Wednesday, August 16
One of the problems of academic life is that our productivity is measured very narrowly (published articles, classes taught, etc), while the amount of work we do is very broad. We all do committee work, student advising, and other social obligations as part of our job. If we didn't do them, we would not be doing our job properly.

However, they don't really "count" for work, either, since they are not something you can add to your vitae. This is not an uncommon feature of work in general, but perhaps felt more strongly in academia than other jobs in which, for example, sitting at your desk for a certain number of hours is an important measure of productivity.

Feminist scholars have long ago identified a gender component to the work that doesn't count as work, demonstrating very convincingly that women are socially obliged to do much more of this work that doesn't count than are, on average, men. They point in particular to the gender inequalities in domestic responsibilities, such as housework and child care. This sort of work, the unpaid variety, is not always counted as work, even by those doing it (although, at least one study shows that it is much more likely to be counted as work by women than men).

Personally, I find it is helpful to me to give myself credit where it is due for all the work I do, even when it doesn't "count" officially. And it is especially helpful for me to recall this gender imbalance of work when my male collaborators, for example, suggest what seems to me to be unreasonable deadlines for my share of our work. Maybe I could get a revision of our paper turned around in a single day, if I didn't have to also do all of the following*:
  • four loads of laundry to fold
  • one sinkful of dishes
  • grocery shopping
  • pick up some medicine for kid from drugstore
  • cook of a healthy meal, hopefully with leftovers for another day or two
  • unpack and take some clothes to the dry cleaners
  • thank you and "nice to meet you" notes to people met at conference
  • pick up kid from daycare by 5pm
  • feed kid, play with kid, bathe kid and bedtime routine until 7:30pm
  • figure out why the dog is sick and implement plan of action for return to health
  • open all mail from last week
  • pay bills
  • file bills and other paperwork

Then again, maybe a one-day turnaround is unreasonable in any case. Regardless, I'm giving myself credit for all of this work, even if my colleagues do not.

*Let me also give credit to my partner, who while taking care of kid without me for five days, managed to vacuum the floors, wash and dry (but not fold) two loads of laundry, manage all the dishes but that last sinkful, and take care of the dog, in addition to his paid labor.


fraud, in denim said...

I believe whole-heartedly that we should give credit where credit is due. You've accomplished a ton!

I, too, just returned to town and feel completely over-whelmed by all that has to be done (and isn't getting done because I've been in meetings all day and leave town again tomorrow; the sitter will just have to forgive me).

Turquoise Stuff said...

I'm with you, Lime. Life takes so much work. And when you don't have a partner everything falls on you to do. If you don't pay the bill, no one will. If you don't do the laundry, no one will. If you don't go grocery shopping, you won't have food for dinner. If you don't pick up dry-cleaning then you won't have that necessary outfit for that upcoming meeting. It's exhausting just to think about, never mind actually do. And that's why a 9-5 job on occasion seems very appealing.

There's the personal realm work and then there are also the millions of tasks you started your post with (and what I thought it was going to be about) that don't get counted either. And spending half a day doing them doesn't make you feel like you accomplished much. You mentioned some of these, like the notes to people you met at the conference. But how about replying to requests to review articles or proposals, replying to questions about work, replying to students about their projects and setting up meetings with them, and the list just goes on and on and on. So yes, I hear you! And I do try to feel accomplished when I take care of a couple of things even in these areas, otherwise it would all be too depressing.

Chartreuse Circe said...

Hunh. I needed to hear this today. Thanks, Lime!

Mahogany said...

(Credit) Lime! I was afraid you were gone forever! Thanks so much for this, and for coming back to us.

lime said...

Adding to the list since my post:

-call after-hours doctor to diagnose kid's UTI
-calm down freaked-out kid with UTI
-take kid to doctor in morning
-call daycare to tell them we'll be late
-discover water damage in house and decide we can't deal with it right now

Big-ups to partner for:

-calling vet to make appt for dog
-cleaning up sick dog (don't ask)
-doing that sinkful of dishes
-helping calm kid
-helping calm me

And I just started on that revision, which, it turns out, is not all that much work after all. I think I'll get it done today.

Rock on, Me! and, by extension, Us, 'cause I KNOW I'm not the only one.

Blog Archive