Anonymous asked: How do you set boundaries between your academic and family life?
On the one hand, I go to work like anyone else and, like a great many people, my kids go to day care. That said, my schedule tends to be a whole lot more flexible than that of a lot of people.
I’m only teaching classes two or three days a week, depending on the semester, and even on my teaching days it’s not like I’m in a classroom all day long. The temptation to pick up my kids at 2pm rather than 5pm can be pretty intense, especially on those days when I’m working from my home office rather than my office on campus.
But I don’t. When I’m on campus, I’m on campus all day. I teach, I hold office, and I attend various meetings. And when I’m working from home, I’m reading and/or writing all day; unsurprisingly, I get a lot more of my own work done on the days I’m at home.
I like spending time with my kids and I like my work … so, basically, I keep family life from bleeding into my work by keeping my kids in day care during the week.
It’s actually much more difficult to keep my work from bleeding into my family life. Because so much of my work involves thinking about stuff, I’m pretty much always doing it. It can be pretty difficult to put down a book I’m reading or step away from my computer when I’ve got an idea I want to get onto the page.
When I was younger and didn’t have a family, I’d stay up until 3am if I had an idea and wanted to write it up. Now, I’m in bed by 10pm … because I know I have to get up at 5am and also that I’m likely to be quieting a screaming child at least once during the night. In the past, students would turn in an essay and I’d spend the weekend grading. Now I work during traditional business hours and I try to limit the work I do when my family is home (though I usually work while my kids are napping on the weekend).
The separation of work from family life is easier with regard to my research; if it’s 4:30pm, I’m not going to start writing something new because it’s nearly time to get the kids and make dinner. It’s not so easy with my teaching or administrative responsibilities; students and colleagues will email me at all hours and I’ll generally try to get a response to them as quickly as possible. I find myself answering email messages before 6am and after 5pm pretty much every day of the week, and on Sundays as well. I could do a better job of simply saving those messages for the next morning at 8am; it’s something I’m consciously trying to change but it’s difficult for me to let an email sit, especially if I know I can tap out a quick reply on my phone while I’m playing trains with my son.
I’d like to put up a hard barrier so that work doesn’t flow over into the time I spend with my family, but I suspect that’s a fight with myself that I’m going to have a tough time winning.