Professor mamas--tell me about your work/family boundaries... - Mothering Forums

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#1 of 8 Old 03-05-2012, 09:52 PM - Thread Starter
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...because mine are porous and my job is seeping in and poisoning the rest of my life.  I love my work, but it is intruding on my family and self--I need to learn how to preserve some energy, time, and creativity for my DH and DS, 6 (who needs a lot of support in school right now).  How much work do you bring home?  Do you try to accomplish most of it at the office/college?  How do you decide what your limits are?  Do you feel comfortable citing childcare or family matters as a reason for declining committee work, special projects, etc.? 


I've been teaching for 15 years, but talk to me like I'm new.  Explain to me how you set up your life so that there is a line between work and the rest of who you are/what you do.  At the moment, I am overextended and I'm doing nothing well (and feeling extremely guilty about that).  I may have the summer off for the first time EVER in my life (except for a research grant I will be finishing up), so that might help. 


I'll take tips from any working parents, especially recovering perfectionists, Type A personalities, and pleasers, but I thought professor mamas would be especially inclined to comment as ours is a job that doesn't have a fixed ending time.


Thanks in advance!












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#2 of 8 Old 04-24-2012, 04:28 AM
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Family first because they will always be there for you.

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#3 of 8 Old 04-24-2012, 01:07 PM
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Instead of boundaries I use goals. Like one goal is to spend x amount of time with DH. One goal is to prioritize DD's homework over bring-home work of my own. Another is to make sure DD knows I want to spend time with her. So I do things like have her help with cooking dinner, set aside time for her homework every night, and at when I get some spare time I have a pre-set list of things she can pick from for mommy-and-me time. DH tries to do similar things. It just seems like that's more flexible and doable than setting hard boundaries, because we're all only human, so we're going to break those boundaries and fail sometimes.



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#4 of 8 Old 04-24-2012, 01:24 PM
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I only bring work home if it can reasonably be completed after the kids go to bed and before I need to get some sleep myself.


I don't cite family commitments as to why I cannot do something I simply state that I have prior commitments and am unable to help out in this case. It's no ones business what those commitments are. 


I will come in on the rare evening or weekend but it has to be due to an unforeseen situation not because someone planned poorly (I'll bail out poor planning only once). I will also only do so if it does not become a common occurrence. So I currently have someone upset because they need my help the week I'm on vacation. I'm sorry, but I cannot help them. Now had they checked my schedule before beginning the project and something unexpected came up making them change when they needed me I would be on the phone moving heaven and earth to figure something out for them.


Basically I follow the rule that "poor planning on your part does not constitute an emergency on my part."


As a teacher some work from home is inevitable. I guess I'd figure out what a reasonable home work load is. For example I might be willing to stay at the school until 4:30 or 5:00 working on stuff and then do 1 hour of work after the kids are in bed, or whatever seems reasonable to you.

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#5 of 8 Old 04-24-2012, 04:04 PM
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When I'm on my game, it's a matter of scheduling. I actually go through my Google calendar and schedule in when I need to write, when I need to teach, when I have assignments to be graded.


My schedule this term looks something like this:

MWF 8:30 am - 1 pm teaching (I teach MWF at 9 and 11:30). I check e-mail between classes

MWF 1-2 PM advising/student related meetings or reading (e.g., reading students' work), grading

MWF 2-3 PM my research/writing time

MWF 3-4 PM varies -- sometimes it's committee work, sometimes teaching/grading, sometimes research


T/Th - 9-12 research/writing time

Tues 12-3 - teaching related (prep, grading)

Thurs 12-3 advising/office hours, committee work

T/Th 3-4 -- varies


If you notice, I don't work a full 8 hour day, so I deliberately schedule 9-11 pm as a "working time" for me most nights (M-Th). Usually it's class prep or grading In addition, I put in anywhere from 3-8 hours during the weekend. I try really really hard not to work from Friday at 4 pm to Sunday afternoon. It works OK except during finals and midterm times.


Basically, I'm home by 5 on MW, often 4 on Fridays (except when we have faculty meetings), I work from home on Tuesdays and I'm  home by 4 on Thursdays. So, from the 4/5-9 pm hour, I'm there for my kids on most evenings. These days, there's a considerable amount of taxi-driver service (Ds has basketball MW; dd has Swimming T/Th, piano Tues, choir Wed). But tonight, I am going to a meeting at our church from 7-9, so I won't be there. The kids will live.


I try to volunteer 1-2x a month at the kids' school. It's about all I can do. Unfortunately, that time usually comes at the expense of my writing/research time, since the teaching, advising and committee work must get done. I volunteered as the head of the PTO two years ago and it nearly killed me. I can handle one volunteer commitment at a time. Right now, I volunteer for passport club at the school, the occasional field trip and I'm Sunday School director (which is a title that sounds a lot bigger than the job really is -- I'm there anyway with our kids, and it just means recruiting teachers at the beginning of the year, keeping in touch and maintaining records - it's about 3 hours a month.)


I agree with setting specific goals. Since we're in a profession where the work is never done, it's important to have goals that are specific and achievable. So right now, I'm about to sign off MDC and go figure out how to set up stimuli in DMDX. That's my goal for this week, along with reanalyzing data for a paper that's eons old.

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#6 of 8 Old 04-28-2012, 08:48 PM
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Lynn, wow, I feel like I need a vacation after just reading your post! It is great that professor mommies are so efficient with their time but it is very intimidating for me as a new phd. I am really searching for what could be the right balance for me, and I don't know if I could handle the tenure track. Do you feel you have the right balance for your family?

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#7 of 8 Old 05-01-2012, 05:29 PM
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My general rule is that work stays at work.  The exceptions to this are 1) grading (I feel like grading at work takes away from time I need to actually get useful things done), 2) lecture prep if I'm really not ready for class the next morning, and 3) reading proposals/thesis chapters/etc.  The work that does come home gets done after the kids go to bed.  I try to limit #2 and actually have lectures more-or-less ready before I leave to come home, primarily because I'm worn out by the time I get my kids to bed and am usually ready to crash myself. 


If I am desperately behind on something important, I will go into the office on the weekend for a few hours - this maybe happens once a month.  I don't let it become a habit. 


I do try to spend all of my work time (8-5) at work, even though I have a flexible schedule.  I do pick up my ds once a week at noon, take him to preschool (from daycare), work from home for a few hours, and then pick him up.  We usually do kid stuff after preschool ends at 3, but the last few weeks, I've brought him back to the office because I needed some more time in the office.  He actually has fun there, so it works out ok for a few hours.  After all, mommy's office has cool things like drinking fountains and rocks. 


I used to feel guilty if I didn't get work done at home, but I'm mostly over that.  My dh is also a professor and he has been working constantly for the past few months on a project.  He's always glued to his laptop, writing physics code.  It drives me a little bonkers as a fellow inhabitant of the same house, and it also makes me feel a little guilty (like maybe I should be more productive at home, too).  But then I realize that keeping me sane and happy is worth it in the long run, and it's ok if I my paper takes a little longer to write than I hoped.  I am very selective about what rises in importance enough to merit working on from home. 


(I will also add that this schedule only works ok when I don't have any new course preps... all bets are off when it's 9pm and I have no clue what I'm lecturing on tomorrow.)

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#8 of 8 Old 05-03-2012, 01:04 PM
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I am a new mom to a gorgeous 10 month old baby girl. I'm also a new teacher. Last year was my first full year in a classroom and it was incredibly stressful. On top of it all, I was pregnant and exhausted 90% of the time. HELL!! I'm also a huge perfectionist and type A personality. I love my job and I'm dedicated to my students. I put a lot of hours in as a first year teacher last year and was looking forward to having a smoother road ahead of me for this year with being able to recycle lesson plans and only do some polishing to things I'd already set in place for my classroom. However, things got a little turned on their heads when my husband and I decided to move to be closer to our family while raising our daughter. I started a job at a NEW school teaching a completely NEW set of classes this year. It's not my designated subject area that I studied in school and it has been vastly less enjoyable for me. It's also been a source of incredible guilt because I had so much work to do and was having to bring it home to get everything accomplished. Finally, around Thanksgiving, I hit the wall. I was working something like 80 hours a week and getting very little sleep thanks to life with a newborn. I had to do some major restructuring. I took a hard look at my schedule and a hard, realistic look at what I wanted for my classroom. I promised myself that from then on work would stay at work and when I got home in the evenings that time would be for my family. There have been some instances where I've had some things to do that I couldn't finish at school, but for the most part I've been able to save those until after my daughter goes to bed and haven't had to take time away from her. It's been hard on me as a professional to not have things perfect all of the time and, often, to feel under prepared. It also has been difficult for my colleagues to see me as a dedicated professional since they've never seen me as a teacher who was completely dedicated to her job and only as one who was split between work and family. I've hit some bumps in the road because of my decision to take a step back with my job, but I'm happier for it and I know that my daughter is getting the mommy time she deserves. It's IMPOSSIBLE to be the best at everything in your life. This is hard for me to accept. However, it's also life. Good luck to you on your journey. I hope you find a compromise that makes you feel good about yourself as you-teacher and you-mom. 

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