When Joanna approached us with the idea for this month’s Chaparral, work-life balance, I thought about how boundaries have blurred, and time has become amorphous in the year that we’ve been working from home. We heard about those people who “worked from home” pre-pandemic but as college educators, I don’t think we ever imagined we’d be doing that, too. But here we are, working from home, day in and out, each day bleeding into the next, kind of looking like the same.
Living life in a constant blurring of boundaries is challenging. I had to learn early on that the laptop is shut no later than 7 p.m. and that weekends are sacred. Remember, unions fought for your right to the 8-hour workday and weekends off. I’m 85% good at following those rules, but even my curiosity about something that’s eating at me, an email I sent that hasn’t been answered, I bend to the pressure and check my email after 7 or on the weekends.
Another work-life challenge, besides compulsively checking email, is that I’ve never had a home office that’s its own room. I’ve always had to carve out a space off the kitchen. Now that everyone is home – I live with my husband, Dana, and 15-year-old son, Gabe – it’s hard with them coming in and out, wanting to ask me questions or talk at me, especially when the work is demanding and I’m in the zone. I’m not proud to say that I’ve yelled at them (at my husband primarily) for disturbing me while I’m working, but seriously? I don’t walk into their room or office (yes, Dana has the office/studio – it’s a sore spot) just to chat them up or ask questions. I respect a closed door and I yearn for my own. I’m sure many of you can relate to this issue, especially those of you with younger children who don’t respect a closed door!
However, I really can’t complain too much. I’ve always done a good job of taking care of myself, meaning self-care. While I’m a wife, a mother, a professor, and union president, I’m me first, and if I can’t take care of me, then no one else can expect my care and attention. It’s so important for all of us to make sure we aren’t overdoing it and letting the work take over. The work we do is important, yes, but it cannot be all encompassing. As educators, we generally don’t have a workaday schedule, but this pandemic has made many of us work more hours because what else is there to do (besides watching the ten streaming services you’ve signed up for)? If you identify with this all too well, take a minute or two to really think about why and how, maybe you can get back to taking care of you first. I promise, it’s not selfish.
My desk sits in front of a window that overlooks my backyard. This is my favorite time of year. The wildflower seeds that I haphazardly threw (I am not a gardener, nor do I enjoy gardening, but I love a pretty garden) into the soil back in September have yielded spectacular yellows, oranges, whites, and blues. The garden is the one thing that reminds me that time keeps marching forward and that today is not like days past. I know this is cliched but do take time to smell the roses. Take time for YOU.
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