As classes begin again, I find myself thinking more about life/work balance.
Ten years ago, when I was an obsessive graduate student, without a spouse or kids or life outside archaeology, I had no concerns about balance. If I had thought about it, I would have assumed that life/work balance issues - like so many other things in my life - could be solved by a little organization. Just make a list of all the things you need to get done, prioritize and schedule those obligations, and voila!: one balanced life.
I didn't understand that my lists would be of loves, not chores. My problem is not that I have too many obligations, but rather that there is too much that I want to do. There's an article I'm excited about, but haven't even begun to write. There's a craft activity my daughter would love and I can't wait to share it with her. I'm excited about developing a new course this semester. I have hobbies I'd like to pursue - cooking, sewing, knitting, writing.
When I triage my list, I have to decide which part of my life I'm willing to sacrifice. What is more important: to prep my class, or to exercise? If I exercise, for my own health and sanity, am I sacrificing the health of my children by not taking the time to cook nutritious meals? Which do I want more: a finished article for my tenure file, or time with my son who is just starting to pull up and say "Mama"? Will my children have a healthy and enriched environment if they're in daycare 40 hours a week. Will I have a career if they aren't?!? It's not a question of getting everything done. There is no way to do all of it.
Yes, it all comes down to prioritizing, organizing, and scheduling. But the choices are so much harder than I ever thought they would be.
I am lucky to have a job that allows for a great deal of flexibility. This is not an inherent aspect of all academic jobs, so I'm grateful. I am lucky to have a spouse who is incredibly supportive. Nonetheless, I have to face the fact that I can't be a stay-at-home mom and a full-time professor (yes, I know - duh! - but it's surprisingly hard to accept.) But I can organize my time optimally to sustain my family and my career. I plan to blog on some of the ways that I do this over the next few months.