The one question that I get most often from the professionals involved in my children’s lives is, “how do you do it all?” This inevitably comes after I explain that I work full time in academia. Yes, my schedule is flexible, but my job is demanding. I don’t “do it all” well. That is the short answer. In fact, I have been struggling with the fact that I cannot do it all well. I am starting to think of all the things I have sacrificed while trying to balance my career and my kids. For a while, I was putting my job first. I was waking up at 4 am to work for a few hours before the kids woke up, and then working at night after they went to sleep. I had M in daycare about 6 hours a day and was making up for the other time in the “fringe hours.” Then arrived M2 and they spent more time in daycare, I spent less time working nights and mornings and my job performance has suffered greatly.
With my two kids, there is no down time at home. Because of M’s aggressive tendencies, I have to be watching him at all times. This makes things like getting the dishes or laundry done while the kids are awake near impossible. I now clean and do other household tasks in the time that I used to use to grade papers and plan lessons and write emails.
I feel like I missed a lot of M’s early days because I was too preoccupied with how to answer emails and grade papers on time. I would check and answer emails while giving him a bottle, in the middle of the night after a midnight feeding, etc. But in the times between those emails, I would worry about all that I was missing at work. Then I just gave up. I suppose this is where my downward work spiral began. I stopped using my time outside of the office to do work. I spent all of last summer catching up on things I couldn’t get done during the school year and then prepping for the fall so that I could better manage my time. That works well for the most part. When I can plan ahead, I can manage. It is the work tasks that pop up with little notice with immediate deadlines that I just can’t do. I can’t just make time for the unexpected things or then the tasks I planned to do become late. It is an endless cycle. If I leave the office early to take M to an appointment, I often miss the committee email conversations that happen between 3 pm and 8 am the next day (when I start checking email again). By then, decisions are made, and I just look like a slacker who didn’t participate in the discussion. It is hard to fight against this perception and there has been 4 of my colleagues who have made comments about this to me. Dear colleagues, I want to participate, I do. But we are just running on different schedules.
In my line of work, at a university, trying to get tenure, one of my most important tasks is to research and publish. I have yet to be able to figure out how to squeeze this into my schedule. We don’t actually get “paid” for this work. It is an expectation but one that is outside of our normal work schedule. I have been told that this is what I should be doing with my summers. My first two summers, I had tiny infants to care for and during my third summer at this job, I was playing catch up from caring for two kids with special needs.
Unfortunately, there is no leniency for motherhood in academia. I am not making excuses for myself, but this is a system that is generally unsupportive of mothers.
Check out this article: Fathers and Childless Women are 3x More Likely to Get Tenure than Women with Kids
I am not sure what the stats look like for getting tenure for women with kids with special needs. This week, between M and M2, there are an additional 8 appointments in my schedule. EIGHT. Speech (x2), Occupational Therapy, Mental Health Services, a visit with Regional Center for a transition from IFSP to IPP, Infant Stimulation Services, a social worker visit to my home, and a visit with the pediatric naturopath. There are six that are regularly occurring. Every single week, I have at least six extra appointments to transport to and from or the work involved in arranging for someone else to get the kids there.
I do feel like the odds are stacked against me in my current position. But I am raising my flag of surrender and taking a less demanding job. I can’t even put into words how difficult this is for me. I am a terrible quitter and the feminist in me feel like I should be fighting the structure of this system. I should be the success, not the woman that can’t “lean in”. At the very same time, I have such a peace with this decision. My family NEEDS this. My children NEED this. The one thing I have been truly sacrificing is my own self care. See this post. I am looking to regain a part of myself that has been lost in this shuffle. I am proudly stepping down, giving up, leaning out, and simplifying my career for my sanity and my family.
As I have said before, I am writing this blog to keep track of our challenges and successes. I truly hope that I don’t look back on this job decision with regret. I know it will be difficult to remember all the stresses that I feel now. When my new job is stressful, I want to be able to come back and read this and remember why I made the change.