Update: It's been pointed out that I should add a disclaimer that I don't intend this to apply to my own job. My boss and I have talked about the importance to me of spending time with my family and he has been very accommodating of me, allowing me to work a flexible schedule and in other ways.
Have we entered a new era of voluntary indentured servitude? I was listening to a podcast today where the topic of office romance came up. One of the panelists defended the practice by saying that people spend so much time at work now that they have no other time to meet someone. Another panelist asked if any of them knew anyone (presumably salaried employees since hourly employees are a separate case) who works 40 hours per week anymore.
The fact is that most people I know work many more hours than that, especially younger people. It used to be that there was an understanding between employers and employees that you worked a set number of hours and then you went home and that exceptions were made for special circumstances like business trips or seasonal busy periods or intense preparation for a client meeting or the like. Now it’s like that all the time.
The expectation now is often that if you aren’t working many more than your normal hours, if you’re only putting in your 40 or 45, that you aren’t a “team player,” meaning when it comes time for evaluations, promotions, and raises, you will get less than glowing reviews.
Since when did work become life? Man once worked to live, but now he lives to work.
A reporter on that aforementioned podcast admitted that she spends more time with some sources than with her husband. Is it any wonder so many marriages end in divorce? Many couples end up as virtual strangers to one another, not to mention the added dynamic of spending more time with members of the opposite sex in your office, with the attendant dangers.
Maybe it was all the years I worked from home, but I am adamant that my family comes before all else. Melanie and Isabella come before work, before service to my parish, before all of it. That doesn’t mean that I don’t work late occasionally or that I quit the parish council. It does mean that I will not put in 60 or 80 hour weeks away from home.
Actuarially, I probably have about 35 to 40 years left, maybe less. When I take into account my time spent at work (conservatively using the 40-hour week), my time spent commuting, and my time spend asleep (a conservative 6 hours per night), more than 56% of every year is spent away from my family. Isabella will turn 18 in 16-1/2 years and I will have only just over 9 years of time to soak it in.
I recognize that I have a job to do and being away from my family for some time every day is part of my duty and vocation. But I think responsible employers have a duty not to rip families apart by placing onerous demands on their employees. If you wonder why our society and culture is fracturing around us and why divorce and immorality are rampant, the first place to look is at how little time families spend together (and I don’t mean in the car racing to the next extracurricular activity.)
My dad was a workaholic when I was a kid and I generally only saw him on Sundays and then he was usually asleep in his chair because he was so exhausted. (He’s changed in many ways for the better as my three youngest half-sisters can attest.) I’m bound and determined not to do the same thing to my children.
Your job is not your life and it does not define you. It can be fulfilling and exciting and world-changing. For some of you—like those of you in military service or public service—it does demand those long hours away from family. But for most of us, lives do not depend on us being on-call around the clock.
And for those of you who work in ministry, let me tell you straight out: God doesn’t need your ridiculous hours. If He wants something done, He will find a way for it to get done without you driving yourself into the ground or neglecting your family life.
Remember, work to live. Don’t live to work. Make the world a better place by finding fulfillment in your family life, not your job.