EVERYONE SEEMS to be knocking President Reagan's work schedule. Newsweek quotes a top White House aide sa saying Reagan only puts in two or three real hours of work each day. Wags are saying President Reagan isn't running the country, President Meese is.
These criticisms, I submit, are cheap shots, and hardly in keeping with the American tradition of making the best of our president's behavior, no matter what. Granted, I found it a trifle unsettling that no one woke up President Reagan to tell him we'd blasted a couple of Libyan fighters to smithereens, an act which the Nervous Nellies among us might have described as an act of war. And granted the Newsweek tale abot Reagan being unable to pcik his own secretary of Housing and Urban Development out of a meeting of mayors was a bit embarrassing, as was the story abot hs giving Rep. Charles Wilson of Texas a blank look when Wilson brought up the synthetic fuels program. I mean, it's one thing for the rest of us not to understand synthetic fuels or to recognize Samuel Pierce, but there are, after all, some things we have a right to expect from the president, and recognizing the members of his own cabinet doesn't seem unreasonable. But quibbling aside.
Being president is supposed to be the hardest job in the whole country, and aside from the above-mentioned nitpicks, you would have to agree that Reagan has done a super job so far. This is not to say that his programs are terrific, but that's not the way we measure success. In Reagan's case, it's not what he does but that he does anything at all. And you may not like it, but you have to give President Regan this: He's gotten what he wanted out of Congress, which is more than a lot of his predecessors can say, and he's stood up to the air traffic controllers and more than half of the people in the country think he's doing a good job. All of this, working two to three hours a day.
I say the people who are knocking President Reagan are being shortsighted. The White House has always been a trend-setter in terms of fashion, entertaining and work styles. Far from being lazy or "disengaged," as Newsweek so gently put it, President Reagan is actually providing the country with a tremendous role model, at a time when everyone you talk to is complaining that parents are breaking under the strain of combining family and career. Here is a man who obviously is managing to combine marriage with one of the, if not the , most demanding jobs in the country. The key is obviously not to limit your family time, which is what we've all been doing, but to limit your work time.
Think of the possibilities for the rest of us:
Ask any woman trying to combine marriage and motherhood with a career and the first thing she'll tell you is that she could do it all, without any trouble, if only she didn't have to work eight hours a day. Three hours a day would be a piece of cake. The impact on traffic alone would make the change a blessing. Half of us could go to work from 9 to 12, then we could all have a two-hour lunch break, then the other half of the working population could go to work from 2 to 5.
Consider the impact on families and the economy: With a 15-hour workweek, we could spend a lot less on child care, thereby needing less in take-home pay. Working mothers no longer would have to insist that it's not quantity time that counts, but quality time. We would have four or five more hours each day to spend with our children, and if anyone gave us a hard time about not spending enough time with the kids, we could always point the finger at 1600 Pennsylvania Ave. and say, "Lookit, if the president can run the country on 15 hours a week, I should certainly think I can raise a couple of kids in the same amount of time." That'll fix them.
Moreover, since it's not longer fashionable to get too involved with details, raising children should not take too much out of parents. If a crowd of kids turns up at your house and you are unable to pick out which ones belong to you, not to worry. The same kind of thing happens to the president. It should no longer be necessary to get bent out of shape if something happens to one of your kids in the middle of the night and there is nothing you can do about it until morning. Say your teen-ager gets arrested for drunk driving or possession of pot and the local cops call you at 2 in the morning. You would, of course, want to know if your child is hurt and if the police say no, simply tell them what your kid likes for breakfast and say you'll call in the morning. There is, of course, no need to awaken your husband to tell him the bad news.
Just because he doesn't find out his kid's in jail right away doesn't make him a bad parent. It merely makes him "disengaged."