For the first couple of months after Monkey was born, I couldn’t wait to get back to work. Now, I’m running on empty, and I can’t seem to find the energy needed to care about my career. I enjoy aspects of my job, especially thinking, talking, and writing about science. Mostly though, I feel compelled to work because 1) I don’t want to stay at home and 2) I need a job to help support my family. So I rush to work in the morning instead of spending more time with Monkey. And I stay at work later to alleviate guilt. The result – I shortchange myself and my family. Tired and lacking the right motivation, I’m really not working very efficiently either.
What the hell kind of balance is this anyways? I just watched this TED talk about work-life balance on Sneetch’s blog. (If you haven’t already, you should add her site to your blogrolls.) And a couple of ideas struck a chord with me:
1. Governments and corporations won’t solve the issue of work-life balance for us. We must take control and set our own boundaries.
Several well-meaning people with whom I work – faculty, other postdocs and even some students – have presented ideas for how I could make myself more competitive on the TT job market. “Why don’t you apply for tenure-track Position X in Town Y?” Because Hubby rejected Position X – since he’s not likely to find a job in Town Y – and my family takes precedence. “Why not teach this class at night to bulk up your CV?” Because I already feel like I can’t do my job well; adding something else into the mix will just prove more exhausting. Whether or not these things will help my career doesn’t matter. I’ve set my boundaries, and they’re not an option. If the tenure-track career doesn’t work out as a result, then so be it.
2. We must attend to all aspects of our lives – spiritual, personal, family, and intellectual.
Whether or not it’s the most important thing to me right now, I need my job. I realized this when I was home with Monkey his first 2 months. I may not be giving it my all right now, but I’m doing what I can. The same with my family. I need them, and I’m giving them all I have, including most of my time on the weekend. To fulfill the personal aspect of my life, I blog. And for the spiritual, I’m returning to church choir practice this week. It means one night a week away from Monkey, so I’ll just have to spend more time with him in the mornings. I need all of these activities, and time isn’t really the problem. The difficulty is finding an acceptable way to divide myself and energy among them, and focusing on each at the appropriate times.
It’s going to take more time to figure this whole work-balance thing out. In fact, it may take the rest of my life. But maybe it’s not about finding a perfect balance. Maybe it’s about working toward that perfect balance. And giving myself a break when I don’t get it just right.