Back in France!

This week, I arrived back in France after a whirlwind trip to Australia of business, patient consultations and time with family and friends. Seeing patients I haven’t seen for several months was invigorating – like coming home to friends! Doctors are so lucky to engage on such personal level with so many different people.

This short visit back to Brisbane did thrown into sharp relief the social differences between rural France and big-city Australia. A story told by a patient about a workplace incident resonated with me:

“The other day, my manager said to me “Don’t you think it’s about time you started paying more attention to work, and a little less to your family?” I said “No… and I quit!” much to my manager’s surprise.”

I secretly wanted to give this patient a high five (I may even have done so!) for standing up for their principles. Disturbingly, the employer is one who would be considered one of the more family friendly in our society. What really struck me was how this work life balance is maintained so much more effectively here in France. Children are dropped to school at 9am. Work continues to midday, when everything shuts except the cafes and restaurants. Midday til 2pm later is for family and friends. Then work starts again until 6pm. It’s a rhythm of life structured around balancing work and family.

I can’t imagine anyone chastising their employee in this fashion here. More importantly, I can’t imagine them even thinking it!

Ironically, it seems that the more legislation is introduced around protecting working parent’s rights in Australia, the more our cultural norms rail against families. Why is it that we as a society act in such a hypocritical fashion? We profess to value families, and yet act in a fashion that the dollar is almighty, and that the greatest measure of a society is its financial productivity.

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