A few days ago we were given the opportunity to find out just how David Cameron likes to enjoy himself when away from work. The Times published extracts from a biography, ‘Cameron: Practically a Conservative’ with a focus on his ‘chillaxing’ secrets.
I have to say at this point that chillax is one of those compound words that intensely irritate me, but anyway, back to the point.
One of Cameron’s ally’s is quoted as saying, “If there was an Olympic gold medal for chillaxing, the Prime Minister would win it.” The book suggests his ability to unwind easily is crucial to allowing him to cope with the strains of his job. We’ve discovered that the Prime Minister has a karaoke machine, likes playing tennis, watching rubbish on the TV, cooking and playing with his children.
All in all it’s pretty normal stuff and not that different to what you’d expect any average person to be doing away from work.
I’m not sure if anyone was expecting a media outcry complaining that he should be spending more time running the country and less time allegedly playing Fruit Ninja on his iPad (his son has since been exposed as the culprit by aides). There have been one or two accusations of laziness and lack of focus on his job, but generally there has been plenty of support for his work-life balance. Justice Secretary, Ken Clarke whom I get the impression is an expert at chillaxing, especially when cricket is involved, gave his views on the Prime Minister’s job:
“If you are Prime Minister and you cover the whole scene, you really have to put the work in. It is not possible to survive in politics by skiving, but it’s very useful to remain a member of the human race and you do have a family, you do have other things to just remind you what life is about. Modern government is more demanding… and David Cameron is doing a more than full-time job.”
The question that this raises is: “How hard do we expect our leaders to work?” We expect them to do their best and rightly so, but sometimes we forget that they are human just like the rest of us. If they’re constantly tired and stressed, can we really expect them to be in a fit state to make the best decisions and do their jobs effectively? Although I can’t say for sure, Gordon Brown came across as someone who found it difficult to switch off and relax, but that intensity didn’t seem to do him any favours. Towards the end of his time as Prime Minister he didn’t look like he was coping with the job well. You wonder how much the two were linked.
The concept of sabbath and having days of rest is ingrained in human history with the Biblical story of creation giving us a template for our work-rest balance. The Ten Commandments reinforce just how important God sees it that we take time away from work. There is a clear link between overwork, stress and burnout.
David Cameron has the same right to spend time away from work as the rest of us as and the same goes for anyone in a position of leadership including those working for the church. I’ve noticed that we’re not always good at giving our church leaders a break from their work and some find it difficult to do too. When your job is pastoral, there is a danger that you feel the need to be constantly available.
With the way our society has become 24/7 eroding the concept of sabbath, we’ve lost some of that understanding of the importance of rest. However we organise our lives we should never expect others to overwork even if their roles are incredibly important. We all have to be careful that in the busyness of our lives we still make time for community, for our families and for God. When these get squeezed too far, we all suffer.
As a final word on this, I’ve been spending plenty of time recently thinking about how much time I spend blogging. I never post on a Sunday to make sure I have at least a day off from it a week, but although I enjoy bashing out a post every weekday, I’m beginning to realise that it’s unsustainable and is putting too much pressure on other areas of my life. Consequently I’m aiming to start reducing the volume of work I produce each week. I’ve certainly not got any intentions of stopping altogether, but if I’m going to be in this for the long-term I need to make sure I’m doing it a way that doesn’t kill me.