Last week was rough. As I was hurriedly getting ready for a day of never-ending grading, search committee meetings and reference letter writing, I heard a loud "MOMMY!" from my oldest child's bathroom. I turned the corner, just in time to see her start throwing up into the toilet. On the one hand, it was a joyous moment because she made it to the toilet (hooray!). On the other hand, it was exactly the type of obstacle that I felt like I couldn't possibly navigate around this busy time of semester. I freaked out, but then quickly got to strategizing for the day. It worked out (it always seems to, right?), but it left me thinking about how much there is for faculty mamas to do this time of year.
All moms are amazing, and I don't believe in contests about who works the hardest. This post is just a shout-out to all my fellow faculty mamas so we can take a second to congratulate each other for all we've done.
As you'll see, the rubric below gives you a lot of credit, because you deserve it! Feel free to add a comment with anything else you've done this late Fall. You rock, #facultymama!
Oops, totally forgot to do this 5 points
Pretty sure I'll get to it at the last minute; still hopeful 5 points
Miraculously, this is done 5 points
a) Letters of reference (it's part of my job, but...)
b) Gifts for school teachers (hope I don't repeat what I gave them when they had my other child)
c) Grading -- papers (why did I assign papers?!)
d) Grading -- exams (those 2 hours of giving the exam were glorious. Next year I'll use multiple choice)
e) Grading -- presentations (also nice to watch them, but now I have to grade them)
f) Getting out all the cold weather gear for the kids (snow pants, Cuddle Duds, gloves, winter boots, scarves)
g) Going out and buying missing cold weather gear
h) Review admission files for Spring (it seems impossible to think about next Fall already...)
i) Gifts for daycare teachers (hope I don 't repeat what I gave them when they had my other child)
j) Interview faculty candidates (gotta get them in before the break)
k) Gifts for family (hope I don't repeat what I gave them last year)
l) Enter data for faculty activities report (time to face the harsh truth)
m) Gift for my partner (who is that again?)
n) Stay home with sick child (iPad wins Noble Prize in Caregiving)
o) Overdose on zinc and vitamins to avoid getting sick (probably should also work on getting more sleep)
p) Talk about needing more sleep, but stay up too late grading (and on the internet)
q) Submit article/chapter/conference abstract (cope with insecurities about not doing enough)
r) End-of-semester faculty meeting (no comment)
s) End-of-semester college meeting (no comment)
t) Meet with students to talk about last-minute efforts to increase grade (wha...?!)
u) Start planning for hosting a holiday event (I actually like doing this but of course won't have time)
v) Plan for data collection in Spring (it seems so far away but I know it'll be here soon)
w) Talk to my partner periodically (who is that again?)
x) Stay on top of kids' homework, library book returns, school lunch account, donations for class parties (this could be a full-time job!)
y) Begin thinking about my syllabi for Spring (HA!)
z) WHAT ELSE??
Post a comment so we can see what else you've accomplished, faculty mama!
Dear Fellow Faculty Mamas,
I’m excited to start a feature on this blog called Faculty Mama, where I’ll be posting content about the unique aspects of faculty life as a mother (e.g., timing of kids, promotion, etc.). I hope we can start a dialogue to support one another, and I welcome your comments or suggestions for topics.
Below is my first post to help us get us excited about the next few months--summer's here!
It’s finally summer...now what?!
This Summer I vow not to be disappointed with my productivity when August arrives. Even before I had kids I remember summers as a faculty member being bittersweet. I usually started the summer with huge expectations, including a list of unrealistic writing goals and projects that I needed to do because I had put them off during the academic year. I was overly optimistic about what I could do, only to realize that summer was pretty short, I was exhausted after the Spring semester, and there was no way any human could accomplish all the goals I had laid out for myself. Inevitably the summer would fly by and before I knew it I’d have to start working on my syllabi for Fall, slightly dejected.
Now that I have children summer productivity has become even more elusive. Summer is amazing because it provides a chance to spend more time with the family and attend to some of the personal goals that I can’t get to during the academic year (e.g., working out regularly, house projects). There are fewer meetings so I can usually get errands out of the way and pick up the kids earlier, but I still have a lot to accomplish at work and always wonder how I can be productive if I’m at work less. Inevitably I do the math and it seems like I am setting myself up for that disappointing, familiar conversation with colleagues in Fall: “Summer was nice but I didn’t get as much done as I needed to…”
How can we more realistically enter summer, with delight and clarity about what we want and can do as faculty mamas? How can we better define and prioritize our goals in all aspects of our lives, and experience the satisfaction of making progress towards them?
Here are some strategies for diving into summer this year:
1) First, celebrate summer and the fewer meetings on your calendar. You’ve worked hard all year and you likely need some time to enjoy the greater flexibility in your schedule. For a few days or a week, sleep in a bit, catch up on errands and appointments (I’ll be getting my haircut finally!), or enjoy lunch with a colleague.
2) Get a handle on what you hope to accomplish this summer. Dr. Kerry Ann Rockquemore, Director of the National Center for Faculty Development & Diversity* encourages faculty to identify 3-5 goals, both in “work” and “personal” life, to accomplish during the summer. For example, I have a manuscript I’d like to get out and a book I am editing, as well the personal goal of moving my kids into one bedroom. Of course there will be numerous other smaller things I need to do over the next months, but these are the big ones. This year I’ll keep my list to 3, because that feels realistic and I want to maximize my chances of feeling the success of accomplishing these goals. If I happen to accomplish more, that will be a bonus.
5) At the beginning of the summer, “swallow the frog.” In the spirit of Mark Twain, early in the summer I’ll tackle the worst task, the frog that I really don’t want to do but that will sit on my shoulder, haunting me until I get it off my list. For some of my colleagues, the frog is their syllabi for Fall. For others, it might be administrative tasks. Either way make sure it’s the task that you know you will continue to put off unless you swallow it early on.
4) Find ways to hold yourself accountable. One of the best things that happened to me last semester was that I finally sorted through 11 years of papers that had accumulated in my office because I was getting new office furniture. My office had become a complete mess, and it wasn’t until I scheduled the date for the new desk to arrive that I finally started working on purging and cleaning. Somehow, we have to find ways to hold ourselves accountable for progress on our goals, especially if they don’t have deadlines. Maybe it’s a reward, or maybe it’s putting a deadline in writing to colleagues. Spend some time finding out what will keep you on track and implement that strategy.
6) Schedule unscheduled time strategically. Even though it feels so wonderful to look at my calendar and see a day with large blocks of free time, I’ve found that I usually don’t use these huge blocks wisely. Sometimes I flounder in the morning deciding what to start with, and then an hour can go by just answering emails. I’ve also discovered I am most productive in the morning, and it seems like by 3pm I’m spent and it’s really hard to do writing. This summer I’m going to spend a few minutes at the end of each day deciding what I need to do the next day. Before I leave the office or before I go to bed, I’m going to email myself a list of what has to get done the next day. That way when I get to work I know exactly what I have to start with. I’ll also be sure to schedule the personal projects as well. For example, I may leave work early on a Tuesday to spend one hour at home sorting clothes for the kids’ room before picking them up from daycare.
3) Approach summer activities with mindfulness. Dr. Ellen Langer, a leading researcher in mindfulness, reminds us that if we make decisions mindfully, there won’t be room for regrets. This summer I’m going to work on mindfully approaching my tasks, so that I’m aware of why I’m choosing to do a certain task. I’m also going to try and be as present as possible with whatever I’m doing. We all know what it feels like to be bitter about being at work, or feeling guilty about not working when being with the family. This summer I’ll try not to fall into that trap by engaging in all my tasks more purposefully.
8) Finally, don’t forget self-compassion. The path towards all goals will involve obstacles, and life happens in expected and unexpected ways. We may keep our goals small and realistic, and work incredibly hard all summer, and still not accomplish what we had hoped. Practicing self-compassion doesn’t mean we become self-complacent and it doesn’t get us off the hook from our goals; it just reminds us we are human and we should be patient with ourselves. Self-compassion will fuel our productivity and well-being much better than regrets or being disappointed with ourselves.
Have any summer strategies to share with fellow faculty mamas? Take a second to post a comment below!
*NCFDD is an amazing resource for faculty at all stages in their careers. Check here to see if your institution has a membership and to learn more about their services.
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