Guilt and Shame in Academia

So, I’m beginning this post by saying I took a day off today.  By taking a day off, I mean that I’m not officially grading or following my schedule.  I am, however, blogging (obviously), answering emails, and dealing with administrative issues.

At my Institution of Higher Education (IHE), I’m lucky to have a Supervisor and Dean who both respect that family comes first and work second. Neither of them batted an eye when I had to attend three funerals in the span of two weeks – in fact, they checked to make sure I was ok.  The majority of students are understanding when you tell them, and some even sent condolences when one of my parents died. 

But there was this one time…this was in the days before smartphones, in-flight internet, and wifi. I installed email on my Razr because I thought it was important to be available. Got on the plane to fly from the East Coast to the West Coast.  Once we landed, I checked my emails.  There were no less than 20 from a student, the last one simply saying, “I guess you just don’t care about your students.”

Inappropriate?  Yes.  Effective?  Oh yeah. 

Maybe it is conditioned when we get into grad school.  You should be writing.  Why aren’t you writing? What do you mean you’re at the beach? Are you writing there?  How many of us carried around a book because we were suppose to be writing, read a few pages here and there, then closed it?  Or was that just me? I felt like everyone else had more discipline in their right pinky than I would ever have. 

When I looked into the literature, the guilt piece seems to be studied most in women with children and people of color.  We are expected to get things done, and many of us work long hours to do it. In this article by Delello, et al., one of the pluses of academic life is flexibility; however, there is no one to tell you to turn off the light and go home.  Boundaries seem to be important to longevity. That said, “Presenteeism” is a chronic concern in academia. So what are some ways to make sure we are making time for both work and rest? I’m using rest deliberately here – I am very aware of the work that happens “after work” – caring for children and/or aging parents, property upkeep, paying bills and taxes, etc… and I’m going to insist that you put in at least a little rest while juggling all that.

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