One of the many challenges of life is how work and living get separated along with the spiritual and play. I often reflect on how much I am away from home with my business and how little my children got to see of what it meant for me to work. Chris Alexander expresses this aspect of human nature as he describes patterns which are alive in his book The Timeless Way of Building.
“The fact is, a person is so far formed by his surrounding, that his state of harmony depends entirely on his harmony with his surroundings.
“Some kinds of physical and social circumstances help a person come to life. Others make it very difficult.
“For instance, in some towns, the pattern of relationships between workplaces and families helps us to come to life.
“Workshops mix with houses, children run around the places where the work is going on, the members of the family help in the work, the family may possibly eat lunch together, or eat lunch together with the people who are working there.
“The fact that family and play are part of one continuous stream, helps nourish everyone. Children see how work happens, they learn what it is that makes the adult world function, they get an overall coherent view of things; men are able to connect the possibility of play and laughter, and attention to children, without having to separate them sharply in their minds, from work. Men and women are able to work, and to pay attention to their families more or less equally, as they wish to; love and work are connected, able to be one, understood and felt as coherent by the people who are living there.
“In other towns where work and family life are physically separate, people are harassed by inner conflicts which they can’t escape.
“A man wants to live in his work and he wants to be close to his family; but in a town where work and family are physically separate, he is forced to make impossible choices among these desires. He is exposed to the greatest emotional pressure from his family, at that moment when he is most tired—when he just comes home from work. He is confused by a subtle identification of his wife and children with “leisure,” “weekends,” and hence not the daily stuff of life.
“A woman wants to be a loving woman, sustaining to her children; and also to take part in the outer business of the world; to have relationships with “what is going on.” But, in a town where work and family are completely separate, she is forced to make another impossible choice. She either has to become a stereotyped “housewife,” or a stereotyped masculine “working woman.” The possibility of both realizing her feminine nature, and also having a place in the world beyond her family, is all but lost to her. A young boy wants to be close to his family, and to understand the workings of the world and to explore them. But, in a town where work and family are separated, he, too, is forced to make impossible choices. He has to choose to be either loving to his family, or to be a truant who can experience the world. There is no way he can reconcile his two opposing needs; and he is likely to end up either as a juvenile delinquent, who has torn himself entirely from his family’s love, or as a child who clings too tightly to his mother’s skirts.”