Tuesday, August 26, 2008

Work/Life Inbalance

My Mom is a professor (I know, I've said this before). And while I'm incredible proud of her - she went back to grad school when I was a teenager, got her PhD, got an Asst. Prof. position when I was in high school, and a couple years ago became a full Prof - sometimes I think she is completely clueless. I'm sure part of this stems from the fact that she is a Prof in a completely different field than me - she is in business - yet she tries to apply her experience to mine.

A few examples: when I was interviewing and talking about getting start-up packages in the million dollar range, she told me to think more realistically - universities just can't afford that. And when I mention summer salary, she asks if I'm going to be teaching in the summer. (No - not, planning on teaching). And when I work 5-7 days a week, even though I'm not teaching this term, and I very rarely take vacations, she keeps asking why I'm working such long hours - I shouldn't work so hard. Do all of the other profs work this hard? She only goes into work on the days she teaches - the other days, she stays at home and writes books. And the books do well. Why am I not writing books? Note: She has appeared on CNN to talk about her books - and not the 3am time slot either. I'll never appear on CNN. My work just isn't CNN material. I think it is awesome, but it just doesn't have that general audience, CNN appeal. Maybe I should discover or dispute a planet...

[I would like to point out that my Dad basically doesn't comment. His opinion is "as long as you're happy, I'm happy". I'm clearly happy. Possibly happier than I have been in a long time - after my tortured PhD experience. Tired, but happy. Therefore, he is happy.]

These types of discussions happen every time we talk on the phone. Many bloggers think that if their parents were in academia, they wouldn't have these types of discussions because their parents would understand. I just wanted to point out that this is not true.

The frequency of these discussions is increasing - it used to be just once a month or so (when I was grad school). At that point, I distracted her by saying my schedule would calm down when I graduated. However, I was clearly not being completely honest. I was more referring to my experimental schedule, which required long hours in the lab.

My Mom clearly has grand-kids on the mind. Because usually about halfway through these conversations when she realizes that I'm focusing on getting my career going, she mentions something like, but if you are working 14hrs/day, and have a 1.5hr commute (each way), how are you possibly going to raise a child? How are you logistically going to do it? With your travel schedule, how is this going to work out?

My answer: I am married. I have a wonderfully supportive husband whose job is 20min from home and who has a non-existent travel schedule. And my school has a great day care and maternity leave policy which will cover the first few years. We have looked into this. And really, I'm relatively young - yes, I'm not 20 anymore, but I'm also not 40 either. And until my lab is somewhat self-sustaining (ie I have some older students who can train the younger ones), they are really my children. I don't need two sets.

[I actually seem to have a third set of children - the female undergrads, but maybe I'll talk about this tomorrow.]

Anyway, I know the concept of Work/Life balance is on most people's minds, especially those considering an academic career. But, really, I think as long as everyone in the relationship (both you and your spouse) support each other and communicate with each other on a regular basis, then it is possible. My husband and I actually use google calendar, even now, to post our travel schedules - it is more mine than his. I started this last year with all of the interview trips, but it is really helpful. It gives him a way to know when I'll be where, and I can include my hotel contact info and flight info.


Candid Engineer said...

Relieved to hear this, perhaps. Had another one of those conversations with my 4th-grade-teacher mother that further underscores her complete lack of understanding and appreciation for what I do. She thinks I'm an anti-social bookworm without any communication skills.

Anyway, I guess your parent would have to be a professor of science or engineering to really "get it".

Teak Furniture said...

You are lucky to have a husband who supports you in everything you do. In my case, I am really having a hard time balancing my family and career.