Balancing the Personal and Professional: Ongoing Lessons in Doubt, Humility, and Self-Acceptance

Monday morning, 6am:  My 6-year old is asleep.  Even before I hear his plaintive cries against going back to “boring school,” I began to feel that nervous tension in the pit of my stomach that invariably signals internal conflict and insecurity.  I try some deep breaths to clear my mind, which works for a few moments before thoughts of each agenda item for the day comes through my head: get up, get ready, get Nate (my son) breakfast; pack his lunch; take him to school; come home and renew my IRB certification so I can finally submit an IRB proposal for research (that I really should have done last semester); wait for my daughter, Asha (visiting from the Bay Area) to wake up then take her to the airport for her flight home; preview and sort articles for a lit review; blog; revise Spring syllabus; pick up Nate from school; go to the dentist (for dental work that I’ve put off for 2 years!); hand Nate off to my husband who will drop him off at Chinese school while I’m at the dentist; pick Nate up from Chinese school; return home; collapse in a puddle of exhaustion. (Oh, and remember to eat and breathe somewhere in between all those other things…)

That’s pretty much how the day went yesterday, except that, I didn’t have a lot of time or brain space left to blog. Looking over it, the schedule seems pretty normal for me, which I’m really working on not judging.

Most people tell me that I’m too busy.  Perhaps they have a point. I’ve spent most of my life doubting the way that I’ve structured my days, feeling that, in the end, I don’t have enough time for either my family or my professional life, both of which are extremely important for me (and, until very recently, leaving next to no time for my own self-care which I’m coming to realize really isn’t a sustainable model for life).  This doubt has led me to question my choices to parent my children in the way that I do; it’s led me to wonder why I felt that I needed to get a PhD and become a professor, a move that both financially and professionally has led to greater instability for my family and myself; and it’s led me to hypothesize about how life might be so much simpler if both mother and scholar were not such an important part of who I am.

Humbling.  Indeed, these thoughts are.  I can’t imagine not being a mother.  And I also can’t imagine not continuing on a lifelong path of learning and teaching through academia.  Both have been my dreams since I was a child.  And yet, having it all doesn’t look so glamorous on a day to day basis.  I’ve had to come to accept that I’m not going to get everything done every day (which, for me, has been quite the journey in itself).  My children won’t always think I’m the best mom and, indeed, some days I really won’t be.  I will have to re-earn the professional respect that I had spent many years building as a teacher, and that respect will only be garnered through a lot of hard work and long hours, that will have to be wedged between being a mom-shuttle service or will have to be bought through daycare.

All of this is something that I’ve worked hard to find peace about.  I study identity, and at the core of mine, I know that mother, teacher, and scholar occupy central places.  I’m hoping that in 2013, friend and human being might actually work their way in a bit as well.  But, for now, it’s on to revise my course assignments for the Spring before picking up the little guy from school…and life continues on…

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