I’ve been meaning to write a post about the tight scheduling required to run my household, family, and career- and this morning I was looking over the posts in my reader and noticed something from Isis on some of the changes causing disarray in her universe. You want to know what being inside my life is really like on a daily basis- raising two active daughters, with an academic career myself and having a spouse with an academic career? Here is your big chance.
I’m up at 6:15- and some mornings I roll directly out of bed into my gym clothes. I wake up the kids, scarf down a banana, and I am out the door by 6:45 to go to the gym. During my hour of cardio I’m reading something- like perhaps that prelim, or a manuscript draft that I’ve been working on. I make it to work by 8:30 or so for a day of endless interruptions. DrMrA wrangles the kids- breakfast, lunches, backpacks…. and making sure everyone is appropriately dressed (not so easy with my girls who seem to want to wear shorts and t-shirts even when it is 40 degrees outside)- and getting one to the bus stop on time at 7:25, and the other to school at 7:30- then he heads off to work. Things work this way 3/5 mornings per week. On the other mornings- I stay home to see everyone off and DrMrA takes off early.
Now- the kids are in school until mid-afternoon, and we have a sitter that picks up the LittleA, takes her home, sits with her to do homework and piano practice. Things weren’t always like this- we previously had both kids in an after-school program at their school, where they could stay until 6 pm. While this was economical- it wasn’t perfect. When the kids were at this program, they would come home exhausted, and we would always have some sports practice of some sort- soccer, or music lessons to attend. So- on those nights (which was 4 nights out of the weekday last year), I would leave my office at 4:30- pick up kids at school, we would go directly to practice for the one child- I would take the other child and we would arrange some dinner- (a car picnic as my kids like to call them), before picking up the now totally beat kid (after 1.5 hr on the soccer field), then we would either head home or off to the practice/lesson for the other child. On such nights- which were really more the rule than the exception- we wouldn’t get home until 7:30 or so- and the kids and I were basket cases. I have a rule that each child can do no more than 2 extra-curricular activities- but you can still see that if one of these activities is a sport that the schedule is totally insane. But I digress- The arrangement with the sitter makes life easier- this is because she also has a car, and she can take the children to their various practices during the 3 pm-6 pm hours, at least one way.
DrMrA and I negotiate who is going to be home ‘early’. By ‘early’ I mean 6 pm, when one of us arrives to let the sitter go and start dinner. In the last 6-9 months, I have worked late nearly every week night. Why? I simply have a hard time getting all the writing of papers, grants, and revising of text done during the day. There is always some fire that needs to be put out, some faculty meeting to attend, some teaching to be done, some job candidate (this can steal like 3-4 hours from your week per candidate) or seminar speaker ( at least a 2 hour deal to attend the seminar and talk with the speaker one on one) coming though, not to mention the day to day running of the lab and talking with my own students etc., that has to happen during regular business hours. This schedule was exhausting for me, and it lasted for some time such that DrMrA’s days at work were very short- which I know was frustrating for him. The pendulum has now swung the other direction such that DrMrA is having many more late evenings because he has a few upcoming deadlines. But, I hope you can appreciate that things are almost NEVER shared 50/50- it’s been more like 90/10 one direction, and now 80/20 in the other direction. This is just something we have accepted, and although it sometimes causes tension, we have learned to live with it. Also note that although our offices are quite close together- we could not carpool and be able to have such a schedule.
From the time we hit the door in the evening we have about 2 hours with the children. This time includes making sure homework got done, playing out doors if possible, reading together, running any errands that just can’t wait, getting ready for the next day, bathing and bedtime. And the children need to talk to us- it is no longer like when they were babies and we could finish the diaper change and multi-task while they were playing/eating/ etc. Now they are older and they need 100% of our attention, they need guidance- and this isn’t something that can be multi-tasked. Anyway, while I make the two hour evening hours sound pretty easy- the children- who remember have been at it essentially since 6:30 am, are tired and not as agreeable as they might be if their days weren’t so darn long. The kids go to bed between 8 pm and 8:30 pm- and when I’m home with them this usually means that I have about an hour or two where I can work (or blog!) uninterrupted until DrMrA gets home. If he comes home earlier we can actually have some semblance of grown up time, if not I am usually awake enough to have a 15 minute conversation before I pass out with exhaustion. Only to do it all again the next day.
I haven’t even mentioned when or how the house gets cleaned, the lawn gets mowed, groceries magically end up in the house, the bills get paid, the kids get to the dentist/the doctor etc, …nor have I mentioned my aging parents, my sister, bla bla bla…
Does this schedule work? Yes, it works. Is it always fun? No, it’s not always fun, and I don’t always know that I’m doing the right thing for myself or for my kids. There are days I’d like to give up my career and work part-time as a veterinarian in some clinic with lovely short hours (9-3), sure there are.
But- I don’t think I’d last very long at it- because the truth is that despite how crazy the schedule sounds- it all ends up working somehow.