Exhaustion, work, and the new normal?

At 2am Saturday morning, I turned off my computer. My day had started at 5:15am Friday morning, and I’d pretty much been going nonstop since then: teaching, meetings, a crazy workday; then home to wrangle dinner and baths and the kids, by myself; then, once the kids were in bed, back to work. For hours. Repeat the rest of the weekend, substituting a crazy full day of kid-wrangling by myself for the crazy workday.

This week is a bit extreme, and is the result of a perfect storm of sorts. A short turnaround between winter and spring terms (I still haven’t finished wrapping up stuff from winter term). Two major service deadlines back to back. Another big service thing I’ve had to ignore out of necessity (so that I can get at least a few hours of sleep a night). Some departmental drama that I’ve been drawn into as incoming chair next year. Sick kids (and sick me) and single parenting. A late invitation to submit a journal article, due at the end of the month. I started spring term behind and I’m still not caught up.

The problem is, this seems to be my new normal. This has been the craziest year professionally ever. I work all the damn time. All. The. Damn. Time. Well, when I’m not parenting, that is. And it’s starting to affect my life, beyond the sleep deprivation: I completely flaked on two kind of important personal life things last week. This is completely unlike me, Dr. Uber-Responsible, and while I’m trying not to beat myself up over these things, it’s hard not to.

(Another sign of the craziness: the unfinished puzzle currently sitting on my dining room table, that I’ve been working on since CHRISTMAS DAY, largely untouched since January.)

Here’s the thing: I love my job. Love love love it. But I love my family too, and I love having hobbies and free time and relaxing…you know, the things that normal people do. And lately my job does not allow for anything outside of my job. And this fundamentally bothers me.

Prioritize? I’m prioritizing up the wazoo. I’m queen of getting stuff done and pomodoros and to-do lists and zero inboxes and <insert your favorite productivity buzzword here>. There’s still too much work. Too many expectations. I drop so many balls it’s not funny. And it’s still too much. Way too much.

I’ve heard the same stories from many associate profs I know. We’re all burned out, overworked, overwhelmed. Next year I’m going to be chair. This terrifies me. If I can barely keep things together now, how the hell am I going to manage next year when my workload goes up exponentially?

I want to be an effective teacher, an engaged scholar, and a colleague who gives back. I also want a life. These things should not be mutually exclusive. I want work to be on my terms and not be in triage mode all the time. But the further I go down this tenured road, the less possible I think that is.


4 thoughts on “Exhaustion, work, and the new normal?

  1. my kids are 8 & 9, and it has gotten easier. Also, I’m working on saying no at work. And not expecting myself to be amazing at everything. Also, I got a thing in the mail from a charity I’ve donated to. It featured a Haitian widow and her two kids. As it described her life, I decided to stop whining.


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