High school parents, does this sound familiar to you?
Does your kid “do homework almost every day on Saturday and Sunday, working until late at night every day?”
Do your kids stay up late doing homework every (or almost every) school night? Do they spend several hours on homework on the weekends?
Do you have trouble going out of town on school holidays because your students are assigned homework over school breaks?
Well, the quote above isn’t exactly about homework. The quote is actually what some parent’s said about their daughter’s work situation.
[She would] “work almost every day on Saturday and Sunday, working until late at night every day…”
Going to school and doing homework are the “work” of our kids. (And some have outside jobs which is also work.)
Now, what if I also told you that the young woman the parents were talking about was a Japanese woman who died of congestive heart failure at age 31? A government investigation found her cause of death to be her “work life.”
This is not the first time I have read articles about death from over-work in Japan. In fact, death from work stress is so common that the Japanese have a name for it, “karoshi,” or “death from overwork.”
You might look at the title of the article, Young Worker Clocked 159 Hours of Overtime in a Month. Then She Died, and think it is so extreme that it doesn’t apply to you and your child. But I think they took the most extreme week this poor girl worked and used it for the headline. There were several quotes that felt chillingly familiar to me.
She rarely took weekends off.
My high school kids have homework every. Single. Weekend. Even though we have tried to moderate their schedules and they don’t have as many AP classes as their friends.
She worked until midnight nearly every night.
This was happening to our kids until we moderated their classes by parental restrictions on how many AP classes they could take. (Yes, we told our teenagers they couldn’t take every class they wanted to. We see it as our job to protect their health, even when it makes them unhappy with us.) Staying up until midnight or later still happens more than we would like it to.
… a country where exhaustion is often seen as a sign of diligence.
This was a quote about Japan. But it could just as well be a quote about the United States. Even more amazing and admired? If you can manage to hide your exhaustion.
[she was] “in a state of accumulated fatigue and chronic sleep deprivation” at the time of her death.
My kids have friends who fall asleep in class. So far, my kids haven’t done that. (Not that I’ve found out about!) But there are still too many school weeks where I know they are sleep deprived. I fear that the teenage love of Starbucks is fueled by more than the love for the taste of coffee.
Japan first recognized their problem with karoshi in the 80s. They are still struggling to do anything to correct it.
Think about it, when do kids learn their work ethic? How many times have you told them that doing their homework is important for that reason?
But we have lost sight of the fact that school is when kids also learn their sense of life-work balance.
Add up the number of hours your child is in school. (37.5) Add mandatory hours for their chosen extracurricular activity. Add homework. Are you past 40 work hours per week yet? How far past? Now remember that the 40 hour rule is a guideline for adults, not children.
Are our kids learning life-work balance? Judging from the skyrocketing cases of anxiety and depression on colleges campuses, the scale is about to tip.
How long until “karoshi” becomes the American word for “death from overwork?”