GenX women in higher ed from around the globe

Posts Tagged ‘Balance’

12 Views on Work/Life Balance

In Discussion on 2011/03/02 at 07:23

How do you balance work and life?

This month’s question comes from Afshan Jafar.

Ana Dinescu (Berlin, Germany): It is not a right balance (yet) between my life and my work. My home is my office and I have a dangerously amount of time I can dedicate to my work, while enjoying the presence of my family. Although, for them, I am rather an absence. Currently, I am learning how to better use and limit my working time – at maximum 9 hours per day – for spending quality time with my family. And it is not always very easy.

Deanna England (Winnipeg, Canada): At times it feels like “work” and “life” is the same thing! When I’m not working, I’m reading, writing papers; researching…you all know how it goes. I am crazy about calendars and schedules though. I slot in x hours for reading, assignments etc for the entire semester. If something comes up and I miss it, then I do double the next day to make up for it – as determined as I am to do well in this program, I can appreciate that things like family and personal time has to be worked in there sometimes too… Good time management is a skill I’m working on.

Mary Churchill (Boston, USA): I create flexible rules: no work between the hours of 7-8 each morning and 6-8 each evening; weekend work in the early a.m. or when my son is playing with a friend. I made a brilliant choice in a husband who does more than his equal share of the family work. What I have always failed to do and what I’m working on now is carving out “me” time for running, swimming, writing, taking photos, and enjoying coffee with friends.

Elizabeth Lewis Pardoe (Evanston, USA): The true answer? I don’t. I attempt an elaborate juggling act, and balls periodically drop. I wrote about my list system on my own blog last summer. I gauge which facet of my life demands the most immediate attention based upon which list is longest. I try to get those balls in the air first.

Anamaria Dutceac Segesten (Lund, Sweden): Work and life are not two separate entities. I think about the things that interest me academically all the time and I see them all around me – I call this the privilege of loving my work! At the same time, I admit that some administrative matters are intruding upon my private time. But like with most administrative things they come in ebbs and flows. Sometimes there is more to manage (admissions time, launching new courses, beginning of semesters), some other times there’s less.

Denise Horn (Boston, USA): I thought I had my work/life balance under control until yesterday. I have a satisfying social life; I spend quality time with my partner and my dog every day. I am actively engaged in the university community. I enjoy working in the field and arrange my life around month-long trips with my students, whom I adore. I like to say that my work and personal life are so intricately bound together that I have found a perfect balance. My grandmother died yesterday, two days before I am scheduled to leave for India. I found myself trying to explain to my brother (who is also an academic) that I couldn’t reroute my flight to Scotland for the funeral because my students were expecting me. He simply said “Your students are not your family.” He’s right. I need to reevaluate my priorities.

Heather Alderfer (New Haven, USA): I balance “work” and “life” by blurring the difference. If I walk across campus and run into a colleague from another department, I consider our conversation to be part of work. Attending functions around campus enhances my work experience, because I am more aware of the larger context of the university. I do check email from home (to see if there are any “fires”) but I only reply during business hours.

Afshan Jafar (Connecticut, USA): For me the key to a work-life balance is having a partner who is just as committed to my work-life balance as his own. My husband and I work opposite days and have done so since our children were born. Not every job allows such flexibility of course. The downside of this arrangement is that we do a lot of work—grading, preparing for classes, writing—late at night. But I can live with that!

Itir Toksöz (Istanbul, Turkey): I actually do not think that I can balance “work” and “life.” Unfortunately, this mostly happens at the expense of “life” rather than the “work.” The only way I can manage the two is when work is slow I try to do as much as I can in life and when work picks up speed I devote all my time to work, looking forward to the next work-slow cycle when I can go back to life. I am not saying that this is a good way of doing it. This is just the way that I happen to do it.

Lee Skallerup Bessette (Kentucky, USA): When we think of balance, we think of a scale or teeter-totter; two sides with a pivot in the middle. In this, there are only three parts: work, life, and the sliding scale of our expectations. But I don’t think that’s enough. Have you ever tried to balance on a stability ball? Yeah, it’s more like that. You breathe wrong, and you fall off. I’ve seen people do it, but I’m still trying to figure it out.

Rosalie Arcala Hall (Visayas, Philippines): I find time to take better care of myself and to nurture my marriage even with my busy travel schedule. Get a good night sleep, jog most mornings, end my travels with a spa visit, and go out on a periodic date with my husband. I have a work “dock” which I accomplish by priority, going by deadlines and urgency. Limit checking emails to 2 hours, once a day.

Meg Palladino (Boston, USA): I guard my non-work time very carefully. I make a point of taking a break from work every day, even if it is to take a 10 minute walk around the building. Despite pressure to work late every evening, I try to leave on time at least on Friday afternoons.

How do you balance work and life or how do you achieve what Harvard Business Review blogger, Heidi Grant Halvorsen calls “work + life fit” in a recent post?

Add your comment below or tweet your answer to @UVenus and we will post it on the blog as a comment.

The Professor Has Left the Building. Thank You, and Goodnight.

In Uncategorized on 2011/02/23 at 03:40

Afshan Jafar, writing from Connecticut in the USA.

Ever see this clip from Seinfeld? 

It captures how we all feel about telemarketers calling us at home. Now if only I could figure out a way to get this message across to my students. No, they haven’t called me at home (probably because I haven’t made my number public) but they email me – constantly. They email me at midnight, 3 am, 6 am, while I’m on vacation, and while we’re on semester break.

Now, I tell my students at the beginning of every semester not to email me the night before an assignment is due to ask for an extension; not to send me panicky emails about whether they could skip a quiz and make it up later – two hours before class; not to send me emails asking for their final grades in the course when we’re on winter break, simply because they can’t wait the few days until grades are posted. Yet, the emails keep coming. In fact, with each incoming cohort over the last three years, the numbers of such emails showing up in my inbox has increased exponentially.

It would be one thing if the emails at 3 am didn’t expect an answer from me. But they do. I’ve had students email me a couple of times in the middle of the same night, in the hopes, I imagine, of somehow “squeezing” a response from me – during the time that I am, quite naturally, asleep in my bed. If it’s not the email that comes in at 3 am, it’s the email that arrives at 7 pm and demands a response before I go to bed that night. Do we, as professors, not get to “go home” from our jobs? Do we not have families and other obligations? Do we not need sleep? Do we not observe weekends and holidays? If you prick us, do we not bleed?

Of course one could argue that professors are not obligated to answer poorly-timed emails right away. But if you don’t, you could very well have twenty more emails in your inbox by the next day, all desperately demanding an answer. Or the email-happy student could go to your chair or another colleague to complain about your failure to respond. The Work-Life Caregiver Equity Study at UMass-Amherst produced a report that corroborates some of the above. It further states that even when professors set clear rules regarding emails, such as a 24-hour response time, it is more likely to “lead to negative student evaluations regarding the faculty member’s availability and accessibility for students.”

I am not arguing that we shouldn’t be available to our students at all. Of course our students need to get in touch with us at odd hours sometimes; of course emergencies happensometimes. But as the UMass-Amherst report also states, our students often email us with questions that they can find answers for in their syllabi or assignment instructions: When are your office hours? How long is the paper supposed to be? Or they email us about things which are better discussed in person: Why did I get a “C” on this assignment? Nor am I bothered by the emails that come in at odd hours but don’t require responses: Here’s a news story I came across that seemed relevant to this class. In fact, I welcome such emails! But I am bothered by emails that come at all hours of the night and demand immediate responses.

The UMass report recommends developing an email etiquette guide to be included on departmental websites and faculty syllabi. The first and perhaps the most significant recommendation is: “Expect faculty to respond to emails between 9am and 5pm on Monday through Friday with a forty-eight hour lag time.” Even though such rules are not enforceable, they have the benefit of taking the burden off of individual faculty who wish to impose such limits on email communication. We can also safely assume that female academics would benefit from such family-friendly policies since they often do a disproportionate amount of child-care and housework, and thus probably feel more pressed for time when it comes to answering student emails.

But we can expect that such policies will not be widely adopted by colleges (even though some corporate work places do have email policies). So until the day comes when we have college-wide policies to help us curb the flow of student emails to our in-boxes, perhaps I should take my inspiration from Seinfeld, and email my students at 2:30 am on a Saturday and ask them to complete an assignment by 9 am on Sunday.

This post was also published in Inside Higher Ed.

Are You Up-to-date?

In Under the Rain With No Umbrella on 2011/02/18 at 22:43

Itir Toksöz, writing from Istanbul, Turkey
Finally, I am on the semester break. Two weeks ago, I handed in the grades and I have one more week in front of me to complete some pre-scheduled administrative work and prepare the courses for the next semester. This year it is even more important for me to be well-prepared for my courses even before the semester starts because I have to fill the shoes of both an academic and an administrator. From the perspective of an institution, the two positions may be regarded as complementary, in the end academies are thought to be run best by academics. However from the perspective of an academic, I can say that sometimes different shoes on different feet cause an imbalance and hamper the ability to progress smoothly. To walk in these shoes and not to trip, or to be able to run in these shoes when the deadlines are short-notice or near, I need balance. In order to keep the balance, I need to do my preparations more meticulously than previously. So the break is not really a break but a period when I can slow down but still do some work so that I can keep up with the pace of the coming semester.

Read the rest at Inside Higher Ed (link here)

Do Less

In Information Minoration on 2011/01/27 at 00:26

Heather Alderfer, writing from New Haven, Connecticut in the USA

My motto for 2011 is simple: do less. By doing less, I’m hoping to accomplish more. No, it’s not an oxymoron. I try to do too much, so by cutting back on what I’m doing, both at work and at home, my goal is to do whatever task I’m working on more thoroughly, more mindfully, and more completely.

I’m a piler. I leave piles of stuff all over my house, much to the annoyance of my partner. I have piles at work, and each pile represents some project that I started, but haven’t quite finished. I have every intention of finishing each task, but then the phone rings, or an email with one of those lovely red exclamation points comes into my inbox, or a Dean needs a report. So I turn to the next task. And the next task.

Read the rest at Inside Higher Ed (link here)

(What) Can You Read and Write?

In Under the Rain With No Umbrella on 2010/10/01 at 20:32

Itir Toksöz, writing from Istanbul, Turkey

As academics, we are expected to be doing two things on a regular basis: to read a lot and to write a lot on topics related to our profession. This expectation implies that an academic by default has to be comfortable with the idea that her time (other than teaching) will be devoted to reading and writing

One of the reasons why I became an academic was a love for reading and writing since my childhood. I believed that thanks to this love, not only would I be a good academic, but also that I would be miserable unless I chose a profession where I would read and write.  Two childhood anecdotes demonstrate the extent of this love:

I was in 2nd grade when my family’s house caught on fire and almost completely burnt down. When the 7 year and a half year old version of me was told about the incident, my first question was “Did my books also burn down?” The question came naturally to me; I was the first student to have learnt to read in my class so I was given lots of books by members of the family to encourage me to read more. I lost all my books in the fire. I was so upset that during the weeks following the fire everyone in the extended family went into a second phase of buying me books to cheer up and to once more encourage this devoted little reader.

At age 9, I received a most exciting present: in a rapidly liberalizing Turkish economy of early 1980s, I was given an imported notebook with bright yellow pages. It was almost the same time that my school teacher asked us to write a story, an exercise through which I realized that it was as much fun to write your own stuff as reading what others have written, if not more. I took the homework assignment too far, turned it into a book, a sci-fi novel of 147 pages, which I wrote in the notebook with the bright yellow pages.

Ironically I had named my book “The Queen of Venus,” unaware of the fact that the future would make me an author at the University of Venus. Years of writing small pieces of literature (poems, essays, short stories, plays etc.) gained me the nickname “Queen of Words” by a few friends with whom I shared the things I wrote. I happily accepted and internalized it.

Seeing an academic not just as a teacher/researcher but also as an intellectual, I had thought reading and writing on topics unrelated to the field in which I am an academic would come naturally and that I would have plenty of time to do so. Yet 10 years into my teaching, in an academic atmosphere which encourages reading and writing mostly for publishing and with my recent promotion to the Vice Dean at my Faculty, I have a busy schedule in which reading and writing outside of my professional field is becoming more and more challenging. I find myself saying that I don’t read or write anymore, which is only partially true. I do read and write. It is just that I read and write mostly on topics which are directly related to my discipline and I feel as if I am becoming more and more a one-dimensional person whose sole scholarly interest is her narrowed down research area, a type of academic I would not want to be. I miss reading books outside my professional area; I miss writing unscholarly words.

I make a lot of effort to read books that are not related to my work. When it comes to writing, believe it or not the only place where I can feel at least a little bit like the Queen of Words and where I can sit on my throne of creativity and rule over my own words is this little column at the University of Venus.

How is it for you? (What) Can you read and write?

This post was also published in Inside Higher Ed.

 

Can’t Leave Your Brain Behind

In Happy Mondays on 2010/09/07 at 20:07

Mary Churchill, writing from Boston, MA in the USA.

Vacation is supposed to be a time away from one’s normal routine – an escape from the drudgery of day-to-day life. However, when you are trained to critique and engage in critical dialogue, it becomes virtually impossible to unplug and escape. This is the conundrum of an academic on vacation. We can’t stop thinking and we don’t really want to.

I recently returned from a short vacation to Mexico. My husband, son, and I went to Cancun and Playa del Carmen to visit with family who live in the area. On this trip, I realized that downtime looks very different for an academic. I couldn’t help but view the Mayan Riviera through at least three lenses: those of researcher, teacher, and administrator.

Like most of the people in the region, my family works in the tourism industry. Not only are they selling vacation homes and rentals, they are also selling dreams. To appeal to people while on vacation, you must appeal to their desire for escape, for fantasy. As a sociologist, I was fascinated by Cancun – truly a “postmodern” city (Jameson). I instantly drew parallels with The Celebration Chronicles, Andrew Ross’s work on Disney’s planned community – both attempt to construct an alternate and improved reality.

For me, vacations are filled with curiosity, questions, and new insights, followed by a frenzied search for what has already been written on a topic as soon as I’m back in my office (if I’m not using the airport’s Wi-Fi while waiting to board my return flight). I spent this morning searching for academic literature on Cancun – specifically tourism’s impact on society. On the map of Mexico, the Riviera Maya is located on the east coast of the Yucatan peninsula roughly between Cancun and Tulum. On the chart of tourism urbanization, it falls between Gladstone’s “tourist metropolis” (Las Vegas and Disney World) and “leisure city” (Fort Meyers and Daytona Beach). It is a make-believe play space filled with sun, sand, and beaches, and supported by an army of flesh-and-blood workers drawn from across the Yucatan and beyond.

When I wasn’t reflecting on the societal implications of selling dreams, growing up in a city of escapism, and using another country as an exotic playground, I was thinking as a teacher and administrator. I think students have much to learn from Cancun’s rapid rise as a top international tourist attraction – from tourism branding and marketing to the challenges of urban planning and transportation in a hurricane hot spot to the sociological and psychological study of “the postmodern pursuit of pleasure as an end in itself.” (Gladstone)

Programmatically, my initial ideas involved experiential education. What a fantastic opportunity for students in so many areas: business, engineering, social sciences, and humanities came to mind immediately. I wanted to know about the local colleges and universities, local coop and internship opportunities, and ESL and other language programs. How could US institutions partner with local institutions? How could I help professors bring students on short-term programs? What are the security issues that would need to be addressed with risk management? How could I convince parents that students would be studying rather than partying at Coco Bongo?

These were the thoughts I had while lying on the beach in Playa del Carmen, in the shade of a palapa, sipping sangria that was beginning to take on the appearance of a magical elixir – part vino tinto, part limeade and eating ceviche overflowing with bright purple tentacles and crunchy-sweet jicama. At first, I envied my husband and son for their ability to effortlessly unplug from our lives in Boston and be completely in the moment, playing in the surf. Upon reflection, I realized that I thrive on curiosity, engagement, and making connections between research and “real life” and that I have little desire to fully unplug.

One necessary societal role that academics play can be witnessed through our constant stream of questions and critiques — an endless litany of dialogue openers filled with how?, why?, and what next? rather than conversation closers made up of “because,” “so what,” and “who cares”.

I wondered –Would the zoologist be intrigued by the animal that hung out at our hotel’s pool and looked like a cross between my Siamese cat, a raccoon, and a lemur? Would the geologist have an overwhelming desire to swim underground and explore the local cenotes?

Inspiration:

  • Alarcon, Daniel Cooper. 1997. The Aztec Palimpsest: Mexico in the Modern Imagination. University of Arizona Press.
  • Gladstone, David L. 1998. “Tourism Urbanization in the United States.” Urban Affairs Review. 34:1
  • Jameson, Fredric. 1991. Postmodernism , or, the Cultural Logic of Late Capitalism. Duke.
  • Mullins, P. 1991. “Tourism Ubanization.” International Journal of Urban and Regional Research. 15:3.
  • Ross, Andrew. 2000. The Celebration Chronicles:Life, Liberty, and the Pursuit of Property Value in Disney’s New Town. Ballantine.
  • Sontag, Susan. 1977. On Photography.Doubleday.

This post was also published on Inside Higher Ed.

From the Tenure Side-Lines

In Uncategorized on 2010/09/03 at 21:57

Guest blogger, Elizabeth Lewis Pardoe, writing from Evanston, Illinois in the USA

I took the unthinkable step off the tenure track when my second son was born. I have no desire to return, but I do crave recognition of my role as a member of the scholarly community. I continue to produce scholarship, but as someone on the tenure side-lines, no one cares or accounts for the time and energy it entails. I think my talents are put to better use where I am than as the proverbial tenured professor, but I also think my scholarship positively influences my work in this setting as much or more than it did when I was ‘in line’ for tenure. People assume that leaving the tenure track means you lost interest in research and writing. For me, and I suspect for many others, nothing could be further from the truth.

I firmly believe that in order to teach a subject you must be actively engaged with it. The accepted paradox of the American academy is that those who research most teach least. I find the flip side of this equation a greater perturbation. Those who teach and advise undergraduates most intensively are not merely released from requirements to publish or perish (a blessing) but discouraged from maintaining their scholarly expertise. Because I am an administrator, I have nowhere to turn for financial support when my papers are accepted to conferences. Sometimes, I wander the halls of power with my tin cup and accumulate just enough to buy my airline ticket. Sometimes, I am too proud/ashamed to go begging. Regardless of how I pay my academic bills, none of my time is protected to allow me a few hours in a library or an archive. When I write, it is squeezed into my lunch hour or time taken away from my family on weekends and sleep in the wee hours.

I can and do teach in addition to my administrative (which are actually advising) responsibilities. I even get paid. The service I render the university as someone able to advise students about research proposals and presentation style, however, stems from my scholarly activity. I learned these skills from experience, and I maintain my skills by using them. While I consider my continued scholarship an essential part of my position, no one else does. Indeed, friends in the academy tell me that what I do is simply impossible, and I should stop for my own good. Fortunately, my editors and commentators have not yet been apprised of the futility of my efforts.

As we continue our discussion about who teaches whom what and why, I want to underscore the necessity of practicing what we preach. If we advise students on studying and research abroad, we should be active researchers with connections abroad. If we advise students on scholarly careers, we should be scholars. At most of the institutions I know, this is not the case. Advisers in these areas may have doctoral degrees, but the moment we are asked to advise students on their own paths, we are cut off from the very activities that qualified us to advise them. At the highest levels, presidents, provosts, and deans fight fundraising’s encroachment upon every waking minute. For those of us in the tuition trenches without tenure, we struggle to present the virtues of scholarly inquiry while watching our own projects perish.

I pledge to continue my perhaps pathetic attempts to be an academic administrator in hope that someday my definition will make its way out of my dreams and into reality.

Elizabeth Lewis Pardoe is associate director of the office of fellowships and teaches history and American studies at Northwestern University, from which she earned her B.A. (1992). She earned M.Litt. (1994) and M.Phil. (1995) degrees in European History as a Marshall Scholar at Cambridge University before completing her Ph.D. at Princeton University (2000). In her so-called spare time, she fights household entropy, gardens, bakes boozy bundts, enjoys breakfast in Bollywood, and writes scholarly papers about funky monks. For more, visit http://elizabethlewispardoe.wordpress.com or find Elizabeth on Twitter@ejlp and LinkedIn.

This post was also published on Inside Higher Ed.

Confessions of a Trailing Spouse

In Uncategorized on 2010/08/19 at 02:08

Guest blogger, Lee Skallerup, writing from Kentucky in the USA.

Last winter semester, I didn’t teach. It was by choice, but it was a choice that dates back to 2001 when I first met the man who would eventually be my husband.  I was just starting my PhD and he, after some time off school, had his sights firmly set on grad school and a PhD. We agreed that if we were to stay together, we were not going to have one of those academic marriages where one lived in one city while the other lived in another in order for both to have the tenure-track job; why bother even getting married, we reasoned. Getting married, to me, meant having a spouse around most of the time, not just some weekends, holidays, and extended summer vacations.

Secretly, I figured I wouldn’t be the one who would have to sacrifice. I was four years ahead of my husband and mathematically reasoned that my chances of getting a tenure-track job first were better. And, that is exactly what happened; before my husband had even written his qualifying exams, I was hired as an assistant professor.  We moved across the country together, as a family, even though he had virtually no hope of landing an academic position close by.

And then, he got a job, too. His job was one of those once-in-a-lifetime opportunities for a young professor: low teaching load, primarily graduate students, lots of external funding, and travel support. The trade-off? I would have to leave my tenure-track job in a mid-size city and move to a small, rural town, and the economy being what it is, they didn’t have anything comparable to my current position to offer me.

We agonized over the decision. Do we live apart for a year? We have two small kids who adore their father – something I am very grateful for and I didn’t want to spoil those relationships for the sake of my career. I teach English, possibly the most employable (and lowest-paying) discipline. I found some adjunct work, quit my job, and we moved yet again.

The past year has probably been one of the most difficult of my life. When we first arrived, my youngest was at an age when life was still dictated by naps and feedings. Most mothers worked and when we would go to the park, it was deserted. Every mother I did meet was typically ten years younger than I was and had lived here her entire life. Most of the faculty (or faculty wives) had older kids. I felt incredibly alone and isolated.

Professionally, I felt like a failure. I had devoted my entire adult life to becoming a professor, and here I was, underemployed and staring down a mountain of debt. I was raised to be independent, and here I was unable to pull my own weight in the household. I hate housework, I can’t cook, and I ended up resenting every time I had to make dinner or clean up. This was my job now. Ugh. And I desperately missed teaching. For some, a job is just a job. For me, I am a teacher as much as I am a mother and a wife.

Meanwhile, my husband was in his dream position, complete with all of the insane hours that came with it. We lived within walking distance of the university, so he was able to come home most days for lunch and dinner, but being close by also meant that he would often go back to work in the evenings to keep working. He was incredibly supportive, giving me time to keep working on my own research interests and encouraging me to start my own business and blog. But he couldn’t create a friend or teaching opportunity out of thin air.

This fall, however, is looking up. I was offered a full-time instructor position for this upcoming academic year. It offers twice the money as adjunct teaching, but half the money as being a professor. I’ll take it. A new faculty hire and her family have just moved in two houses down from us, and they have a son the same age as my youngest. We’re already scheduling play dates. I feel extremely fortunate and hopeful. But, as a trailing spouse, even by choice, I still wish I had more control over my life and career.

Lee Elaine Skallerup has a PhD from the University of Alberta in Comparative Literature. She has taught in two Canadian provinces and three States, and is now branching out as an Edupreneur. You can visit her blog at collegereadywriting.blogspot.com and follow her on Twitter (@readywriting).

This post was also published on Inside Higher Ed.

Which is your Priority: Research or Teaching?

In Anamaria's Posts on 2010/08/11 at 20:16

Anamaria Dutceac Segesten, writing from Lund in Sweden.

For academics of a certain age, having many fine balancing acts to prioritize is our prerogative.

UVenus writers have blogged about the dilemmas of matching parenthood and work, working with both international and local students, and finding time for vacation and work. I am now facing yet another point of equilibrium: how do I make room for both research and teaching within the frame of my allotted working hours?

At the moment it feels as if I need an extra job (and perhaps an extra life) to be able to respond to the demands of research and publishing on one hand and prepare for teaching several courses on the other. During my summer vacation I should have been working on my book, due, as my editor kindly reminded me just the other day, on September 15. I have a conference paper in the works, and this has to be ready by the end of August. A book chapter should be on its way some time before the end of fall. And then of course there are the “smaller” articles, contributions and commentaries.

t the same time, I am coordinating two new programs that will be launched precisely one month from today, and thus am responsible for both the academic and the administrative structures associated with these new European Studies Bachelor and Master programs. I must respond to urgent student questions, must be in touch with other units at the university, want to participate in the welcoming of international students, need to prepare and schedule the Introduction Day, as well as oversee the entire schedule of classes and extracurricular activities and make sure that everything is done in accordance with the rules of the university bodies. Moreover, I have submitted literature lists and designed the best structure of lectures and seminars, planned guest speakers, and set up the exam calendar for these programs as well as for other courses that I will be teaching this autumn.

This sounds like a description of the best possible work plan in the world, doesn’t it?

I really love to work with international students, to create new and interesting courses, to introduce new techniques in my teaching, to give students a chance to listen to the great voices in our field by inviting international scholars of repute to give talks. I am also truly passionate about my research and I “see” the topics that interest me everywhere I go. I carry them with me not only as a part of my job but as a part of who I am. My mind is full of new research ideas all the time – the complexities of world politics, of European dynamics, or of collective identities offer constant opportunities to be puzzled over and academically stimulated by.

The problem is that I cannot seem to find room for these amounts of both teaching and research in my calendar. Something has to give. Last year I tried to keep it all under control and I ended up not seeing my family for more than 20 minutes a day, time when I was barely there, mentally speaking. It did not seem right. So I tried to cut away some pieces. But which ones? Is the firefighting strategy best: deal with the most burning issues first and leave others that do not “blaze” to wait? Or should I decide a priori that some issues are most important, some others are quite important and yet another category is important enough, and keep to these priorities regardless of the calls of “fire”?

I leave you to ponder these choices while I go to answer the email of another international student.

This post was also published on Inside Higher Ed.

It’s 4:30 in the morning, do you know where your work/life balance is?

In A Day in the Life, Guest Blogger on 2010/03/17 at 09:00

A dear colleague of mine and I were talking the other day about a couple of exciting things that have happened concerning recent developments with my research.  She looked at me and very thoughtfully proclaimed, “There is no way you can do all that you are doing so well – you must be magic.”  After I hugged her and told her that I had always known that I was a changeling, I felt nauseous.  Wait a second, how am I doing all that I am doing?  And maybe more importantly, should I be doing all of this?  Let’s look at my life – a day in the life of a mom on the tenure track and see how it all happens.

The characters: M – devoted husband/father; D – 2.5 year-old son; me – Assistant Professor/mom/wife/daughter/sister/etc.

4:30 am – I am up, checking emails, etc. As we know, these crazy millennial students email at all hours of the day and night.

5:30 am – M’s alarm goes off. No interaction takes place as he is not a morning person and is best left alone at this time of day.

6:00-7:00 am –  Some time in this hour my son D wakes up,  typically yelling about how hungry he is.

6:30 am – M is out the door.  There is a little more interaction than in the previous hour.  Ah, romance and the married couple. (Another post for another time).

Between the time D wakes up and 7:15 am – Feeding and dressing D and coaxing him into trying to use the potty. Put D in front of the TV (don’t judge) so that I can get dressed, fed, and well, all of that other stuff that needs to happen to turn me from super-mom to super-professor.

7:30 am – Into the car and off to the daycare. Drop D off at daycare.  Bittersweet but the best thing for everyone involved.

7:30-8:45 am  –  Back into the car and drive the commute from Hell.

8:45-9:20 am – Prep (?) for my first class  – Gender and Politics.

9:30-10:50 am – Class (woohoo!). Thank god for teaching.

11:00-12:20 pm  – Meeting or office hours and maybe if I am lucky, some food that I call lunch.

12:30-1:50 pm – Teaching class number 2 (woohoo!) – American Public Policy.

2:00-5:30  pm – Depends on the day – meetings, meetings, or maybe some meetings.  I’m a member of Faculty Council, a NEASC co-chair, pre-law advisor for the institution, internship coordinator for both the department and a college-wide program, so I meet a lot.

6:00-7:00 pm– Back in the car – not so bad at this time of night.  And I get to make hands free phone calls and catch up with and catch up with friends, family, and whomever I haven’t talked to in a while.  Which might as well be everyone.

7:15 pm  – Home to read D stories before bed.  If I am lucky, food.

7:30-10 pm  – D is in bed. I am back on the computer.  Remember that research thing I mentioned before: this is when I do that.

10:15-10:30 pm – Talk to M.  It is amazing how much quality conversation you can have in 15 minutes.

10:30 pm – Sleep, hopefully.  More likely than not, rest with the occasional sleep thrown in.

Yes, this is a crazy life, but I love this life.  I am a better mom because I work and a better academic because of my child and the time demands that he places on me.  Since he has come around, my research has flourished, my teaching has been rewarded, and I can actually find files when I need them. I was honest with my chair about the time management crunch, therefore I get to work from home one day a week. This usually means I take care of D until he naps and then I do work. As far as weekends go, this time is usually weekend time – which is great! To be fair, this whole balance thing is a lot easier when someone balances it with you.  On my husband’s schedule, the time between 3-7 includes making dinner and lunch for the next day and picking D up from daycare. He is truly a co-parent in this deal.

So what have I learned?  Yes, I should be doing this.  I have found not balance, but pretty close to what could be described as fulfillment in two very important parts of my life.  To me, being fulfilled often means that there can be a bit extra at certain times, to fill in when you miss things, like a conference because you are pregnant — or material for a funny story when you are at a conference.

This is not a zero sum gain.  It’s just my life.

Leanne Doherty

Bookmark and Share

Leanne Doherty is many things, but for the purposes of this piece, is an assistant professor, wife, mom, former college athlete, sister, daughter, first generation college student, and Pisces.  This is her first attempt at this thing the kids call “blogging”.

(editor’s note: Leanne is an Assistant Professor of American Politics at Simmons College in Boston, Massachusetts in the USA.  Her research focuses on the intersection of athletics and political leadership.)

Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 290 other followers