Stupid Protestant Work Ethic

At some point in my adult life, I began to work harder than I know I did as a teenager or even a college student.  Some of this was by necessity.  A 9-5 job is a very different commitment than 4 or 5 classes in college. Even though I have worked at “real jobs” since I was 14, I approach work differently than I did then.  Those jobs were just jobs.  Now I feel a level of investment in my work that makes me put a lot more effort into it.  At all of my jobs for the last 15 years or so, I have really cared about doing a good job, not so much because I wanted to get promoted or whatever, but because, as an educator, I knew people depended on me.  I’ve sought ways of improving what I do: by going to conferences, by talking to experienced colleagues, or by reading books.  I’m also often asking myself what more I could be doing to make wherever I work a better place.  I put a lot into my work.  As a result, I usually get a lot out of it, too.  I feel good about what I’m doing.

However, that kind of cycle of constantly looking for things to do better or more of has the potential to burn me out.  And so, I don’t take work home (much).  When I come home, I may read a blog or article on education, but I don’t grade or prepare for class or check email.  I leave work at work.  For my own sanity, this is how it needs to be.  And yet, I sometimes feel guilty.  I know colleagues who take their work home.  I feel guilty that I don’t.  But as another colleague was telling me, we need to step away from work.  It makes us better able to cope the next day if we’ve spent some time relaxing, being with our families and not thinking about work.  And so, I try to put the guilt away, rest, reconnect so that I have the physical and emotional energy I need to do my best at work.

4 Replies to “Stupid Protestant Work Ethic”

  1. I totally agree with you about leaving work at work! I’ve been teaching CS (small undergraduate college) for 5 years, and I no longer feel any guilt for not working at home. By being rested and focused when I’m at work, I can fulfill my obligations to my students, and then spend plenty of quality time at home with my family. I would not have it any other way.

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