Maybe I'm incredibly lucky, but I've worked at a lower middle market PE fund (think $1-2Bn AUM, fund size in the $500-750MM range, $20-50MM equity checks, major city that's not NYC) for a few years and my life is materially better than when I was in. My typical hours during the week (pre-covid) are 9:30-7:30pm in the office, with maybe 1 hour at home every night (mostly responding to emails) after dinner, gym, etc. Weekends are mostly clear, maybe 2-5 hours on Sundays to get ready for the week. When a deal's getting hot it's obviously more intense, but I have significant latitude in terms of schedule (e.g. I can chose to take Saturday off and work all day Sunday). It's not like I'm sitting on my hands all day either - I've averaged 1 major transaction (platform acquisition or sale) plus a handful of add-ons, refis, etc. each year and have done significant portco work as well.
My comp could be higher (first year associates make $200k all in, $-in comp increases per year), but considering the low cost of living, I've been able to save a ton of money. I'm wrapping up my defined associate stint shortly so need to choose between b-school and lateraling. I guess the point of this thread is to let people know that there's a life outside MF/UMM funds and it's often better and healthier. Sure, I may not get into HBS and I'll never work on a front-page of the WSJ type of deal, but I'm generally happy with my life, work on interesting stuff, and make plenty of money compared to many of my peers. Just food for thought.