New convert to Catholicism to be Leah Libresco is speaking to those who put work above all else in a piece she's aptly titled The Sad Secular Monks.
You know who you are:
Male CEOs are not asked how they will balance the responsibility to their jobs with their obligations to their children because it is assumed that a parental relationship is a luxury for men at the top. Women entered the workforce, but didn’t submit to its disregard of the family, so they are achingly aware of the tradeoffs. And we’re better off feeling that pain and steeling ourselves to fight than accepting the status quo and not noticing a sacrifice is being made.
Today, many of the most high-status jobs for the well-educated make a virtue of intensity and commitment. Investment banking boasts 80-hour work weeks; Teach for America’s emotional crucible results in a high burnout rate; and jobs in the political sector spawn articles like Anne-Marie Slaughter’s cri de coeur. Have a Type A personality? These jobs are ready to push you to (or past) your limit, and isn’t that what excellence is all about?
There’s a word for people who turn over their entire waking life to one cause, and willingly sacrifice the possibility of a family for the opportunity to serve: monks (or, more archaically, oblates). Just like the driven twenty-somethings of Rosin’s article, monks and nuns have made a commitment so total that it precludes marriage. But in the case of vowed religious, the form of their service is meant to be elevating, not just useful. I seldom hear people claim that spreadsheets are good for the soul. Even for people doing high intensity work for the public good (the teachers, the social workers, the public interest lawyers, etc.), the form of their work may still be deadening.
Most careers aren’t vocations, so we need space outside them to grow and love. It’s possible to make a short-term decision to put life and relationships on hold, in order to make a high-intensity commitment to a cause (this is the model for the oft-touted national service draft), but it’s unhealthy to let these crisis-mode jobs give shape to your life.
Read the whole thing.
Her concluding paragrap is worth the visit.