AdviceHelp Me Rhonda

Help Me, Rhonda

Quitting Time

I have a full-time job, which is fine and more than pays the bills. I also have two other organizations I’m part of. I’m on the board of a nonprofit that does work I really believe in (and I like the other people involved in said nonprofit). I’m also part of this group that is strictly for fun, kind of a low-key, adult sports team (with lots of beer drinking). I really enjoy my activities outside of work, but I’m constantly rushing from work to one of those things. Or, I’m missing something I like because I’m working late. Or, I’m trying to find time during my workday to get a few things crossed off my nonprofit board to-do list. Or (most of the time) I’m feeling guilty about not doing more for the nonprofit. I know the solution is just to do less and slow down, but there’s no way I can quit my job, and I hate the fact that I’d have to quit something I enjoy because work takes up too much of my time and energy. Rhonda, if you could put just four or five more hours in the day, I’d appreciate it.

Stretched Thin

Sorry, friend. If I could put more hours in the day, I would have done it a long time ago, so I’d have more time to go to Agua Linda, take naps, and catch up on Season 1 of “Party Down South.” (Those back episodes don’t just watch themselves, you know). I think there’s hope for you within the 24-hour day, though.

You’re right that you need to cut down on some things, but the goal is always to cut away the dead wood, the things you don’t enjoy. You don’t have to love your work, but you’re largely right that you probably do need to work. (Although, if you’re willing to take a longer view, you can decrease your dependence on your income by cutting your expenses, thereby opening up some possibilities.) But work needs to be a part of your life, not your whole life, so you have room for those other things that make you happy.

Your post-work activities are important to you, and a less hectic lifestyle is important to you, so start with those as your priorities. Can you arrange to go in to work an hour earlier so you can leave early? For this to help you, you have to be ruthless about leaving after eight hours, not staying until everything is finished. Americans kind of fetishize the idea of the super-dedicated worker who stays at the office, hunched over his desk, until late at night. But that’s not what makes you happy, so you need to shake that off.

If you can’t leave work early, can you cut back on the things you do at home—running errands, cleaning the house, doing laundry? Can you do those things in the morning before work or consciously decide not to do them as often, so you can have evenings free?

And, of course, don’t let unwanted social “obligations” take up any of your time. Kindly (but without remorse or second thought) decline any invitation that wouldn’t be more fun than your nonprofit or beer drinking work.

Car-te Blanche

My wife and I have a 15-year-old daughter and a 12-year-old son. Our 15-year-old got her permit the day she turned 15. (She insisted. Apparently, making her wait even two days would have been child abuse.) She won’t turn 16 and be eligible for a license for 10 more months, but she’s already asking about getting her own car. My wife and I both work, and having a third driver with a car would be a tremendous help. We can afford to get her a car, and my wife and I are talking about it—not a new luxury car, but something reliable and safe. My wife wants my daughter to pay for the car, but there’s no way a 15-year-old can make enough money for a car. And, since she’ll be helping out by running errands and driving her brother places, doesn’t it make sense that we provide the vehicle for her to do that? To be honest, my wife and I are both looking forward to some freedom from the constant chauffeuring we do now, and I don’t want to do anything to jeopardize that.

Driving Dad


The most important thing for you to do, DD, is instill in your daughter (and son, when the time comes) a sense of seriousness surrounding the car. Your daughter needs to regard the car as a highly adult privilege that can be withdrawn at any time; that’s the only way she’ll treat driving with appropriate caution and respect. And knowing that she takes driving seriously and approaches it cautiously is the only thing that will give you a modicum of peace of mind when she’s out on the roads without you.

One way you make her feel the gravity of the car is by forcing her to buy in. She needs to have some skin in the game. You’re right that she’s not going to be able to earn enough money to pay for a car, but she can absolutely earn part of the money. And she should; she needs to realize that there are costs associated with driving. I suggest requiring her to earn and save 25 percent of the cost of the car. That amount won’t break her, but it will make her feel some ownership over it. Once the car is purchased, carefully outline what she will continue to pay for: 25 percent of insurance costs, all gas costs, and oil changes. Or whatever you decide. She can earn the money by getting a job, saving her birthday money or doing work for you and your wife. If she works for you, though, she needs to be doing something that really needs to be done. 

Be careful how you talk about the car and driving situation. Yes, she’ll help by running errands and driving her brother places. But that’s part and parcel of being part of a family. She’s not doing you a favor by getting a license and accepting your gift of the car.