I'm over being an "Ideal Worker"

I'm tired of being a good little worker bee.
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It occurred to me earlier this week that I have not taken a full day off from work in more than a month.

That's no "humble brag." It's a sad, embarrassing statement of fact.

It's especially mortifying as one of the topics I care about professionally is work/life negotiation (what a lot of folks call "work/life balance"). I'm strongly committed to gender equity in the workplace, humane work environments, well-being at work, benefits that support healthy communities and families, etc.

I generally reject the idea that workers should grind themselves to the bone or sell their souls for organizational gain, or put organizational goals ahead of their family or personal well-being. As a person who enjoys a lot of privilege, I feel compelled to combat those notions whenever possible.

And yet I find myself toiling away these past several weeks--staying up late coding data, prioritizing analyses over sleep and exercising, CHOOSING TO STAY HOME AND WORK instead of traveling to Phoenix to see my hubby FLY FORMATION AT NASCAR. I don't even care about NASCAR but I opted to miss a once-in-a-life-time-world-record event that is important to my beloved because of what? Work. A lot of my own making, but still.

In grad school, I learned about about the "ideal worker" norm, the pressure for people to devote their lives to work/getting ahead at the expense of other priorities like family or self-care. Somehow, I tricked myself into thinking that my own performance of the ideal worker would end with graduation, that the insanely long days would be over with closing of the dissertation.


Nearly a year has past and instead of rejecting the ideal worker norm, I've ended up reifying it. I tell myself that I have to work hard to build my CV because I have to get a tenure-track job. And I have to submit papers to conferences. And I have to meet all of the work deadlines, even ones that seem unrealistic. The pressure that used to come from external sources like university requirements/professors/bosses? I've internalized it. So many of my have-tos are tasks of my own design.

Just a few months after deciding to stop "shoulding all over myself" I'm back at it in a big way. And it sucks.

So, I'm re-committing to stopping the shoulding. I'm keeping in mind these five reasons not to work too hard. And I'm planning a long weekend. The work I've committed to over the next four weeks? It'll get done, but from here on out, I'm going to be managing work and personal time in a much more sane fashion. (Mr. T, I swear!) I may end up out of balance on occasion, Lord knows I'm still going to be a Type A academic, but I'm going to do my best to be mindful about all aspects of life. Wish me luck.

Anybody else face these work/life challenges? Suggestions for me?


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