I had a bit of a meltdown last night after a difficult weekend. Ryan was out of town Saturday afternoon through Sunday afternoon; he went to the Texas Rangers game with his dad and had a wonderful time. It looked like an exciting game even to me, and I don't "get" baseball, but the kids were out of sorts and grouchy with him gone. Wes had trouble sleeping (which is, sadly, becoming routine). James has discovered screaming as an attention-getting mechanism. Charlie was alternately moody and stubborn and generously helpful and sweet, which made my hot and cold emotions toward him confusing and frustrating. Wes has three potty accidents at church on Sunday.
In addition to all of my normal life-with-three-kids frustrations, I got some scary news from a friend that her husband and son were involved in a serious car accident (everyone is going to be fine). It was overwhelming.
And as I normally do when I am overwhelmed, I spent my evenings in a vegetative state on the couch, TV on, Facebook open. And when I do that, I inevitably feel guilty about all the things I should be doing instead--the kitchen, the laundry, the Halloween costumes, the birthday party preparations. And then I feel even worse.
But the thing that's been on my mind all week is a paper I've been trying to prepare for submission FOREVER. My co-author had the paper for a year (a busy year for both of us that involved James's birth and a new class, so I wasn't in a position to work on it anyway) and never looked at it, so I planned a trip to go up to his office and meet with him in person to finalize the paper. He agreed and we set a date, October 25. Then last week he sent me a list of concerns and a marked up version of the paper.
It was exactly what I needed to have to be able to move forward. I don't have the experience to edit my own work well and I have always trusted him as an editor and reviewer. On the other hand, he is very thorough and the list of things the paper needs (and it IS what the paper needs, I have no complaints about his necessary criticism) was LONG and included reading and including a handful of references that I missed. In addition to the embarrassment of missing those references, the whole thing just makes me feel defeated.
Reason number one: I do not have enough time. I have childcare for ten hours a week. Six of those hours are spent in class. Two of those hours are spent commuting. In addition to the class-time responsibilities, those of you who teach know that there is grading, office hours, and responding to student emails. Obviously, I do not have enough childcare for all of those things, but I can usually close the gap by occasionally grading in front of the TV at night. I don't love doing that, but grading is a fairly mindless activity that doesn't take very long for this particular course.
However. I most certainly do not have time for other academic activities, like publishing, that I feel are important to keep my "career" moving forward. That is a problem. I estimate that the current paper I am working on would require a week or more of focused, full-time work to get the next draft ready. "Focused" work is not really my specialty right now. I am not able to work full-time right now.
Obviously I could pick away at this paper in the evenings after the kids go to bed and we've cleaned up the kitchen and maybe spent a few minutes talking to one another. I could probably sneak in a couple of hours a day that way at the expense of sleep (which leads to a whole host of other problems), hobbies, and fun things like TV shows and talking to friends online. Obviously that is one solution. But is it a long-term solution?
And that's not even considering the fact that I am EXHAUSTED by that part of the day--not ready to dive into a fifteen-page paper. By nine o'clock I can barely get through a page of a Jennifer Weiner novel, let alone "the Tieleman reference" that I need to include here, here, and here.
I can't add much childcare without earning more money, and full-time academic work, if I even wanted to go that route, does not appear to be available anytime soon in our current location. And we really, really like it here (except for our god-awful summer weather).
Ryan and I talked about all of this in detail last night and I'm going to try working an hour a night, however painful that might be. I am not going to get anything accomlished by alternately lying around doing nothing and then complaining about how all I ever do is lie around doing nothing, after all. He works most nights too, so it'll be no different from undergrad, where we got to know each other in the library over our textbooks. And I will try to develop a career, one paper or one proposal at a time. Fortunately I have about ten years until I'll be ready for a full-time job. I just hope that my suspicions, that the only option for success in this field is total dedication, are wrong.