I have four kids, and I have frequently attended conferences when they have come along. Perhaps it is not always optional to bring them, but the alternative would be to stay at home – and I don’t want that. Then I think it is better for me to go and try to balance work-life as good as I can and I adapt the trip to the kid so that they get a nice experience too.
When my youngest son was one years old he had been to many countries (nine?), and one result from us travelling so much with him is that he speaks OK English at the age of six. This is many years before he starts English at school.
The picture below is from Gothenburg and ICSE 2018 where I did a key note, and my husband attended one of the workshops on computer science education. We also met our very good colleague Tony Clear who helped Sixten try the conference T-shirt.
Some tips for making it work to bring kids:
- Perhaps grand-parents have the possibility to travel with you to the conference with you? It could be a nice experience for them and for the kid
- If it doesn’t work 100% as expected that is quite normal. Having kids is often a bit like leaving the planning to someone else… 🙂
- If you go to the conference as a couple you can share responsibility for the kid. We often try to share the responsibility
- Plan something that the kid likes to do so that the trio becomes a positive experience for everyone
- Be prepared to replan things, and make up a plan B if plan A fails.
Sometimes academia is not so great, and now and then I run into periods of lots of failure. Impostor syndrome doesn’t help either and hits me straight away when things are not going my way: “Do I really belong?”
This past week I got five papers rejected in 48 hours. Gah!! This was really tough! A personal record indeed. I thought that the papers were really OK, and some of them well written – but reviewers (completely) disagreed.
So far, I haven’t really had the energy to read the reviews either so I can’t really proudly say that I failed and learned lots of things through the failures. So far I have just failed and felt like a failure.
Perhaps you didn’t know, but I have a full-time job as a senior lecturer with a research group, and I also have a family with four kids who live at home and a husband. As you can imagine this work-life balance puzzle doesn’t always work well. Sometimes it is really not fun at all. And sometimes I feel simply like such an imposture both at home and at work. There simply isn’t energy enough to be a good mom, and a good researcher and taking time for everyone and everyting.
How do I then manage stress and not burning out? Well, I think that these are my personal experiences that have helped me:
- I am perfectly convinced that I could burn out. It is not something that just happens to everyone else and not me. I pay close attention to stress signals, and as a researcher on digitalization and the work environment I have read up on what those symptoms could be. When, and not IF, it gets too much I try to be kind to myself and reschedule.
- I force myself to log off completely now and then. No “pica boo” use of the mail in my phone during (some) evenings, and in some weekends. This doesn’t always work though…
- I have friends and colleagues who keep an eye on me and help me. Thanks Christiane, Rose-Mharie, Virginia et al.!. We discuss academia a lot, and also choices we make in life, and they are always there to support me.
- I make appointments with an excellent career coach, Rabbe Hedengren, when I end up too far outside my comfort zone, as for example when I attracted three research grants in one week, or when the DOME consortium was starting up.
- I am married to an excellent listener, who helps me sort things out when I end up having too much in my calendar. He has such great patience with me. ‘
- I go for long walks. Or jogging in periods of my life.
- Try to see the kids as mindfulness exercises. Reading for them, doing homework etc focusing on them only.
- I see to it that I sleep well at night. And I sleep intil I wake up feeling OK. I never sleep less than 7,5 hours per night.
- No work after eight o’clock at night since this affects my sleep.
What do you do that helps you handle stress in academia?
Working with the same thing, being in my comfort zone all the days of the week would really make me bored. I think that the feeling of “empty work” would haunt me after quite a short time. I want the excitement of learning new things, but of course not all days of the week. However, some periods in life really are too full and the calendar gets packed. It feels like I run from one thing to the other all day (but I don’t run – I sit at my computer), and there is no room for reflection or a pause. The picture for this blog post would illustrate those weeks, or months.
This fall I talked to a full professor of work environment who said that there needs to be a balance in life over time. And that this balance might be personal (there is no one-size-fit all), but we need to be aware that variation is key when it comes to stress. I think that this person has a good poting.
Perhaps my ideal life would look like this:
There is no point for me to aim for a life where there would be long periods with too little to do, or to think that this would be good for me. I like when life varies, and when there are some days that are really filled with new and exciting, and stressful, things. I am really looking forward to an exciting spring with some new things, and also many things that are completely in my comfort zone.