Day: November 27, 2016

Home with Kids Craziness, Too Much Service, and Generally Get Off My Lawn

This holiday, like most holidays, was not relaxing at all.

I spent it trying to balance tending to the kids, doing chores, cooking, and doing some work. The work load was “light”: reviewing papers and proposals (did some, declined some after having initially accepted, still not done); creating and posting a final project assignment for my graduate class (done, days after I was supposed to); screening faculty applications for an interdisciplinary cluster search (I didn’t finish that). I spent the whole day on Friday correcting a student’s dissertation draft (thankfully that’s done, as he’s defending soon).

I haven’t finished all I was supposed to, my home office and whole house are a mess, and I most certainly didn’t relax. I was supposed to cook a belated favorite dish for DH’s birthday, didn’t get to.

It’s hard to describe to the people who don’t have multiple kids (or whose kids are well behaved or not particularly energetic) just how completely crazy my days at home really are. I do not get 5 min of uninterrupted time until they are asleep. Somebody constantly needs to eat or drink or eat again or is being badgered by his brother or is crying or wants to play a video game at the exact same time as his brother even though he could have done it for hours before said brother got up or someone has lost a toy/shoe/chapstick(?) or has peed on self and needs to be changed or has spilled food/drink on self for no reason or doesn’t want these socks but wants those other socks that happen to be dirty/have holes/are too small… And don’t get me started on having to think of what to feed them all, multiple times a day, and they all eat a lot and often and are picky and just drive me nuts.

We went to see Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them. Since having our own 3 boys is apparently not enough trouble, DH and I brought along two more (MB’s friend and Eldest’s friend), so for those of you keeping count that’s a total of 5 boys that we took to the movies. Smurf got bored within 3 minutes but was amused for another 27 by sharing popcorn with MB’s friend, after which he spent the whole movie complaining of thirst and generally being a pest… a super cute one, but still a pest. The movie is okay, probably would’ve been even more okay if I hadn’t been constantly watching a small fidgety human. We had two cars, of which Eldest drove one home, I took the other and wanted to go grocery shopping, while DH took the younger two and MB’s friend for a walk and some Pokemon Go… Until about 20 min later, when they were all cold and it had started raining, so I had to go get them.

Phew. I got that out, so I feel better.


I have also been thinking a lot about professional service. My salary comes from the department budget during the 9 months of the academic year. That salary is for teaching, for supervising graduate students, and for institutional service. One can say that, in return for bringing in research dollars to the university, the university assumes that I will do research and is happy to pay part of my salary to cover my academic-year research time.

But there are professional-service aspects on which it’s really hard to justify spending my academically funded time. For instance, peer review, especially for for-profit publishers. Why does any of my university-paid time go to providing reviews (free of charge) to for-profit publishers (Springer, Elsevier, etc)? Or acting as an editor for a for-profit publisher? People say, “Well, peer review is important, if you don’t do it, who will?” Well, then pay me for my time if it’s so valuable. Offer to give universities significant discounts based on how much their faculty review.


I feel like I am getting worse at fending off service requests. I have to be like an addict in recovery and completely reject all requests (no such thing as moderation), because otherwise I will accept one or two (and I am particularly vulnerable when I’ve cleared my load) and, before you know it, I have completely fallen off the wagon and I have my “Pending” folder full of papers whose review does nothing for me and takes a ton of my already heavily obligated time.


I generally wish it weren’t so goddamn easy to ask people for stuff. It  puts the onus on the one asked to have to refuse, and just the act of evaluating, however briefly, a request before refusing or, due to fatigue or guilt, accepting even though you shouldn’t, depletes your daily quota for making good decisions. And I need the energy to actually keep my brain running, and to work with students, and to take care of my kids.

Since we switched to Office 356 at work, spam has become relentless. I am blocking it every way imaginable and still get way too much. In unrelated news, I will have to get a new cell phone, a new phone number, and a new provider, because I get way too many spam calls, so many that I have to keep my phone on “do not disturb” which defeats the purpose of having a cell phone.

Honestly, I think that the older I am, the worse I am at managing my work and my life.  And that sucks.


A final bit of wisdom. When an administrator calls you on the phone or emails to ask if they can call you on the phone, be very afraid. They want to talk in order to butter you up using their admin wiles and then lure you into accepting “… just do this small service task that you’d be perfect for and it won’t be too much work at all…” DO. NOT. ACCEPT! Run like hell. Trust me on this. They are lying, it will be a ton — A TON! — of thankless work and will use up way too much of your time. Let them dupe another sucker.