7:15 a.m., Thursday morning: “Mom, you know what the purpose of life is?” This is the question my 8yo poses to me as I stumble into the kitchen in search of coffee. On the one hand, how could I possibly pass up the answer to this burning existential question? And from the mouth of my very own babe, no less? On the other hand: PRE-COFFEE. I was lucky I was even ambulatory.
Without waiting for a response, my son announced, “Fun! We are here to have fun. I know we have to go to school and learn so we can get a job and survive and buy stuff we need, but we are supposed to have FUN!”
Wow. Dropping wisdom on me before both my eyes are open. I never expected parenthood would be like this. Now, his motive may have been to get out of going to school. And who knows where he came up with this little gem. But I have to say, the subject was timely. Fun has been on my mind a lot lately.
I remember back when I was working at my first corporate job after college, I met one of my company’s vendors, a woman who owned her own printing business. From the start, it was clear this lady was not your typical businesswoman.
For one thing, she was very young and very pretty, dressed casually, and was always laughing. She had “prank-call Fridays” where she and her employees would prank-call their clients. She would send out giant chocolate bars for Christmas instead of generic holiday cards. She would call clients by silly nicknames and make people laugh in meetings. And everyone wanted to work with her, because she was FUN. (And also very good at what she did, but mostly because she was fun.)
In all my subsequent years in the working world, I have never met anyone else quite like her. I have certainly worked with some fun people here and there, but for the most part the corporate world is notably lacking fun. Why isn’t there a “Bring Your Personality to Work Day” to break up monotonous staff meetings and conference calls?
I once worked for one of those big companies that always got voted “best place to work,” mainly because they had Starbucks and a ping-pong table in the break room. But the thing was, everyone was too stressed and overworked to play or hang out. How is that fun? (And forced, Michael Scott-type “Office” fun doesn’t cut it, either.)
Part of the problem now is that I am a freelancer. I have no coworkers, no break room, no water cooler. My interactions with clients are mainly transactional: Can you do this? How much? How soon? Rare is the client who spends time making small talk. When you’re being paid by the hour, no one wants to waste time inquiring about your weekend or your kids. And shockingly, no one has ever offered to take me bowling! I get it, but it’s too bad. Because I am a fun person, and a pretty good bowler.
I think the problem with adults is that we compartmentalize fun. Work is work and fun is fun. It’s strictly an after-hours pursuit. But kids don’t see it that way. My boys come home from school full of stories about how their teachers made learning fun. They dive-bomb the laundry pile when they’re “helping” me sort clothes, and they sword-fight with butter knives when they’re “helping” empty the dishwasher.
Sure, it’s annoying, but I also admire their dedication to fun. So I am actively looking for ways to follow their lead and inject more fun into my life and work. As my kids have shown me, with the right attitude even mundane things can be fun. I won’t be implementing prank-call Fridays, but I will be bringing my personality to work. What would my kids do to liven up a dull afternoon of copyediting, I wonder? I’ll ask them.
PIC O’ THE DAY: My husband captioned this shot, “Home from the holidays, and everything’s back to ‘normal’.” I don’t know what’s going on here, but they’re having fun.