Dec 12, 2018
Malia Obama attends a state dinner at the White House on Thursday, March 10, 2016, in Washington. (Olivier Douliery/Abaca Press/TNS)

America’s unhealthy work ethic

Why do people care so much that Malia Obama is taking a gap year before she attends Harvard next year? The biggest reason – America has an unhealthy obsession with work.

Malia has every right to take a gap year before she starts the biggest move of her career to date. Her father is still in office, she is going through major transitions with her family, and she has the time to take a gap year.

But we shouldn’t have to defend Malia’s choice. She should be able to make these decisions (which hurt no one) without the nation’s censure.

American media outlets pounced on her decision as national news, speculating over her reasons while the comment sections were riddled with censure slinging racist remarks at her and calling her lazy.

The truth is that Malia’s decision is not lazy. But the nation has such an unhealthy view of “work” and productivity, that it has leached into our social ideals.

Americans expect other Americans to constantly move forward in a socially acceptable productive way. It was expected that Malia go right to work on her career goals, and the fact that she is taking a year off is bothering people because Americans don’t understand the concept of leisure – unlike in Europe.

The American work week is 40 hours. That is just an average. Many Americans work much longer than that and take their work home with them at the end of the day as we enter the realm of technology and email. We never really escape work. It is not like that in other places in the world.

Germany has an average work week of 26 hours, and Sweden’s average work day is only 6 hours.

Our society has put a high premium on our time, and time is obviously best spent working toward something.

This is not a healthy view whatsoever. Americans work themselves into graves. In a study conducted by the American Psychological Association in 2010 cited that most Americans recognize that they are stressed from trying to balance work and home life. Often health falls to the wayside when we are stressed, so we are suffering from this work ethic on multiple levels.

We should not be judging those who take the time to care for themselves. We should all be trying to take care of ourselves. So stop holding it against Malia.

People take gap years so that they can gain work experience, research and define the field they want to go into, or just to give themselves a break from the pressures of academia.

There is nothing wrong with this. We shouldn’t be expecting every senior in high school to invest themselves immediately into school when they may not be prepared either financially or mentally for the huge commitment that college is.

Leave Malia alone. Let people decide when they are ready to go to college. Taking care of yourself is not lazy.


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