Work to Live or Live to Work?

To say that this week has been tough would be an understatement. I received potentially bad news about my little friend earlier in the week, the kids at work were a nightmare, a set of external moderators have requested work early and to add the proverbial icing to the cake we were informed that the dreaded OFSTED would be present next week, this news reaching us just two weeks after we had very successfully undergone a similar inspection with a different group of people. At one point, my whole body felt like it was buzzing and my brain was on the verge of exploding. Those of you that follow my blog regularly will know that I don’t deal with stress very well and I feel like I’m performing a balancing act to get everything done.


However, I decided that the best thing would be to tackle the workload head on and went into work yesterday and today. Despite having to work all weekend I am pleased that even though I am nowhere near finished I have certainly made decent progress. So, for the next couple of hours I am going to make a little bit of time for me.

When I initially qualified and started teaching at my very first school I remember being amazed at how tired and cynical a lot of the older staff were and I often heard them loudly complain about the various objections that they had with the British Education System. Unfortunately, eight years down the line I find that not only am I tired, but I understand their cynicism.

Teaching is a rewarding, inspiring and mentally challenging profession. It is also stressful, fast-paced and at times can be utterly soul destroying. The idea of a work/life balance simply doesn’t exist – I know that I could work for 24 hours a day / 7 days a week and I still would have a million things that need to be done and it isn’t uncommon for me to receive emails at 11.00pm most evenings and the over the weekends. With marking, data, reports, external moderators, filing, and planning I have now reached the stage where I lie awake in the middle of the night worrying about things I have or haven’t completed. I thought that going part-time would change the situation, and it did for a little while, but the feeling of anxiety has started to creep back in and I have started to find myself working on my day off.


So, I have decided that the end of this week is the time where I need to start taking my life back and working to live. This doesn’t mean shirking my responsibilities within my professional life, just creating more of a balance, just like Scout here. In the same way that I prioritise my workload and follow a timetable in my professional life, I am going to start scheduling in time to do things that make me feel good – having ‘date nights’ with The Bloke, blogging, reading the books I bought at Christmas, watching the films I have yet to see, spending some quality time with my friends and family, and most importantly, giving myself the opportunity to relax.

Why? Because life is short (the loss of people close to me over the last few years has taught me that) and I owe it to myself and those around me to live it.

What about you? Do you find that work is taking over your life?

You can also find me on Twitter and Tumblr @Suzie81blog

26 thoughts on “Work to Live or Live to Work?

  1. Smart cookie, that you are!! I have had several career changes in my life. My son tells me, “Mom you are supposed to work to live, not live to work.” But I have found the perfect balance here…no deadlines, no note taking, no case notes…However, I did go through 2 months of extra projects…all to teach me to back off with too much than I can handle…Good advice, Suzie…life flashes by and all of a sudden you are over 60!! and still a long list of “I wish I did’s”… great post!

      • Whist I was figuring that out, I stopped one career, took part time course in one field and worked in homecare with seniors. That was so rewarding and times I had cleaning to do (yep, Ihad to cook and clean)…I had time to my thoughts and my daydreams and stories. Actually in our agency there are teachers who work with us part time too, we have had a vice principal, a principal, probation officer…take your time…volunteer in an area to see what you would like to do before making that shift. And Suzie, turn off the work email after 4p.m….try your schedule for a bit and you will find you love your work better when you are in charge with balance. I am sure Scottishmomus can guide you as well. Blessings…I’m off to work now on this wet Sunday (we had 30cm of snow)

  2. This is my 43rd year in the education game, 25 in the classroom, l7 as a mentor teacher, and almost one as an online English tutor in writing, public speaking, editing, mentoring, and conversational English for foreign business people and students. Deep breath.
    Classroom teaching is draining. You expend tremendous energy with each class, not only in the room, but the hours outside class correcting papers, making lesson plans, attending meetings, serving on committees, keeping track of absences, etc. etc.etc. It’s endless. I tell the teachers I mentor,”You have to make time for yourself. You need a life outside of school. See family and friends. Find a hobby. Smell the flowers. Go see films. Read. Do whatever feeds your soul. If you don’t, you’ll find your mind and body rebelling in resentment, and you won’t be as effective as a teacher.”
    Please, take hours for yourself. You only have the “now.” Use it well, so that you can enjoy the future joyfully.

  3. This a lifelong balancing act. Some times you will live to work, especially when preparing for promotions, saving for large purchases or feeling passionate about the work. The key is to ensure you make time, as you are doing, to reconnect with those things that are more important than the “job.”

    I took a lower-paying job in my thirties, simply because it allowed me the option to telecommute. I worked just as hard, if not harder, because there were not “office distractions” to keep me from focusing on the work. The payoff was better use of my time, because projects completed quicker, which resulted in more time with Hubby. Did I miss the money? Heck, yes, but my time was more valuable.

    Keep allowing yourself time to re-evaluate you work/life balance, and listen to your women’s intuition. It will never steer you wrong. Best wishes!

  4. I think we all spend too much time working or thinking about work. It’s worse here in the U.S. We only get 6 weeks off for maternity leave. Other countries offer far more time for new Moms to spend with their babies. I wish I had had more time with both my boys when they were babies. Everything here is geared towards work and doing your best on the job. Yet when we reach the end of our lives, not one of us will ever say, “I should have spent more time working.” I envy those that can work from home, and that is what I hope to do one day.

  5. As you know I am always here to support you and I know how much pressure teachers are under, I have said before I have walked into the PSA room and found teachers sobbing their hearts out because the stress is just getting to much and I have come into work and found teachers off sick and then they resign. I really think it does get to much and work does overwhelm people and life takes a back seat, relationships break down and at the end of it you find yourself on your own with nothing to show for 40 years of hard work.
    Every weekend should be for yourself, every day of every holiday should be for yourself, work should stay where it belongs in the work place.
    But here is me saying this who will never work again after conformation on Thursday but I have to now stress how I am going to live, life is full of stress but it really depends on how you are designed to deal with it, I think having a ‘Back off its my life attitude’ works really well and learning to say no in a very loud voice. I know you will make the right decision and the bloke will be there right with you 🙂

  6. I found myself on the brink of becoming a casualty of public education as well just last spring. This year I’m working on finding a balance as well. Working 3 days a week has helped. I think it will always be a struggle. I think that those of us drawn to helping professions find it easier to short change ourselves than others. Take care of you Suzie.

  7. Great post, I completely understand the feeling of it all taking over – have a similar situation myself. I’m finding that whereas I started out in a job I loved and had passion for, which gave me opportunities – now, due to company rearrangements, people leaving and so on, going to work has now become something I dread. So I made the decision over Christmas that it is time for me to move on, and after spending a lifetime in education/working, that it is time for me to save up and take a break from life. I plan to leave to go travelling by myself with hopes of finding a new job in Australia. It may seem to some that I am running away, but I see it as seizing an opportunity and climbing out of this rut. I hope that you manage to find your work/life balance once more xx

  8. I work to live for the most part. Then there are times when I must live to work. Lately, my work has been the one thing that is helping keep my sanity. And, if we want to eat and have shelter and those stinkin’ necessities in life, I MUST work to live. It is a bittersweet concoction.

  9. Ah! You’ve hit on what I’m struggling with at the moment. I was always career oriented – and I still am – but now with two kids – I realize there is more to life and I need to figure out how to make it all fit.

    But it isn’t just the “kid thing”. I’m starting to be of the opinion that work-life balance is a crock and that people don’t really want “balance”. What they want is fulfillment – professional fulfillment and personal fulfillment. If, at times, one needs to take precedence over the other in order to ultimately achieve both then, with proper supports on both fronts, I think we’re the happier for doing it (ie: long work hours for a promotion or important project; being there in our personal lives when someone we love needs us; taking well earned holiday time to veg out on a beach with those closest to us).

    I’m also starting to think more about identity generally – and whether we place too much stock in our professional identity vs who we fully are. I think bloggers explore this aspect fabulously. Work is important – no doubt. But I think I’m shifting towards the work to live camp – at least for the near term.

    This was a great post. Good luck with everything!

  10. my whole family are work aholics…. it’s bad. hubby has been ill the past three years because of how hard he has worked, how manyhours he put in. Teachers are incredible. You live your career. You give to your students, their parents, the administration, the school board. You give and give. You don’t know how else to do it, because teaching is a calling and a way of life. I admire teachers, and I admire you. Well done for you to get things into a balance, I hope you can succeed in this. Thank you too for putting my blog’s name out on yours. I had 46 responses from this and I am forever grateful… still need to get my badge over to my blog, you are the greatest!

  11. I sense great passion in you for your profession. You care about the kids, your colleagues, how well you do your job. Keep in mind that you may not ever truly realize how much you positively influence your students because the real dividends show up about 10 years after your last class with them. You might not see how much your students thrive because of what you taught them.
    Keep in mind as well how many people struggle to find meaningful work or even any work at all. The skeleton of our identities is built on our work. We tell people we are this (job) or that (job.)
    You’ve taken a skill and turned it into a career. You also made very wise decisions when you were young and are now benefiting from your good choices.For those unable to find work or stuck with miserable jobs, your work is heaven.
    But truly, should you leave your job, you will only be missed for a short while by the huge majority of the kids and their parents because you will be replaced. So what does this mean? Make sure there is plenty more to Suzi than the Job. By the range of topics I read on this blog, you have many other interests and are talented in many ways.
    Your new idea of building in time for yourself is wonderful. Do not be deterred by the pressures imposed by other forces, Job or other.
    Best to you in all your pursuits.

  12. Suzie! As a fellow teacher I completely understood where you’re coming from. Our workday does not end when the bell rings. I was working this weekend! I used to work around the clock and then I realized I was
    A) going insane
    B) driving myself into the ground

    Something has to give- it can’t be your health. Now I can recognize when I need to put the book down. Today is a snowday and it’s going to be all about me.

  13. I keep telling myself to do this, but I get too caught up in the hamster wheel to stop and figure out how. (Stopping by from Sitssharefest)

  14. Good for you. Yes we need to earn a living, but what’s the point if you forget to do any of the living?
    In my younger days 60 hour work weeks were not uncommon. It took almost dying during heart surgery and 7 months of convalescence for me to realize that work would survive without me. Bottom line: On their deathbed no one ever says “I wish I had spent more time at work.”

  15. I can relate to these feelings. The past few months I have been feeling a lot of stress and anxiety from work, and it can be difficult to destress. I work in a school, not as a teacher, but I can relate to the stressful school environment. It’s all a matter of finding ways to cope.

  16. So glad you made time for this post, Susie. And I’m so glad that you enjoy what you do (and sound like you are very good at it too, even tho it can be hard). I’m one of the Lucky Ones who loves her chosen occupation, which is writing. I found the secret to be adapting my Work so that it’s more like Play. I made the decision about ten years ago to go freelance, and about a year ago I started writing my blog. Of course I do make less $$$, but I am happier. Ah, choices!

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