Tuesday, August 2, 2011

balance pt. 11: summer

Many of my Tiny U colleagues complain bitterly that they are only paid for 9 months of the year, yet they are required to do research in the summer. This is not a complaint I share. In my mind, a summer to do research is a perk of an academic job. Plus, I may be one of the lowest-paid faculty members at one of the lowest-paying universities in the lowest-paying region of the country, but my salary is still pretty damn good, whether you consider it to represent 9 months or 12 months. Sure beats McDonalds.

That said, summer is a time when everyone needs to find some balance, parents in particular. Our wonderful daycare provider takes every Friday off during the summer. (All of her families are teachers, so she knows we can handle this.) She's very wise. The "family Friday" ensures a slower pace, and more together time, when it can be too easy to forget that you're on "vacation".

This summer, I'm in Old Graduate School Town, so I'm not using that daycare provider. I do have the kids in daycare all week, but I've made an absolute commitment to cut my workday short and pick the kids up in the mid-afternoon. I've cut back on all non-essential professional activities (like this blog). I refuse to think about class preparation. I've given myself some time for leisure and relaxation. It's helped that I have great friends here in Old Graduate School Town, and it's been wonderful to revisit all my old haunts and explore the area through my children's eyes. It also helps that I'm doing museum work this summer. Fieldwork is a whole 'nuther kettle of fish, and probably a good topic for its own post. (That post will be entitled: "fieldwork with kids: or how I learned to stop worrying and love white rooms with rubber walls.")

I won't lie. If I were here alone, I would probably get a lot more data collected. But I'd also be a lot more stressed out and unhappy. Sometimes, children give you the push you need to find balance in your life. Non-parents may have different needs, but we all have jobs that are vocations. We don't leave them behind at 5pm. They pervade our thoughts, invade our weekends and evenings, and permeate all aspects of our lives. Usually, that's because we love what we do.* But we all need to find some time to let go, slow down, and enjoy the summer.

What do you do to crate balance in the summer?

*Yes, I am fully aware that an archaeologist's all-pervading love of dead things is less than attractive to normal members of society. But identifying the bones in one's Thanksgiving turkey is not a busman's holiday, it's a joy.

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