Academic work-life balance

Being the kind of parent, especially a pre-tenure academic parent, that I aspire to be to two small kids is no easy feat. Before I began an assistant professorship at UWindsor, I spent some time overseas and had a chance to observe differences between parenting practices in Europe (mostly France and Denmark, but also in Norway, Germany, and Switzerland) and North America.

My sense is that Europeans are generally more kid-friendly. For example, young children dine in chic bistros with their parents for rather late dinners in Paris. Restaurants, even Michelin rated ones, do not frown when you show up with a child. Indeed, they bring out a booster seat and some toys for your child to play with. At the university, it is not uncommon to see children in faculty offices, perhaps recuperating from a cold. It is also possible to take your toddler to an academic research workshop with illustrious guest speakers–although I felt we were pushing it a little–in Scandinavia.

European academic parents also seem to work really hard during the day and during the work week so that they don’t have to work as much at night at home or on the weekend. I espouse this model of working smart rather than working more. At work, I am focused and do not waste time so that when I am home, I can spend quality time with my spouse, children, and dogs.

Kids grow up fast. My Daughter 1 looks like a child, not a baby anymore.

Pets may be demanding, but my dogs are good for stress relief because they force me outdoors.

I am fortunate that Daughter 2 is such a happy baby and has adjusted so well to daycare.

I was feeling a little frazzled this week and didn’t realize why until I took account of what I had worked on during the last couple of weeks:

  • book chapter proposal submission
  • conference paper proposal submission
  • book chapter editing, proofreading, and submission
  • grant proposal writing, communication with research assistant (RA) and research consultants (2)
  • journal article submission (still in progress)
  • chairing a committee
  • meeting with Dean and Associate Deans on program development
  • meeting with a student
  • marking assignments
  • thinking about new technologies and research opportunities
  • designing study for research ethics board application
  • etc…
  • I now understand what my committee member, Jim, had said about being a faculty member vs. being a graduate student. It is definitely more difficult being a professor than being a graduate student in terms of work load. Work-life balance in academia is something I am trying to figure out as a new faculty member. I have been advised by a couple of people more senior than me not to burn out in terms of my ambitious research goals. I’ve scaled things back a bit and will focus on teaching next term. I was told by one advisor that I will be “curled up in a ball” in March if I do not take a break over the holidays. I’m not sure how I am supposed to take a break because I’m moving house, marking, and my kids will be off from school.

    On the other hand, my doctoral supervisor Clare was right, too, about feeling more secure as a faculty member in your academic identity as a scholar in the field and having the confidence in your expertise compared to when you are a graduate student. This is a wonderful feeling, and I am looking forward to teaching my graduate courses next term because I would like to help graduate student researchers develop their identities, knowledge and skills.


    One response to “Academic work-life balance”

    1. […] in November, I wrote about trying to achieve work-life balance as an academic mom with two small children, two demanding dogs, and an academic spouse. I must […]

    Leave a Reply

    Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *