What is your definition of "leisure time?" Is it all the time in your day in which you are not working? Or is it the time you spend doing something you really, truly enjoy?
The question comes as most of us are getting ready to kick back and enjoy the upcoming three-day Labor Day weekend....a federal holiday first set aside in 1882 to celebrate America's "working men" - and now of course, working women.
For some time now, we've heard from researchers that we hard-working Americans are seeing our leisure time shrink. In July I wrote a blog called Letting Vacation Slip Away about a new Expedia study which found that "52.2 million American workers were vacation deprived" by choosing NOT to take all the paid vacation days owed them.
The Expedia study came just months after a think tank called the Center for Economic Policy and Research released a report called "No Vacation Nation." The CEPR report "reviewed international vacation and holiday laws and found that the United States is the only advanced economy that does not guarantee its workers any paid vacation or holidays." As a result, the report claims that 1 in 4 workers in the U.S. do not receive any paid vacation or holidays.
Put that information together with all the Blackberries, PDAs and laptops that have Americans working even when they aren't at work --- and you have a population that's seriously over-worked and under-played.
Or are we?
I heard on NPR's Morning Edition this week that yet another new study finds that working Americans today are actually enjoying more leisure time than ever - a trend that's been going on for 40 years now.
According to this study, which you can download from this month's Quarterly Journal of Economics, "leisure for men increased by roughly six to nine hours per week (driven by a decline in market work hours) and for women by roughly four to eight hours per week (driven by a decline in home production work hours)."
One of the study's authors told NPR that an increasing number of men are working fewer hours at paid jobs and watching more TV...while women are working more hours at paid jobs, but doing less housework.
There's something terribly wrong with this picture: he's watching TV....and she's fixing dinner, but not dusting, vacuuming or scrubbing the toilet. Does fixing dinner qualify as leisure? Does fixing dinner while helping kids with homework and feeding the baby qualify as leisure?
Get my drift? (BTW, the new "Trends in Leisure" study was conducted by two men)
The definitions of both "work" and "leisure" are very subjective. And the more you think about it, each are defined differently based on gender.
So I go back to my original question: What is your definition of leisure time?
Think about it - while you shop and prepare for that big Labor Day picnic and your husband catches up on Law and Order.