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On professional guilt

adpWe all have professional guilt. Like “Catholic guilt,” the perpetual feeling of guilt for sinning, professional guilt is the unjustified, perpetual feeling of guilt for not working during all unoccupied times. It is the idea that we are not working when we should be.

I always feel guilty just watching television, for example. The idea that I am wasting time not responding to emails or researching while the television was on causes substantial guilt. I often force myself to stay up and work later after watching a few episodes of something on my
DVR.

Sundays are equally terrible. I always feel like I should have spent a few hours on work and rarely do because — wait for it — I have obligations in my personal life – laundry, cleaning, grocery shopping, family, friends, etc. – all of which are incredibly important to being an adult human. (I left the order of my to-do list as it came to me because it is incredibly enlightening as to my priorities on Sunday.)

A paralegal co-worker just told me that he feels the same thing. He is always nervous the office needs him when he goes on vacation. (We totally do, but would never tell him.) Vacation is the hardest. How do you find balance between being away and enjoying time off, while not feeling like everything is burning down, and feeling totally guilty for not answering every email? Not to mention that those who are still in the office are working.

It is a terrible conundrum. There is no question that studies show, and most employers agree, that time off it 100 percent necessary. The studies show production is higher, employees are happier and less tired. Nonetheless, we continue to feel guilty. We must stop this vicious cycle.

I challenge everyone this weekend to do nothing for an hour and not feel guilty about it.

A friend posted a quote on Facebook that is the perfect example: “The obligation for working mothers is a very precise one: the feeling that one ought to work as if one did not have children, while raising one’s children as if one did not have a job.”

I do not have children, but this is totally on point.

Happy guilt-free weekend!

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