. Irish Teacher.*

    Honestly, as a teacher, I sometimes wonder how people in other jobs manage to get things done and do fun stuff. I do a lot of “I’ll catch up on that during the mid-term break/Christmas holidays/Easter holidays/summer holidays.”

    However, I also think some of it gets easier if you are in a job you enjoy. I genuinely love teaching (and not just because we get long holidays!) and I find I’m way less tired than I was when I worked retail. The odd time I had to get up at 7 for that, I was barely functioning. Now, I get up at 6:30 and while I’d prefer not to, I’m not exhausted like I was then. I know it’s not always possible to get a job you love and the reality is that the jobs nobody loves have to be done too, but…it is possible that your current job is not really the right one for you and you might be less concerned about doing full hours in the right one.

    It’s also true that sometimes the thought of it is worse than the reality. I know every August, I think, “much as I am sort of looking forward to seeing everybody again and finding out my new timetable, I really don’t know how I can handle getting up at 6:30 five days a week, getting home at 5pm and then having to plan classes. When am I ever going to get anything done? Heck, I didn’t get everything I intended to do this week done and that was only a fraction of what I’ll have to do when I’m working.” And yet, somehow when I am working, it gets done and I ever get some free time. Yeah, I do put off a lot of things like tidying out cupboards to the holidays, but still. It’s possible that when you do start working full-time, it won’t be as bad as you are thinking.

    And I know I’ve given a lot of different suggestions here that may even contradict each other a bit, but they are mostly just possibilities. None may be true in your case or one might be.

  101. Cat*

    I feel you, OP. I joke all the time about how I wish I was independently wealthy and didn’t have to go to work. I also like the field I got into (libraries) and feel like I help provide a free important service to people in a world where everything is outrageously expensive.

    I think little things make the difference and if you can find yourself somewhere that values you and respects your work at least a little, it makes a difference. There are so many fields where you have to give everything and get very little back, monetarily or otherwise. For me personally, that environment makes it even harder to get out of bed.

  102. Please Make It!*

    I worked hard to get a job somewhere where 35 hours is full-time and where they allow condensed schedules. Working 4 days a week makes for long days, but having the 3 days off makes it all worth it. I can spend 2 days on errands and chores and still have that 3rd day off to relax. I wonder if your current job would allow for a condensed schedule or if you could look for a workplace that does? This kind of schedule is becoming more common where I live. If I was job hunting now it would be easier to get a job like that.

  103. Cruciatus*

    My first thought was also “get out of retail!”, but there are possibilities out there. A friend of mine works at a grocery store that just tried out four 10 hour days, 3 days off. Obviously it’s not for everyone, but it’s at least an option some places are considering (and you didn’t have to do it). Starbucks is known to be good to employees and I think they offer PT employees healthcare benefits. My local county government does as well. One department, the library, often hires PT employees and they get the same benefits as others. But even if you have to go full time, maybe another line of work will make it better. WFH opportunities, coworkers you like, the ability to do your job without constant oversight. It’s all a mix of learning what you like/are good at and finding a good department that is supportive. Might take a little while before you find the best combo for you.

  104. Sola Lingua Bona Lingua Mortua Est*

    It’s pretty normal.

    I’d probably work 40-50 hours per week even if I didn’t have to, but it wouldn’t be the job I have now. Just part of adulthood–they pay us because we’d rather be doing something else.

  105. 20ish female*

    I have found that in every stage and role I’ve been in there have been trade offs. In my teens and early 20s I did roles similar to OPs that were retail or customer service. Those roles were soul sucking and I would come home and literally have to zone out for hours. They were also very low pay, with few benefits so my husband and I were barely surviving. The thing is though, there was a lot of flexibility in scheduling and we had a lot of fun doing things we loved outside of work. I also never felt “bought in” to the company so if it wasn’t working out I would leave.

    As I’ve gotten “older”, I’m turning 30 this year, and after 2 kids my priorities have changed. I want to provide them a different kind of life and comfort so I skilled up and went back to school. For five years I worked in a terrible job making okayish money but still barely getting by. The benefits were great though and I learned a lot but was working 70-80 hours a week and never saw them. After losing my marbles, I found a happy middle ground. New job has much more flexibility, so I can pop out to the store, pick up my kids during the day, all that jazz, and am paid very very well as long as I am available for my clients if they need me. I work probably 30ish true hours a week which is wild to me, but at the same time when there is an issue on a weekend at 10:30 pm you bet your ass they expect me on that call.
    So really to say, you have to seek out and find what is truly valuable to you. For me it was flexibility, income, and investment options at the trade off of being available at a moments notice. It takes time to figure out what you value most and what trade offs you’re willing to give. Those things will also likely change as you both mature as a human and mature in your career. I’ll personally be ready to “climb the ladder” again in a year or so because I get bored and need the satisfaction that comes from continued upward mobility and increasing levels of complexity.

    We’re all diffeerent and that’s okay!! Just know, almost everyone has that crushing feeling of dread knowing we will likely need to work for 45-50 years of our lives. Just gotta find something that is somewhat tolerable.

  106. KingshighwayBlvd*

    If OP thinks they don’t want to work 40 hours a week at age 25, they might want to contemplate that they’ll even less want to do so at 55, 60, 65 or 70.

    Hustling now can lay the foundation for a decent retirement or early retirement, given the power of compounding investment returns. Plus, they need to get their credits toward Social Security and Medicare.

    I totally understand the desire to work less, believe me. But I don’t want to be a scared, dependent and impoverished oldster, either. There are still plenty of hours left in the week after a 40-hour job.

    Also, a huge percentage of marriages break up. Don’t let yourself become dependent on a spouse at such a young age. Try other types of jobs, temping, go back to community college, whatever it takes.

    1. NYNY*

      THIS. My mom worked full time except for 10 years when she had young children. She wants to quit now, at 70, but feels she has to save up for grandkids college. I tell her we can deal with it, but she feels it is the right thing to do.

      She will get max Social Security, and has always maxed up 401K. But she is worried about inflation and rising medical costs.

  107. amanda*

    ” I’m not disabled, but with the amount of time I’d spend working and then coming home exhausted and unmotivated, I worry that I won’t be able to keep up with basic chores around the house and take proper care of my animals.”

    Anyone who feels this way should really look into improving either their mental health, physical health, or time management strategies. I promise I’m not saying this to brag about how great I am, but there really are people out there who work full time (or more than full time) and have no problem keeping up with basic cooking, cleaning, pet care and exercise. But you need to be in decent health, which affects energy levels, and you need to understand where your time goes and how to manage your time in accordance with your values.

    Everyone should know that this is possible. It makes me really sad to think that there are people who are so exhausted and unmotivated after a standard 8-hour day. It doesn’t have to be like this.

    One hint: do a time diary to figure out where your time is going. Long car commutes and hours of screen time take up a lot of those 168 hours for most people (oh, and check out Laura Vanderkam’s book by that title!)

    1. Office Skeptic*

      I absolutely believe you that there people exist who have no problem with this, but I think they are the exception, at least in the USA. The amount of people talking about how the system is broken and exhausting (heck, even this comment section and Alison herself), the amount of self-help content trying to address the issue, the amount of mothers especially who are absolutely drowning, time use studies, the rise of burn out…it all points to this being a widespread issue.

    2. Box of Kittens*

      Yikes. No, it does not have to be this way but what it will take for it to not be is like, a worker’s revolution, not individuals trying to “optimize” their 168 hours via tips and tricks that are definitely capitalist grifts.

      1. Office Skeptic*

        Yes, 100%. And capitalism loves for us to focus on the few people who the system works for, so we can feel bad about our own failings and ignore the actual problem.

  108. Medium Sized Manager*

    Offering an alternate perspective – it is also very possible to enjoy your job! That doesn’t necessarily mean that you would prefer doing it to not working but that it doesn’t drain your mind, body, and soul.

    It also helps when you find the home routine that fits your work. For example, we do 90% of our chores on Sunday mornings so it can be knocked out quickly. After work is preserved for the “must dos” like cooking a meal and taking the dog out, but we still aim for low-energy processes.

  109. Peanut Hamper*

    Everything you describe is a feature, not a bug, of capitalism. It’s time for a better system before it destroys the planet.

    1. Colleen Whalen*

      Before capitalism existed – everyone still had to go to work – unless of course, they were born with a trust fund as Nepotism Babies and were heir/heiresses. We all have to work to pay our bills and I don’t think resenting having to work is valid.

      Of course, there are gold-diggers (both male and female) who deliberately search for a wealthy spouse who will financially support them, while they devote themselves to perpetually goofing off. I think the gold digger syndrome is gender neutral.

      About 5 years ago I knew a woman who had a high paying job, she had financial assets, Masters Degree, homeowner and she decided to marry a goofball slacker guy who had no real marketable skills at age 50. He had been earning minimum wage at dead end jobs all his adult life. This woman who had a net worth of about a million dollars decided to marry this slouch who lived in a dumpy studio with garage sale furniture – he was a stock clerk at Wal Mart for 20 years and still earned minimum wage – never got a raise. They were married for five years and then he announced at age 57 he was going to retire, but he cannot file for Social Security retirement until 66 – another 9 years! She actually put up with this and she went out and got an extra part time job to supplement her full time job. So now she is working TWO JOBs while her dead beat slacker husband has no job at retired at 57 with no pension and no income stream to contribute to their bills. Go figure. The wife actually agreed with this piffle and thinks it is wonderful that her husband goofs off in the hammock in the back yard, is learning a foreign language – all the while she is working 75 hours a week!

      I suppose there is a way to avoid having to work – latch onto a high earning spouse who willingly carry you financially – even if it means the employed spouse has a full time job plus another part time job to make ends meet.

      1. Peanut Hamper*

        Why do you assume the opposite of capitalism (or anything that isn’t capitalism) is just people lying around not working? Capitalism is a recent invention.

        You have drunk the kool-aid if your view of anything-not-capitalism is just lazy people mooching off others.

      2. Katara's side braids*

        Please point to where anyone suggested that no one would work outside of capitalism. I’ll wait.

  110. Dust Bunny*

    Pretty normal, although as much as I hate my long commute I really like my job and don’t find 40 hours onerous. But my workplace has good PTO and coworkers are chill about making sure we can all use time off when we need it. I used to work in something structurally similar to retail and it was so much worse because using the little time off I had was impossible because of short staffing. I’m far less stressed now. See what else seems possible in your area—you might find something less draining and with a better quality of life.

  111. Raida*

    Honestly if you’ve never worked a fulltime job before, and are part time in retail…
    You haven’t been building any qualifications/education/experience that will help you move into less tiring/more enjoyable work.

    I have a mate that decided early on (16) that she wasn’t gonna give up 8 hrs a day 5 days a week, so she looked into what she could learn to do freelance/consulting and set her own hours as soon as possible. She didn’t go to uni (what, lose another 3-4 years of my life?!). She did a couple TAFE courses (certification college here in Australia), did a Microsoft certification by herself just out of textbooks, and went around to the b2b businesses in town to offer they pay her 20% of what she makes them in the first six months.

    She works two days a week, six hour days, and her hourly rate (because so much of the work is done she just needs to implement it/run the tools she has) is astronomical.
    You didn’t have that realisation that early, so you’ve just gone along with the job(s) available and the hours on offer.

    Or my old dentist – he works two days a week, has a five day weekend. How? Dentistry pays well. He did it full time for long enough to start his own clinic with two others, then drop to 4 days a week, then three, then two. He just trundles out of his house in the morning, settles down in a chair and fishes.

    That’s dedication to a job that needs qualifications and uni before making any decent money.

    Well – if you need the money and insurance, go to full time. And immediately start looking into what you could do that isn’t retail. You won’t get more money per hour, you won’t get a promotion because the next couple of roles up the ladder are shift leads and assistant managers and those are more work you don’t want.
    Either you trudge through in a job you hate at low pay or you find a job you don’t hate at low pay or you find a job you are able to day xx days per week at high pay.

    You need alternate experience/qualifications than retail. So go get it. Retail sucks.

  112. Tess Ailshire*

    How do you do it? You do; it’s called “adulting”.

    You *find* a way. Perhaps you walk around with a dustrag at home and exercise by cleaning. Perhaps you find easier recipes, or efficient cleaning methods, or help. Perhaps you share chores, with each of you doing those you hate least.

    OR you decide what you can live without.

    1. Colleen Whalen*

      Or her husband could do his part and share with meal preparation, grocery shopping. Sounds like they need to both sit down together and create an equitable task sharing division of housework.

      This is SO annoying – even with two paycheck marriages where both the wife and husband are working full time – “little wife-y” is automatically expected to do that vast majority of housework, cooking, cleaning, grocery shopping, child care, writing thank you notes to the husbands relatives for a gift his side of the family gave him – WHY is the full time employed wife doing this? Go figure?
      In my personal experience I have realized at dinner parties at friends houses that as soon as the meal was finished ALL the women would automatically jump up to clear the table and do the dishes to clean up……then the men would all go sit in the living room, chatting, socializing and goofing off, while all the women were in the kitchen, toiling away to clean up after the dinner party meal was finished.

      It is not some plot created by men to “oppress women” – there are some women who voluntarily buy into this. Then there are some men (but NOT all men) who just flat out refuse to lift a finger to do housework, despite their wife also working full time.

      The OP is working part time and the husband is working full time – so it is only fair that she is doing the lions share of housework BUT if she winds up working full time – then her husband needs to pitch in and split ALL of the cooking, cleaning, housework to keep the place clean straight down the middle – 50% – 50% split.

      Nobody does housework because they “enjoy it” – the same dynamic applies to the reason why people work 40 hours a week – not because we want to – but because we have bills to pay.

  113. Burnt Out Freelancer*

    This is the exact reason I am not looking for a job yet, although AI has basically taken over my freelance job, work volume has plummeted and rates along with it.

    While freelancing has been exhausting at times, I also have freedom to decide which projects I work on and at what time.

    Where I live salaries are horrifyingly low, but even if they were higher, no one would be able to pay something that would compensate for the loss of autonomy.

    Even though I love my job and I’d actually do it as a leisure activity, I’d rather use my time for other things: family and friends, exercising, reading, travelling, you name it. I would love to be able to carry on studying, but it’s incompatible with paying bills.

  114. mztery1*

    One q – what kind of health insurance SPECIFICALLY doesn’t cover emergencies? I have not heard of group insurance with that kind of issue. I know our insurance doesn’t pay much if we use the ER as an urgent care, which I understand is quite common, but OP said they don’t cover any type of 911 type
    ” emergency.” So if there’s any choice its a misunderstanding OP may have a few options.

    1. ENFP in Texas*

      If the OP is part time, their employer does not need to provide complete medical insurance coverage, as the ACA regulations for MEC don’t apply for part-time employees. They may provide some benefits and not others.

  115. mztery1*

    I also have given up a LOT to work part time for many years – but it’s been a constantly evolving choice over the years.

  116. Hiring Mgr*

    If there are household things that aren’t getting done in the current setup, would it make sense to also consider your husband working part time if you go to full?

    Maybe the insurance set up will work out better also

  117. HR Girl*

    I genuinely like my job and the people I work with. Would I do this if I didn’t need money to pay for life? Absolutely not.

  118. HomerJaySimpson*

    You may also find that if you work a shorter workweek with longer workdays it’s more tolerable. I work 36-42 hours a week but I work Saturday Sunday Monday and have Tuesday through Friday off. I’m a lot less tired because I get so much consecutive time off and I’m not commuting 5 days a week. Maybe that’s a possibility for OP?

  119. Wait, did I write this?*

    yeah I still don’t understand how people have enough spoons to work full time, get sleep, actually do household chores, AND have time-intensive pets (like dogs) or hobbies, let alone children.

    there was a brief time where 40 hrs felt sustainable for me but it definitely requires no commute… and it ended.

  120. Llellayena*

    Did anyone else notice that the “related links” are all yesterday’s posts? Might need a reset on the algorithm?

  121. Effing Mono?!?!*

    I was in such a similar situation a few years ago and I didn’t realize how bad retail work was affecting my quality of life until I got out. The pressure to be “on” all the time, make the sale, and make small talk with strangers is not something that comes naturally to me.

    I was scared that I didn’t have any skills applicable to other jobs without starting at the bottom and taking a pay cut. It was a risk I may have ended up taking if I hadn’t negotiated salary at my new position to match my current pay. They told me they would, but I might not get as many raises as my coworkers in the future.

    Within the next three years my salary kept going up, up, up waaaay faster than my 6 years in retail. This year I got a 10% raise, the largest I’ve ever had in one go. I finally have disposable income, a schedule with routine hours, and a job more suited to my personality (I work in a library).

    Leave retail behind in a heartbeat. Dig deep into what kind of personality you have and tasks you enjoy, and start trying to find a better match. I wish you luck.

  122. Head sheep counter*

    So I’m 49 and have been working since I was 14 (as a kid the paper route and babysitting was work too but… paycheck type jobs since it was legal to get hours). Enjoyment has varied wildly but needing to eat, house myself, pay my bills and hope for something beyond that meant… that enjoyment was not the primary driver. My husband got his PhD and was… unpleasantly surprised to find out what working in a non-university setting meant (basically clocking a normal-ish office hours and behaving like… a colleague vs a student). Blending my pragmatic … well … its work and I need to earn money … with his … its a waste of time … was an adventure. We are now almost there and just in time to think retirement.

    My advice? Is think what do you want in 5 years, 10 years and then 20 years. Your cost of living is low now, but if you were to have a life change or want a life change are you limiting your self? If you see yourself having flexibility well into the future for the things you want, then find a less taxing job that gives some better benefits. If you don’t have the flexibility you want in out years, then now might be the time to reconsider your overall strategy and see what you can do to increase your take home pay. There are a lot of good ideas here.

    As an aside, I too would hope you’ve had your health checked. Its fine to be low energy but its good to know there isn’t a underlying issue (or to know what that issue is). It feels to this old dog like you are on the young side to be overwhelmed… but to be fair I had something like 2 near-full time retail jobs in my early twenties so… my perception is… skewed.

  123. Office Skeptic*

    I’d recommend the article “Your Lifestyle Has Already Been Designed”: “The ultimate tool for corporations to sustain a culture of this sort is to develop the 40-hour workweek as the normal lifestyle. Under these working conditions people have to build a life in the evenings and on weekends. This arrangement makes us naturally more inclined to spend heavily on entertainment and conveniences because our free time is so scarce.” Worth a read.

  124. MichaelShelleyRights*

    Yeah, I feel this… I’m a few years older than you, LW, and I have no idea how I’m going to handle full-time work moving forward. I’ve been out of the workforce for a year thanks to what we’ll call severe burnout, and now I kind of have to return somewhat prematurely if I want health insurance next year. (It’s a long story—basically I’m caught in a coverage gap where I don’t qualify for Medicaid or an ACA subsidy.)

    The problem is, I’ve gotten massively stressed out at every job I’ve ever had, which then makes my health worse, which eventually means I have to stop working to recover… repeat ad nauseam. Wheeeee.

    And now that I’m done dumping all my issues on you, LW: hugs if you want them. We’re all so exhausted. Especially people around our age. I feel like everyone I know is barely keeping it together these days.

  125. Silverose*

    I *am* disabled and still work full-time – because if I didn’t, neither I nor my spouse would have health benefits to treat our chronic illnesses or the ability to pay our rent or keep food on the table. My spouse worked almost full-time in an industry that didn’t believe in health benefits when we met and got married…until they got injured and couldn’t do the job anymore. Now my spouse is a full time student at 47 to retrain for a new, less labor intensive field – and spends more time on school stuff than I do at my job while we try to make a single income work in a HCOL area.

    Do I want to work full-time? No. Can my body really handle me working full-time? Also no. Do I have a choice? Nope, not really. As adults, we frequently have to do things we don’t like in order to survive and have any chance at all to thrive.

  126. Correlation is not causation*

    Another thing to consider is looking at what is really necessary. A few years ago my husband and I took a hard look at our expenses and made some really difficult decisions about things that always felt like necessitites. For us it involved diving into minimalism and figuring out how to make due with what we had or learn to go without.
    It has not been easy, but it’s afforded me the ability to go back to school and cut my hours to part time. When I finish school I’ll return to full time, but I doubt I’ll ever go back to feeling entitled to new clothes after a bad day or eating out because I’m too tired to cook. I’ m not saying OP does either of those things, but spending less money has really given us more options with our time and energy.

  127. Apple Townes*

    That it’s 2023 and a 40-hour workweek is still the norm is the scam of the century. 50-60 years ago, economists were predicting that technology would lead to such massive gains in efficiency that people in all kinds of jobs would work many fewer hours. The first part (technology = greater efficiency) has mostly panned out, but the second part, not so much.

  128. Anon 4 this*

    LW, I’m 51 and have only worked a full-time job maybe 2 years out of the last thirty. If you can find a way to not work for someone else, I highly recommend it. I did it with a combo of frugality, a well-earning spouse – now ex, and some generational wealth. (I had 100K in school debt, which was stupid parental stuff, but muddled through that).

    Anyway, have you considered buying rental property or finding ways to earn income without working? I borrowed for my first property and spun that out into multiple properties/ monthly earnings. It can be a hassle, but not a 40 hour a week hassle every single week. It’s how my grandparents supplemented/made money because the discrimination against them black/latino meant no matter how much work, wages would always be low.

    Flipping houses? Flipping cars? (I know someone who has classic cars restored and resells them). There are ways, if you’re savvy, to turn a small amount of money into something bigger – and if you can use the bank’s money for that…

    Or have you looked into getting a degree/cert that can earn you a high hourly wage, but is flexible?

    (P.S. I read the blog because of the OMFG and because I’ve been an employer/manager).

    1. Angry socialist*

      Have you considered having generational wealth and immense privilege? Have you considered marrying rich?


    2. Dust Bunny*

      “I did it with a combo of frugality, a well-earning spouse – now ex, and some generational wealth.”

      Those are some pretty big “but”s, though, and ones most of us can’t acquire for ourselves.

  129. Coin Purse*

    As a two income/no kid household for 40 years, both working 60-80 hours a week, I can assure you very little housework got done. In retirement we are digging out!

  130. Medobee*

    I expect since your spouse has been working full time you’ve taken on most of the household tasks, so make sure you reset that if you switch to full time!
    My advice to new working parents applies here too, lower your household standards! Decide whether you care more about cleanliness, making great meals, or going out to see friends, for example. Let go of perfection and prioritize ruthlessly.
    And good luck finding a career that’s more fulfilling. That helps a lot.

  131. I'm the Phoebe in Any Group*

    If you could get a job that pays better than retail, maybe you can still work part-time and purchase insurance through the Marketplace would give you the coverage you need for less than the cost of joining your husband’s policy. It’s worth pricing even at your current job. Good luck.

  132. summerofdiscontent*

    Oh OP, I have a lot of empathy for your position. Totally get it.

    First off, retail is HARD. It’s draining on every level and people aren’t always kind and polite. It takes it out if you. Please don’t beat yourself up for being exhausted by doing this part time. I did full time food and beverage up until age 30- I was burnt out, exhausted, and a shell of myself. Long term, it was a terrible job for me.

    So, perhaps that’s where you start- what kind of job would be tolerable to you? And if that job is not immediately accessible to you, what are the steps you need to take to move in that direction? It’ll likely mean another period of grinding away with low pay or training, but it’s better to do that now than when you’re older.

    Also, identify the characteristics of the job you want (and the kind of boss you want as well). It sounds like you want a job that won’t leave you constantly drained, so a place that encourages a good work-life balance (in office or at home) that you can leave behind at the end of the day.

    And don’t hold your home and food to impossible standards- find out how to cook big batch meals that are filling and healthy enough that’ll last you days at a time. Let go of some chores immediately and have an honest conversation about splitting chores fairly with your spouse. And build in intentional time (even if it’s just a few minutes) to be with your animals before and after work. I miss my animals when I’m at work, but it helps to find small ways to be with them when I’m too tired to go all out with them in the evening.

    And if you manage to snag a work from home position and find that you’re still struggling, really explore the commentariat on this website. Several people here work from home and have amazing tips on how to manage it.

    Best of luck! I’m rooting for you!

  133. GreyjoyGardens*

    I will chime in with everyone else and say that retail is uniquely draining and energy-sapping (as well as soul-sapping). If you can possibly get a job that is not retail or food service, I think this will help at least a little.

    The people who manage to work full time and still have a life outside of work almost always have sit-down office jobs (that are not BigLaw or Big Consulting or one of those churn and burn high-powered jobs, that’s a whole different beast), a commute that is not too long, and at least reasonably OK health. It might be worth it to have a checkup just in case there is something going on with your health that a doctor can fix or ameliorate – hypothyroidism, sleep apnea, depression, any number of issues can be energy-sapping and make you feel like you can’t do much but work, sleep, or “veg out.” Other than that, there is also a learning curve for most people as they adjust to working 40 hours a week and prioritizing their free time. For *most* people it does get easier, whether they find their groove, get to a place where they can afford to hire help, or, most of all, get out of retail and food service.

  134. GreyjoyGardens*

    Also, P.S. – something that is a godsend for anyone who cooks for one or two people: a vacuum sealer for leftovers! They last longer and freeze well. If you can’t stand the thought of eating beef Stroganoff or lentil dal or chicken soup three days in a row, a vacuum sealer is your friend. You can cook in batches, eat some and freeze some, and your leftovers will last a lot longer.

  135. Jay*

    There are some jobs that let you “frontload” your hours, working very, very long hours for a few weeks and then little to no work at all for a few. I had one of those for nearly 20 years and I loved it! My current job is hugely flexible compared to most corporate gigs and it still feels exhausting, even though I actually work fewer total hours and do much less physical labor.
    Mine required a specialized degree and had it’s own share of problems, but those types of jobs DO exist and might just prove more palatable to you, especially while you are still young.

  136. the bat in the office popcorn machine*

    I’m convinced we’d do fine at 30 hr work weeks and the extra 10 just creates problems in the long term because people need things to do with it.

    1. Glen*

      Read Graeber’s “Bullshit Jobs”, long story short he did quite a bit of work that not only agrees with you but iirc thinks we could go quite a bit lower. Frustratingly trials have been showing that a lot of jobs are just as productive over all with a 4 day week, but businesses won’t lift wages to make up the difference and shift us over to 32h/week, and I am about 75% convinced it’s because too much free time might lead us to think about just what else is being inflicted on the working class just to keep us tired and largely complacent, and not for any real benefit.

      1. the bat in the office popcorn machine*

        Truly 40 hrs probably makes us less productive as a whole. It’s so much time — you try to fill it with many things rather than effectively using it to do your core tasks efficiently (and to stop and think). The pursuit of endless productivity is unproductive!

  137. Ana Gram*

    Having to work sucks. I work in public safety for several reasons but the hours are a big factor. When I was a paramedic I worked 24 hour shifts (so I only worked 8 days/month) and eventually moved to 12 hour shifts (so only 15 days/month). I much preferred that to my standard M-F that I have now. I also liked being able to sleep at work but they frown on that in the office lol!

  138. Tired peon*

    This is why so many people play the lottery – most people’s dream to never have to work again. They may choose to, but that’s different than HAS to.

  139. DJ Abbott*

    Hi, I’d like to chime in that office work is good. It’s less physically demanding and more comfortable, and you’re usually respected as an adult. I’ve done it since the 90’s.
    It’s also easier on the body as you get older. I worked in a grocery store deli in 2021 and it was an eye opener. If I had been doing that all these years I would be physically worn out, and not had any of the good things I had in my free time. I would have been too tired.
    Some people enjoy physical work and have the skills and stamina to do it into their 60’s. If you aren’t like this, office work is the way to go.
    Temping can get you started, and one good path is executive assistant. It usually has decent pay and benefits without being too demanding. You have to be ok around spoiled, entitled executives though.
    My current job is front desk at a financial office. I answer phones live and help with complex things by phone and in person. This customer service work can be draining, but not as bad as retail, and I mostly enjoy it. If you want something that’s not draining the less contact with the public, the better.
    Good luck! If you figure out how to have full-time salary and benefits for part-time hours, could you let us know? ;)

  140. Late, Not Lazy*

    I totally relate! On my end, I realized it’s partially adhd that continues… I use all of my “focus on not fun things” and decision making things a energy at work, so there’s none left for home. still working on figuring out, but one idea is part-time office work. The pay might be higher, a d as many others have pointed out, you might be less fatigued by it since it will be less physical and less publicly social than retail.

  141. PDB*

    So, I haven’t read all 7 million comments so this may be redundant but get out of retail. To anything.
    But first take an inventory of skills and interests, and not in a “I had this job and then that job” but stuff you know how to do and stuff you’re interested in.
    What do you like to do? Work with your hands? Solve puzzles? Try something you like to do. You’re young enough that a false start or two won’t hurt. And don’t dismiss “work with your hands” too quickly. Plenty of jobs like that do not require big manly men lifting things. I had a unique “work with your hands” job where the heaviest thing I lifted was an LP record.
    Good luck. When you find it it won’t seem like work at all.

  142. Colleen Whalen*

    If the OP is bored, restless and dislikes working full time in a dead end, low paying retail job then I warmly encourage the OP to explore OTHER types of work – not just another dead end, semi skilled job like fast food or being a childcare worker – but go to TRADE SCHOOL and complete a certificate program in an In Demand Profession that pays well and has a career path. I want to encourage the OP to contact their local community college and explore various certificate programs that can be completed in one or two years. In my city there is a network of community colleges that offer about 60 different certificate programs – 1 or 2 years – upon completion the entry level salaries start around $60,000 and as high as $95,000 a year. No General Ed requirement with a 1 or 2 year trade school certificate program – no classes to complete in history, humanities, philosophy – because the General Ed required classes for a B.A. are NOT geared towards earning a living – but instead to make a person well rounded with an understanding of various disciplines such as philosophy, psychology, sociology, history – not job skills to earn a living.

    I’m retired but if I was a young person in my 20’s I WOULD NOT waste my time and student loan debt on a 4 year degree. A B.A. in a major that does not translate into paid employment is a completely wasted effort. We don’t need any more English majors or Humanities, Liberal Arts, Sociology, Drama, Art majors. If I was in my early to mid-20s and stuck in a dead end boring retail job I would jump ship and enroll in skilled trade school certificate program. Electricians and plumbers earn as much as lawyers! In fact, there is a GLUT of lawyers and not enough jobs for recent law school grads. There used to be a massive amount of snobbery against blue collar jobs, but technology has changed and now the skilled trade blue collar jobs typically pay far more than a white collar job AND there is a huge demand for these skilled blue collar trades. If that doesn’t appeal to the OP then focus on a 2 year certificate program in computers, high tech, etc.

    Frankly NOBODY wants to go to work in the morning all excited, jumping up and down with joy – except for movie stars, rock stars and best selling authors!

    In closing, I want to warn the OP against depending on her husband’s income and continuing her path of sliding along on a dead end part time retail job at minimum wage. Assuming she graduated from high school at 18 – now 7 years has passed and she is treading water at a mind numbing, boring, dead end retail minimum wage job. I hope the OP does not succumb to settling for depending on her husbands income and sticking to the retail job grind. Love fades, people get divorced at 51% statistic in the USA – what if the OP’s marriage falls apart in 10 years? Then she will be in her mid-30’s with almost no marketable skills except cashier in a retail store or stock clerk.

    Whenever I read in this column people writing about searching for their “Dream Job” I wince and laugh out loud. Guess what? There ARE no “Dream Jobs.” People go to work because they have bills to pay. It is not your job that is going to fulfill you with a warm feeling of satisfaction. Very few jobs are exciting, glamorous and rewarding – it is a way to get the bills paid. It is what we all do after work – during our free time that is where we can find self fulfillment and feel that warm fuzzy feeling of happiness. Developing hobbies, our relationship with family and friends, doing volunteer work, recreational activities…..THAT is the fun stuff that makes life worthwhile – the vast majority of people on earth work because they have to – to pay the bills. I owe, I owe, so off to work I go!

    1. Guin*

      This is solid, practical advice. Like you, I am concerned that someone in their 20s is relying on their husband to support them. Not a safe outlook, in my opinion.

      1. Colleen Whalen*

        Thanks for the compliment……..yes, I was seeing a great big honkin’ red flag when the OP wrote she depends on her husbands full time income to make ends meet. No explanation what she has been doing in the 7 years since she graduated high school…..was it all just the grind of retail cashier dead end jobs? The only difference between a rut and a grave is in the dimensions!

        OP is only 25 and still quite young and she can jump ship and do some serious career exploration – she needs JOB TRAINING – maybe not a 4 year degree but an In Demand Profession skilled vocational trade.

    2. Roeslein*

      Generally agree, except of course plenty of people do enjoy their jobs! I do mine. It’s not sexy, but it’s useful to society, it fulfils my need for intellectual stimulation and I am good at it. I wouldn’t choose to work part-time even if I could afford it. I am sure plenty of folks in trade do enjoy their jobs as well – it’s actually very satisfying to use one’s skills to deliver solid, useful work.

    3. gmg22*

      “Frankly NOBODY wants to go to work in the morning all excited, jumping up and down with joy – except for movie stars, rock stars and best selling authors!”

      Yep. And even movie stars have that dreaded 3 am call time, rock stars get sick of yet another overnight on the tour bus, and best selling authors get writer’s block. No job is perfect 100% of the time.

    4. Pescadero*

      “Electricians and plumbers earn as much as lawyers!”

      can we just… not with this?

      I’m a big supporter of the trades – but lets be realistic here.

      The average salary for a journeyman electrician is $54,526 in the US.
      The average salary for a lawyer is $163,770 in the US.

      1. catsoverpeople*

        THIS. And let’s not forget that trade school is not free, either. I’m trying to google my way to an answer and get “anywhere from $1,000 to $20,000” for electrician and “between $3,000 and $23,000” for plumber.
        That is not including the cost of tools or a vehicle that holds your equipment, and so on. Okay, the low end sounds doable, but someone who’s already struggling financially is not just going to magically come up with that kind of money — they’ll still be taking out student loans.

  143. MsElectra*

    I never comment here (read obsessively though!) but came on to say that I have not had a 9-5 office (or retail) type job since I was 25 – I just turned 58. It can be done, and it’s totally reasonable to (want to) organize your life differently. That said, a lot of that was grad school I’ve worked much longer hours, (#AltAc) and still do some very intense weeks/months and have the privilege of parents who could help out with stuff like student debt and down payment loans, plus a spouse with a “normal” (although now completely remote) job that means I have health insurance and he pays more than his share of household expenses.

    I thought OP’s generation was all about the pleasures and perils of the gig economy? Which in a way is what I’ve done (hello 1099s) for much of my life – three part-time jobs right now that are seasonal, don’t pay well, but are fulfilling, well, most of the time.

    Not sure if any of that is actually helpful to OP, except to say I hear you and 25 is tough!! But also a good life stage to do the old “what color is your parachute” Good luck!

  144. LifeBeforeCorona*

    I enjoy my job and the challenges but at the same time I’m dropping down to parttime hours for the winter and I’m really looking forward to it. Yes very much to 2 extra days off every week.

  145. MsElectra*

    I never comment here (read obsessively though!) but came on to say that I have not had a 9-5 office (or retail) type job since I was 25 – I just turned 58. It can be done, and it’s totally reasonable to (want to) organize your life differently. That said, a lot of that was grad school, I’ve worked much longer hours, (#AltAc) and still do some very intense weeks/months and have the privilege of parents who could help out with stuff like student debt and down payment loans, plus a spouse with a “normal” (although now completely remote) job that means I have health insurance and he pays more than his share of household expenses.

    I thought OP’s generation was all about the pleasures and perils of the gig economy? Which in a way is what I’ve done (hello 1099s) for much of my life – three part-time jobs right now that are seasonal, don’t pay well, but are fulfilling, well, most of the time.

    Not sure if any of that is actually helpful to OP, except to say I hear you and 25 is tough!! But also a good life stage to do the old “what color is your parachute” Good luck!

    1. Glen*

      there are very few people who are “all about” the gig economy. Owners love it because it keeps their workers precarious and the wage bill low. Workers mostly hate it because, well. It keeps us low paid and precarious. It’s great that you like it but for the vast majority of us it’s not feasible. OP’s generation didn’t choose and don’t want the gig economy; it’s been forced on us and is actively making things worse for us.

  146. Guin*

    I would caution someone as young as OP to not depend on her husband to support her and her pets forever. Working parttime with no savings in her 20s is not in her best interest; she needs to be earning and saving her own money in case they split up. No judge is going to award alimony if there are no kids and she is fully capable of working a full-time job, even though she doesn’t want to.

    1. Colleen Whalen*

      Nobody gets “alimony” anymore. That phrase went out of fashion in the 1980’s. It is called “spousal support” and is supposed to be a relatively short term temporary financial payment every month while the divorced spouse with little to no skills either completes job training or if they have some marketable skill – they get “spousal support” until they go out and find a job…..there is always a set deadline time frame to get that job – “spousal support” is not a permanent long term income stream.

      Of course, in bling-bling celebrity divorces – a spouse can walk off with a zillion dollars they don’t deserve…….look at long suffering Brittney Spears. Her first husband Gold-Digger dim bulb Kevin Federline managed to get 18 years of a massive amount of child support from his ex wife – he got custody of their kids and then sat on his duffer for the last 18 years, unemployed. Kevin Federline has stayed unemployed the last 18 years and has been living off his MASSIVE child support which made him a multi-millionaire. Now one of their kids is about to age out and turn 18 so that “gravy train” of child support will end in a few months. Spears is still on the hook for a gynormous amount of child support for another couple of years for their other child she had with Kevin Federline, who is still underage……..now she had a very short lived marriage to Gold-Digger Husband #2. I think they were married 17 months and he wants to walk off with $100 million? This is so very sad……..it seems even pre-nuptual agreements can be broken and a Gold-Digger spouse can walk off with a massive fortune at the expense of their ex.

      For the rest of us working stiffs, Joe Six-pack people – never, ever, ever depend on the income of your spouse to financially support you for life. 51% divorce statistics in the USA!

  147. quietquitter*

    Maybe an unpopular opinion, but in this day and age of stagnant wages and unprecedented corporate greed, I genuinely endorse any form of “quiet quitting, “acting your wage”, “lazy ‘girl’ jobs”, etc. In other words, claim back whatever time you can, because you won’t get it back. Ideally, you achieve this by finding a position/boss that has realistic output expectations and doesn’t punish you for efficiency by giving you even more work, who lets you flex your energy/time when needed because you’re human and not a machine, and above all compensates you fairly (as in equitably for the role, but also in regards to the realities of our current economy). It’s very difficult to find a job like this. It’s become increasingly normalized for employers to expect workers to present a facade of constant busyness, and even enthusiasm for trading most of our time and energy away from our loves; our families, our passions, the whole rest of our lives.

    So in the case of not finding such a job, other tactics become necessary (and in my view, entirely justified). Don’t push yourself to be the “best” or the fastest worker. Don’t volunteer for OT. For the love of god, don’t do ANY work off the clock – this includes stuff like checking emails or “being available” or even being onsite 5 minutes before your shift (clock in 5 minutes early if they insist on you being physically present 5 minutes before the shift starts). Take your time getting coffee or refilling supplies or going to the bathroom. Get an office or wfh gig if you can, not customer-facing if possible, where ideally you can do things like listen to music or audio books while working on rote or mindless tasks (so at least you can squeeze some pleasure or self-development out of your time, or if wfh do laundry/tidy up during online meetings – camera and sound off, obviously). Schedule “private meetings” with no one to free up some space on your calendar. If you are clever/techie enough, find a way to surreptitiously automate some tasks and spend the saved time doing something for yourself. If your company has a use-it-or-lose policy in regards to sick time, use it (strategically of course, in case you do actually get sick), and obviously take – ACTUALLY take!- your vacation time as well (leave your work phone turned off if you have one and block your boss’s number if you have to!).

    And before anyone @s me about time theft or work ethic or whatever… I have been a very hard worker since I was a teenager. And I have little to show for it. I’ll probably never be able to afford a house. I’m one medical emergency from losing what savings I have, and one more big rent hike from having to upend my life and move to a different area, again. My retirement savings likely won’t be enough to sustain me if costs continue to rise, and there’s a high likelihood I’ll be working well into old age… assuming I physically can. I have chronic illnesses that were either worsened or caused directly from stress and physical overwork from the jobs I’ve held, and even if I wanted to I already can’t push myself at work the way I used to. Sadly, I also can’t do a number of things I used to love. I’m not even 40.

    So OP, gather ye rosebuds. Your time and energy is precious. I regret the “rules” I have followed far more than I do breaking them. I regret not realizing sooner that I could.

    1. Glen*

      “give us bread, but give us roses”. You’re 100% correct. And while corporate greed isn’t really unprecedented (things were worse in the past – the fall of the Soviet union and American labour and socialist movements – which is mirrored in my own home country of Australia – have simply led corporations to feel safe clawing back some advancements in worker’s rights) it certainly is on the rise and is not worth suffering for. I don’t think there’s anything ethically wrong with anything you’re saying. Remember that definitionally your boss is paying you far less than the value you produce, that’s what “profit” is (and it’s A Lot; I have had positions where I was paid around 20% of my billable rate, which I know because, you know, I was billing my time). Anything you can do to redress that balance is fair game. They sure do not mind doing anything they can to force as much value out of us as humanly possible, legal or illegal, ethical or unethical. If they had the common decency to set a reasonable return rate and stick to it I might feel differently but in reality there’s a whole lotta people out there getting most of the money you bring in simply because they own the place you work, usually because they were lucky enough to start out with money they never earned and used to buy the places people work specifically so they could profit off your labour without needing to do anything productive themselves.

  148. Tiger Snake*

    There are very, very few people who like working 40+ hours a week. Pretty much everyone would love to work 20hrs or less.
    But we can’t. Because we need the cash, the long-term retirement fund, and the medical insurance. Our society is simply not built or set up to support the world where everyone only needs to work part time.
    And yes, that is unfortunate. It is frustrating. It might even be unfair. But it is what it is. We are not working dream jobs and for the pleasure of work, we are working because it is necessary.

    You are now in the position that all of us have been in before, with the same decisions we have also made. You are normal and your feelings are normal.

    But there’s also no magical potion to fix you or give you the life you want on a part-time salary we can give you. 90% of us did not find the magical silver bullet – we simply investigated all our options, looked at all the alternative types of earning and income and the other pluses and minuses they brought, and did the best we could. Not perfection, but priorisation of what parts we were and were not willing to compromise and change about that ideal we wanted.

  149. T'Cael Zaanidor Kilyle*

    LW, if you and spouse can make it work as a 1.5-income household, more power to you! But if you can’t, I do agree with those who have said that getting out of retail may make things seem more manageable. Retail’s a bitca (with apologies to Buffy), and you may find that 40 hours a week doing something else FEELS about the same as 25 hours a week doing retail.

    1. Colleen Whalen*

      I agree with your beliefs about retail jobs – but I have no idea what is”bitca” or Buffy reference means.

      I really was never a retail store job path type of person – I always worked white collar corporate jobs – but in a pinch, when I was laid off my job and quite frankly desperate – I had two different cashier jobs and LOATHED IT. I was really shocked how cranky, rude, dismissive and surly so many retail customers are! Now this seems like a minor issue – but after 4 hours of handling paper folding money and metal coins my hands were filthy dirty and it was imperative to go to the restroom and thoroughly wash my hands since they were covered in grime….heck, cashiers and retail workers who handle money all day long are at much higher risk for catching the flu, colds etc just due to all that money handling. I heard there are much less germs in the toilet than compared to all the cooties and gunk on paper folding money and metal coins!

      During my two relatively short tenure at two different “Survival Emergency Jobs” cashier jobs I was sneered at, given the “Stink Eye” the exagerrated eye roll sneer and loud audible verbal sigh of disgust from retail customers for no reason at all. Some retail customers really think just because the worker is a stock clerk or cashier that they are not human and don’t have feelings and anyone can just DUMP ON THEM for no reason at all. I was also threatened with physical assault by out of control customers. I quit on the spot with no notice when a deranged customer walked around the cashier counter and came behind to me where I was standing at the register and he was going to put his hands on me and throttle me. This crappy job was at The Dollar Store. My manager was standing nearby and I asked him to kick out the violent customer. My manager said “The customer wants to buy a soda – so take his dollar and serve him”. That was when I Cold Quit and handed the Dollar Store manager my name badge and told him to go pound sand. Walked off the job on the spot, never looked back…….BTW The Dollar Store screwed me over on my last paycheck and kept $70.00 of my wages. I heard about six months ago they are going bankrupt………LOL, hah, hah, hah! Karma came back and bit ’em on the fanny!

      Nowadays nobody wants to work in retail – even when it pays up to $17.00 an hour, here in California. Big Box stores such as Target, CVS, Walgreens are all closing in certain cities due to losing hundreds of millions from organized crime shoplifting, Smash and Grab. Here in California it is LEGAL to shoplift up to $950 of merchandise and just walk out of the store. The police will not show up of the store mgr calls 911 and the District Attorneys in California cannot file theft charges, since shoplifting is not considered a crime anywhere here in California. Statewide, this has cost retailers several billion dollars in lost revenue. San Diego, San Francisco, Oakland, Sacramento, Pittsburgh are some of the cities that Big Box Stores are shutting down and all sales will be online via internet e-commerce instead. Target has been hit really hard. The Target store a few blocks from where I live was SET ON FIRE in the cosmetics dept. A shoplifter tried to create a diversion by setting on fire all the packages of cotton balls in the cosmetic department – the fire reached the roof of the store. Then the shoplifter went over to the electronics dept where the glass case was, smashed it open and was boosting expensive electronics equipment. Fire truck showed up – put out the fire and fortunately some store staff, tackled the shoplifter and held him down until police showed up. This is one of the VERY RARE times a shoplifter gets arrested and sent to jail. It was because of the arson fire starter crime – not the actual attempt at shoplifting. The other charge that resulted in the jail sentence was destruction of property – smashing the glass case in electronics dept. Not a crime to actually shoplift here in California!

      Although working in a retail store is a really crappy job – there are thousands of employees who are being thrown out of work and laid off due to so many Big Box stores closing here in California and other parts of the country due to organized crime Smash and Grab shoplifting. These thieves are not just petty theft shoplifters who boost a couple of items and flee the store. It is Organized Crime of gang members who work in crews that invade a store – 20 – 30 thieves working together at the same time and strip the store as looters in gang activity.

  150. el l*

    I’m going to go against the flow of comments and say that I honestly enjoy what I do. Not everyone, but some people do, and I’m one. For what it’s worth, it’s just that I enjoy problem solving and makes me feel that I’m growing and changing from where I started. I find that more lasting than big money or feeling that I’m changing society.

    Honestly, you might take a page from my writer friends and get yourself what I call a “civil servant” gig (even if it isn’t literally in the civil service). An office job, not demanding, perhaps less than 40 hours per week, and when you’re out for the day you’re done. The objective is to leave you time and energy for your other priorities – but give you health insurance and the ability to go out every now and then.

    1. Inkognyto*

      I work in Information Security over 20 years, no college (there wasn’t any decades ago).

      I enjoy what I do. I’m mentally exhausted with some of the challenges sometimes. I’m good at what I do. Most in this field are not lasting 10 years. I can do this until I retire in another 20. When I was young I absorbed knowledge, took on challenges, and never stopped learning. I’m very good at analysis, troubleshooting and finding solutions. I though others were but people come to me for solutions for all kinds of things, because my mind just loves to find them.

      I can choose what area of the Info Sec field I want to work in, and I spend overall a lot less energy because of that experience. I mostly do project work now. My boss removes any challenges and roadblocks. I get my tasks/projects and I finish them and make everyone happy. Do I work 40 hrs a week? Probably not, but part of my job is also research and looking for vulnerabilities and areas for improvement. I can literally spend days trying to find solutions to some security issues we have with nothing to show for it because when I find something, the value is in the data being protected in a proper manner.

      This summer alone I got told like 30+ times by the director I report too “logoff, you did enough for the day at 3-4pm”. I start anywhere from 8-9am. I met the daily goals for the projects, and he knows that it’s hard to do something in the last 1-2 hrs of work starting. Just let someone not burnout and be done.

      Now I just need to keep going for 20 more years to save for retirement as I got a late start, and I was majorly underpaid for years. I’m so not now.

      1. Inkognyto*

        Let me add to that I did many jobs from age 18-27. From age 12-24ish I worked for my father a lot as an apprentice electrician. He had his own business that was sometimes him, and sometimes 1-2 others. I could have ran that business. He’s one reason why I’m so good at troubleshooting. By 18 had helped troubleshoot hundreds of shorts and other issues. Troubleshooting and analysis is standard, what you are trying to fix based on the fields you have experience in. By 20 I could have been journeyman as I had enough hours in.
        I didn’t want too. Why? I saw how hard it was, and this was in Minnesota. I helped pull wire where we had a heater so we could uncoil it. I’d dug more 50 ft trenches to bury wire for a light somewhere in a yard that I ever wanted to do again.

        eventually I found computers, got one of my own and just learned everything, and eventually help desk jobs to make decent money but what I wasn’t making up in money those overnight shifts, I messed around on my workstation and others to learn, and that got me promoted and knowledge. I turned a hobby into a job/career.

  151. Hybrid Employee (Part Human, Part Wolf)*

    I remember, on my second day of my first full time job, I woke up and thought, “wow, you really have to go to work *every day,* huh?” Just the realization that I couldn’t just find coverage for the day like with my previous shift work.

    This to say: I feel you, bud, but it gets easier with practice.

  152. JaneDough(not)*

    LW, retail is draining — that’s one reason you dread a 40-hour week. My first job out of college was at Macy’s (FT); my goal was to have a no-brain-needed job so I could write in my spare time, but standing on my feet all day, and going from interaction to interaction without continuity, was physically and mentally exhausting.

    After six mos., I got a job at a small newspaper (I’d majored in English), and the experience was 180 degrees different — infinitely better even though the pay was lower and the commute longer.

    I think you’ll adjust to the FT aspect far more easily at a job that engages your interests in some way, or — if that’s not possible where you live — at a no-brain-needed job that pays far better than retail pays, such as waiting tables, bartending, or some factory work. But please *do* try to find a job that engages your interests in some way; if you’re relatively unskilled, then look into office temping, with the goal of becoming an admin. assistant for an entity you like (a museum or a vet’s office, for ex.).

    And please remember that all human beings need to be able to support themselves, because no one knows what the future holds; the sense of competency and self-sufficiency you’ll gain from a FT salary + bennies will help. Good luck.

  153. Mahonia*

    You could try seasonal, relatively well-paid work like wildland firefighting or fieldwork in a natural resource industry. Usually these jobs work best for physically fit people without kids and pets or for men with stay at home wives (I’m a married childless woman with a dog). I’ve managed to avoid the dreadful neverending 9-5 life by being in forestry in fairly flexible jobs that pay well. But job security, employment standards and medical benefits have been nil. The free time and flexibility was a good trade off but now that I’m later in life (36) and have pets and some medical issues I’ve settled for a 9-5 government job that gives benefits and stability but could be a soul sucking endless grind.

  154. AMT*

    I always suggest entertaining the possibility of long-term self-employment as a strategy to work less, or at least hours that don’t drain you. You can’t always jump right into working for yourself in a lot of fields, but biding your time until you’re skilled and connected enough to work for yourself can be a good long-term strategy. I know tutors, art appraisers, hair and makeup artists, consultants, personal trainers, attorneys, plumbers, and all kinds of healthcare professionals who have done this successfully. It tends to be easier with more education and training, but it’s not impossible outside of white-collar professions and skilled trades.

    On a personal note, I’m a therapist and was seriously considering leaving the field until I opened my own practice. I now make vastly more than I did in W-2 employment and work four days a week. The time and energy I spent dealing with pointless meetings, crappy coworkers, and unnecessary paperwork are instead spent seeing pro bono/sliding scale clients and doing volunteer work. It’s not even the fact that I work less than I used to that makes me happier. It’s the fact that I’m finally controlling my own hours and working conditions.

  155. Glen*

    of course the frustrating thing in all this is that estimates of how much paid work worldwide is actually worthless – not just producing something we don’t need but so worthless that even the person doing it believes they produce effectively nothing, and I don’t mean in the sense of just hating what they do, the stories about this are truly something else – runs as high as 45%. Add in all the hours producing genuinely useless knick-knacks that we could either do without or people could happily make their own version of if they had enough time, the amount of goods produced that are then simply thrown away, and the people whose jobs are useless but don’t know it because, for example, they’re an actually useless middle manager (not by their failings, by the nature of the position – which is reasonably common) and we should in reality be working far, far less as a species just to have what we’ve currently got. Very frustrating.

  156. Grace*

    I don’t want to work full-time or even at the same job every day. So I got several PRN jobs in healthcare. At one point I had 6. I didn’t go to all of them every week, of course, but I had options. I got to choose how much (or little) I wanted to work. I could choose to work 2 hours or 8, whatever I wanted. Managers and coworkers were just grateful I came to help them and would genuinely tell me how much they appreciated me, which is always nice to hear. I got paid more per hour than full-time staff. If I wanted to take a 2 week vacation, I would work more for a little while to save up what I needed and then just not schedule to work.
    The downside is that you won’t get any health insurance. Most places offer no benefits, although I got a 401k with one job. For me the other benefits outweighed the lack of that benefit and I got affordable healthcare on my own. If you are making more money than your current job then perhaps it would offset the increased cost of being on your husband’s insurance?

  157. Part-time Wolf*

    I tried the 40+ hr work week for years but burned out fast at each position I tried. I would make it to 3 or 4 years at each one but the last year or more would definitely NOT be my best work and I would always leave feeling rather disgusted with myself. The last 4 years I’ve gone super frugal and switched to just part time and seasonal work. I have one job in retail I am coming to loathe but I’ve been with the company long enough to qualify for vision and dental insurance and matched 401k even working only 16 hours a week. I have a position helping a local farmer drive truck during harvest so log about 60-80hrs in two weeks and that job is done. Then I pick up a seasonal package delivery position for about 2 months over the holidays and sometimes another 2 months in the early summer. Those seasonal positions give me 40-60 hr weeks but are finished before I really hit a wall and with good management I have enough money to pay bills for the full year. So you don’t NEED to work a 40hr week to get by…but it does make affording the ‘extras’ easier.

  158. bamcheeks*

    I really want someone to write a doctorate on “changing attitudes to work in North America, 2005-2025” using AAM answers and comments as their primary source. I don’t think this post would have got anything like this response in 2008, with even people who are “successful” by the standard professional measures are talking about massive dissatisfaction with the role that work plays in their lives. It’s fascinating.

  159. Don't Be Longsuffering*

    Actually this system started with the industrial revolution and the people with jobs worked 12-14 hours, 7 days a week. Men and women, boys and girls. Back then virtually everyone lived in extended families where those too old, young, or sick to work took care of the home– to much different standards then we have today. This only changed after WW2 with the rise of suburbs. The nuclear family appeared to be okay for a while, but the cracks appeared almost instantly and it’s been a shit show ever since. We are all doing the work of 2-3 people before we even go to our jobs. This is why we’re all exhausted.

  160. Yes it’s me!*

    There are banks out there that offer part-time teller work with full benefits. Look into that. Generally, you will still earn some vacation time, have sick pay and holidays off.

  161. Roeslein*

    How about finding a job you actually enjoy before dismissing full-time work altogether? Deciding at 25 that there isn’t a job on earth you would enjoy doing full-time seems pretty odd to me, I hadn’t even started on my current career at that age! If you come home demotivated and exhausted, maybe you just need to change fields?

  162. Find Flexy Work*

    I didn’t work full time at one job until I was in my mid thirties. I had a part time main job and a side hustle for many years. The side hustle could be scaled up or back depending on my financial needs versus time I needed for myself to feel whole. I was very privileged in many ways (I had no kids, no mortgage and always lived with roommates to make rent cheaper). My job had benefits that started at 20 hours/week – they weren’t as discounted as the benefits at 40/hours a week but it was a good compromise and with my side hustle I barely noticed it.
    I am 34 hours/week currently and hate how much time I spend at work but I *do* work for a mission I believe in, and I adore my coworkers which makes it bearable.
    I recommend looking for a new field that you LOVE, or at least looking for a job with benefits that start at a lower time commitment and consider also getting a second PT job or side hustle that offers more flexibility. None of us should have to labor 40/week just to afford to live. Beat the system any way you can.

  163. Single as a pringle*

    As somebody who also was not disabled but had a lot of responsibilities that made working full time challenging in my 20’s i found working a job that allowed me to work 4 long days easier than 5 average days. doesn’t work in all jobs but it made me happier and better able to cope with having to work full time

  164. Velomont*

    As they say, there’s a reason it’s called “work”. I have a personal belief (not backed up by any sort of research btw) that 80% of work is some variation of shoveling crap or other awful, unpleasant activities, and another 15% is something barely tolerable. And those who get to follow their dreams or whatever are just bloody fortunate.

    All you can do is the cost/benefit analysis of how badly you need money to finance what you want to do outside of work etc.

  165. Dasein9 (he/him)*

    For whatever good this experience might do you: I’ve been fortunate enough to have my dream job, one that I was so interested in that I worked on all the time and thought about in my leisure activities. I also got laid off and went on to get a better-paying job-job and, frankly. . . I’m overall healthier and happier now.

    There is a lot to be said for looking for work that is of a type to not exhaust you. Does the idea of using a computer all day sound restful or awful? What kind of people do you want to be around? These questions can help a lot with finding a good fit.

  166. foxglove*

    If you’ve worked retail you should be able to move into other more interesting and better paying customer service positions in better environments that can actually lead to more interesting & better paying work, like receptionist/scheduler at a medical clinic, hospital, or veterinary clinic — or front-desk-type/entry level admin work at a university or college. Hospitals and universities also sometimes have PT jobs that pay full benefits! It can take while to find one and you may have to pay a bigger percentage of your paycheck for insurance than a FT person, but if a PT lifestyle is what you are looking for I highly recommend. These are also often pleasant work environments also where people’s motivations are very different than in the corporate world.

  167. Boss No More*

    Hi OP,
    I’m glad to see all of the kind commenters and I 100% agree, I am definitely in the camp of people who wish they could work fewer hours. We are all just doing what we need to do to get by and prepare for old age. I will share my experience coming from working PT in Retail until after University and then switching to FT (management): Reader, I lasted 9 months, quit with no job on the horizon and thankfully lived off of my US tax refund until I found a placement through a staffing agency (FT) that then turned into an 18-year career! I am actually an oddball who LOVED working retail during the holidays and also the entertaining nature of it, but that all changed when I went into management. You didn’t say that you were looking at management, but it also sounds like you need downtime to recharge, so I’m wondering if you could find full-time employment that matches your personality a little better. Good luck and you are not alone!

  168. Katara's side braids*

    Yup, I started experiencing the “dawning sense of horror” in middle school and am now 31. It hasn’t gotten better. I think it would be a HUGE step to decouple medical insurance from employment, because many more (not saying all) FTEs would feel like working part time was an option. Of course that’s probably a huge reason why it hasn’t happened.

    In decades and centuries past, the expectation was that technological advances would translate to a tangible decrease in working hours. It infuriates me that there is still such resistance to that idea. 40 hours was a huge step up for the laborers who fought for it a century ago, and I know there are people around the world who would love to work “only” 40 hours. But too many people use that as a thought-ending cliche. The existence of worse conditions doesn’t mean that ours don’t need to improve.

  169. Queen of the Introverts*

    The 5-day workweek is hopelessly outdated. You can’t convince me otherwise.

    Not only was it settled on when a large percentage of wives stayed home, it was settled on when most people lived within walking distance of their jobs. So an 8-hour workday becomes a 9-hour workday if you take an hour lunch, and a 10+ hour workday with commute. Efficiency has skyrocketed in the last 100 years, why are we still working the same hours?

    (My other controversial hot take: Minimum wage should be a livable wage. Just because you work in fast food doesn’t mean you deserve to have to work two jobs just to pay rent.)

  170. Mmm.*

    Literally no one would work at all if they didn’t have to. No matter how much someone loves what they do, all of us would rather have control over when and how we do things, if at all. Hell, I’d go back to my previous career if I had control over my hours and no strict boss to answer to, that’s how much I loved it! But doing it for pay was a soul crusher.

    This is a short term way of thinking. If you end up alone or in a bind down the road, do you think places will hire the person with 10 years of full time experience or the one with 10 years of part time if *all else* is equal?

    1. Mmm.*

      ETA: Our idea of full time work is harmful, outdated, and needs to be changed at a systemic level. But the point, overall, is the same.

  171. Dog momma*

    Here’s the other thing. social security.. lets just assume it will be around lol. you need 40 credits over your lifetime..lets just say age.. 65 to collect. How’s that gonna happen with maybe 24 hrs per week over the years? Most businesses do not give pensions any more, and young folks aren’t necessarily known for savings in IRA s til its almost too late.
    my sister worked 7 yrs after college and the usual teenage jobs.. so maybe10 yrs total. Got married/ SAHM for 25 yrs. Her husband had a VERY good job. Then they divorced and she was able to buy a house with her settlement. I figured after covid, she maybe worked 4 years at very low end jobs, so maybe15 yrs employed.. her SS is only several hundred dollars a month most likely. Ex is remarried so I’m if she can get half of his.
    something to think about.. If you don’t have the credits, you can’t collect SS. what do you live on?

  172. Jake*

    I’ve worked jobs where the thought of rolling out of bed every morning was enough to ruin my entire life. To be fair, those were 60+ hour per week jobs, but the concept remains.

    Within the same industry, I now work 40-45 hours per week, and I’d say roughly 11 months a year, I’m ok with it. Every once in a while I get down and wish I didn’t have to work, but, overall, I’m ok with trading this time for this amount of money.

    They key to the shift wasn’t fewer hours. The key was that my current job is a lot less stressful, makes me more money, and I’m better at it, even though most think its more difficult (which makes it more fulfilling when you’re not failing). I would strongly recommend finding another industry or job. It won’t solve the problem all on its own, but it very well could shift it from existential dread all the time to existential dread some of the time.

  173. jenni*

    I won’t comment on the need to work full-time for continued financial health—I think that is pretty well covered—but I can comment on navigating a new combined household while both working full time. In new relationships there is sometimes one partner who prefers to show their affection through action and naturally starts to take over more and more household tasks. I can guarantee they will start to resent it eventually. My biggest advice is to set up habits *now* while you are in the honeymoon phase to find out what chores you each enjoy doing and which you hate…I hate mowing the grass but don’t mind laundry, but do like gardening. I like to prep cook and bake but hate standing over a cooktop (and my husband loves it). We both hate cleaning the bathroom and grocery shopping, so switch off doing those chores (and now the kids clean the bathrooms, lol). If one of you loves numbers, feel free to take the lead on budgeting, but *always* include your partner in what you are doing—it is the an area where you both need to be on the same page and should both have shared access to accounts. (My husband and I each have our own fun money account in addition to our shared account—you figure out what works for you). And set up your OWN retirement account, do NOT share retirement accounts, no matter how much you love each other. I know so many women who fight to untangle finances if things go south. Setting up these habits now means if you add to your household later, the workload continues to be shared in the same way.

  174. Ashley Z*

    I’m a mid 30’s recent first time mom and I feel this every day. I felt drained and like I had no time prior to having the kid. But working a full time job and having a kid, plus my husband works a full time job plus overtime regularly, we are drowning. The system is broken so don’t feel bad thinking how you do. We all wish we could work part time or not at all but it’s just not feasible. We’ve toyed with me becoming a SAHM but we just can’t swing it.

    So how are we doing it. I think a lot of us are just surviving. I have two dogs I love dearly but I’ve put off grooming and vet appointment lately because I’m burnt out and over scheduled. It sucks but I think, and I’m hopefully, it’ll get better one day.

  175. Office Gumby*

    I think it a terrible tragedy that Americans are held prisoner to full-time hours because of health insurance. If it wasn’t for that, you’d probably have a satisfying work/life balance. (In Australia, you would. Wanna move here?)

    I am curious, though; why is health insurance considered a mandatory work benefit? Why is it not available (affordable?) outside of a job? I’d hate to think I had no option but to accept whatever insurance policy my employer thought was a good idea.

    1. WorkingRachel*

      It’s available, just really expensive. Pre-ACA (“Obamacare”), you could literally be denied health insurance because of a “pre-existing condition,” which could be anything from MS to pregnancy, and it was fairly common for people to just not be eligible for health insurance if they didn’t have it through work.

      Things are a little better now, because you can at least buy insurance, but it costs…a quick Google showed in my state $400/month is average for a “silver” plan, which will have ok coverage and a fairly high deductible. State insurance (Medicaid) only applies in my state if you have children or are disabled. So, if you’re making little enough that $400 or more is a stretch, and you don’t have insurance through your employer (the Venn diagram of those two things overlaps very heavily), you have to go without, which often means going without medical care. As you probably know, paying for healthcare without insurance in the US is very pricey. I think my last routine dr. visit was billed at $400, which came down to $20 after insurance.

  176. Skybluepink*

    I work as a pharmacy technician and 30 hours a week is considered full-time. I do work more than that but it might be something to consider.

  177. HiFromDelaware*

    I would recommend doing some research on lifestyle centric career planning (I first learned about this from Cal Newport) – determine the lifestyle you want to live or move into and work backwards from there.

    What’s the bare minimum of take home pay you need to keep a PT work schedule? Work towards a career that can help you afford that. I’d echo others about looking into taking care of health insurance and retirement (perhaps factor that into the lifestyle plan!).

  178. BlueSwimmer*

    My great-grandmother used to say “A change is as good as a rest.” For me, this is so true. I remember being in my early career years and thinking that working every day forever seemed like an endless grind after the variety of your days in college. I changed career paths and became a teacher. I love what I do each day but I also love that there is so much variety within the framework of the job that it doesn’t feel like a grind.

    I also love that we have school breaks to look forward to throughout the year (and snow days!). I also love that we have a well-defined END each year in June, and then a new beginning in the fall. I don’t even take the summer off- I do an unrelated part-time job. It’s less about the time spent working for me and more about the ebb and flow– working in education means it doesn’t feel like an endless grind and I always have something to look forward to. Getting to work by 7:00 am isn’t the best but being able to leave at 3:15 means more time to do all the other parts of life, like pets, gardening, exercise, etc. Even if teaching isn’t your dream, there are so many school jobs that get the same schedule, and most school systems are always recruiting.

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