There are many reasons to like being a professor; I have a great job. But one of my biggest frustrations is that my work life has no boundaries. There is always more to do, and because so much of my work is done at home, it is easy to let it eclipse everything else. One study shows that professors work an average of 45-55 hours per week. (There is a newer study that breaks down these numbers according to university level, but I can’t find it.) In short, many professors will tell you that there is a constant level of guilt when they take time off because they “should be working.” This is especially true in the summer.
To manage the guilt and pressure, my wife and I decided to commit to a very old practice. About a year ago, we started observing Shabbat: the Jewish day of rest. For Christians, the Sabbath falls on a Sunday, but for Jews it’s Saturday. And, since Jewish days run sundown to sundown, our rest period ends up being Friday night to Saturday night. We light candles to commemorate the beginning, as is our religious tradition, and we have a big dinner for some friends. We devote all of Saturday to family activities, and some odds and ends around the house. We are not super-observant. We handle money on Shabbat, do our laundry, and do many other things Orthodox Jews would frown upon. There have also been Saturdays where, for one reason or another, we had to work. But these qualifications are not the point. The point is, for those 24 hours, we honor ourselves by resting as best we can. That moment when I’m done cooking dinner on Friday night and I really get to exhale, that may be the best moment of my week.