An Academic Party of One

This is a guest post from the one and only Candice Price.

I was teaching when I wrote this so forgive me if it goes astray. But I have been to many panels on work life balance. They normally consist of (mostly) women discussing how they balance being a wife or mother and being a mathematician. Which is great! Some of my favorite people are wives or mothers. But I am not. So I sometimes feel like the information discussed doesn’t apply to me. I am wrong. Even without being a wife or mother, it is important that I, a single, non parental academic, make sure that I balance my work and life. Here are some of the pitfalls and solutions I have discovered when it comes to balancing my single non parental life with my work life.

1. I can work anytime, day or night. Because of this, I rarely scheduled my time. I just worked when ever. Whether is was editing a grant, working on a paper or preparing a lesson, I figured I could work on it anytime. For me, this was a detrimental road. It wasn’t until I started working with Gizem Kaarali and Amanda Ruiz to schedule writing time in our writing group, that I learned way of the math Jedi: Scheduling specific time to work on things ensures you work on them and helps you focus. I am still very much a work in progress on this but I improve every year. I even bought a planner! I also started working with collaborators who help to create deadlines and regular meetings times. I started scheduling my writing time either just before or right after those meetings.

2. I should say yes to departmental service that my married or parental colleagues turn down because I have no other important obligations. One time I was complaining about having to stay late for a work obligation. My colleague asked me if I had a pet to get home to. Confused I said no. He responded with “Then what do you have to go home to?”. My immediate thought was “Netflix and my couch!” But then I thought about it and felt he was right. I should have no issues staying at work late or signing up for service obligations that take up time after classes. I felt guilt that he, a married father of one, was spending his evening at work and I was complaining about working a 14 hour day. BUT no! This is a wrong thought pattern. I had myself to take care of! You have yourself to take care of. And that can look any way you chose to! It can look like Netflix and solo chill, Buffalo Wild Wings for drinks and wings or even running through the forrest harvesting mushrooms. It doesn’t matter. You have the right to say no to service obligations that take away from you taking care of yourself properly… and should have no guilt associated to saying no.

3. My research career should be much further along as I have no “distractions” from research. This is very similar to issue 1, but is more on the psychological side. When comparing my research portfolio to other married or parental colleagues, I would often feel down on myself for not have as many publications as them. But this is a problem I believe everyone has. I call it the “How does she do it syndrome”. ( I am copywriting that phrase by the way. Someone already has you say? Well never mind then.) Often, we look at the numbers that people produce without thinking about the skills and passions of that person. I have starting reminding myself that while I may take longer writing and publishing, I work very hard and efficiently in connecting people. Thats my lane. I will stay in my lane. I will celebrate myself in my lane. I have also figured out that because I know my passion is not in writing mathematics (there I said it), I do work with collaborators who enjoy writing. Not only do they keep me motivated, they keep me on track (see issue 1). Recently Pamela Harris wrote a great blog post on creating a research plan that works for you.

These were/are my three issues and perhaps you as an academic/professional party of one can relate. Or maybe you can add to the discussion. I just hope you enjoyed and learned, because we’re all just trying to get through this thing we call “life”.

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5 Responses to An Academic Party of One

  1. Amanda says:

    Great post Candice! As an academic who is also a mom and wife, I’ve had many a conversation with people who say things along the lines of “that’s ok, everyone knows you have a small child that takes time” or “when your child becomes more independent you will be able to do more.” I find it so strange. I don’t want to do more. I already do a lot. And I don’t want to push these service or other responsibilities off to those with out small kids. Because they (you) should have a life outside of work too.

    Thanks for starting this conversation. Also, you are awesome.

  2. Esmaeel says:

    Could you put related link for “Recently Pamela Harris wrote a great blog on creating a research plan that works for you. “

  3. Hamad says:

    I am married and are working on theory of opreads. I found its much easier to work while one is married.

  4. Brian Winkel says:

    Candice – Looking squarely at a situation with candor and frankness is the best way to address a problem/situation. You offer this fresh approach that many young folks need to take. One can be a workaholic no matter what one’s relational or personal situation is. Taking time, e.g., collectively as you have done with peers to write, is a good way to do things. Let me make that SETTING ASIDE sacred time for events is a must thing to do! If someone were to come to you and ask you to attend a meeting during your class; time you would say, “No, I am teaching.” So too must one set aside and hold firm time to do research or personal care and just say, “No.” to some invitations. Then you also have an obligation to yourself to be diligent in using the time you have set aside. Nike said it best, “Just do it!” Brian Winkel, Emeritus USMA, Director SIMIODE

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