A few weeks ago, I wrote to announce the Digital Humanities Winter Institute. While I wanted to make sure as many people know about this training opportunity as possible, I was also personally interested. I’m lucky enough to have some professional development funds for next year, and I thought that this could be a great opportunity to put those funds to use while learning R.
All of that changed, however, when I looked pulled up the DHWI dates on my calendar. Running from 7-11 January, the Institute starts the day after the 2013 MLA ends. Since I’ve already committed to be at the 2013 MLA, and because I’m co-leading a pre-convention workshop, I will be flying to Boston on 2 January; attending the DHWI would mean that I would be away from home for 10 full days. And as a father of three and a husband of one, I knew that such a proposal would not pass the approval process. Just for kicks, I ran it past my wife. The response was an expression something like this:
I’m not going to be the first to make this observation, but academia can be very impractical for families. And by “families,” I want to be as inclusive as possible: if you have children, a partner, parents, siblings, or even pets, you have a family.
Much of what we do in academe involves flying bodies around in airplanes, taking us away from the people with whom we share our lives and our daily routines. And this can be wearing, after a while. I felt it when I had a two-hour, one-way commute to work. I know Mark has felt it as he’s flown to work for several years. (Both Mark and I have written about how to hack your commute by car or plane, so maybe it’s not a total loss?)
In the age of videoconferencing in the university, it seems a bit daft that we still have this problem. And if anyone can figure it out, it should be the ProfHacker readers! I know that Jason has had occasion to bring his 9 year-old along to conferences, keeping his family together. And Dan Cohen had his children at last year’s THATCamp CHNM.
So I’m curious, readers: how do you combine your academic travel with your family (however you define it) schedule and responsibilities? Do you have any suggestions for how we could continue the work of higher education by taking less of a toll on our time (to say nothing of the environment)? Let us know in the comments!
(For more on this topic, don’t miss Aimee Pozorski’s recent review of Professor Mommy. You could also look at Audrey Williams June’s musings on the (im)possibility of a balanced life or Rachel Connelly and Kristen Ghodsee’s special report on “Professor Mom.”)