Coming out of busy-life-induced hiatus because I want/need to do some thinking 'out loud.' I gave a talk at a local university a couple of weeks ago, and during the dinner afterwards one of the undergrads asked me about being a professional statistician and also maintaining a partnership. We talked a bit about setting boundaries and expectations and communicating and standard relationship-y things when finally I said, but there are going to be times when your work is more important than her. Not all the time or generally or on average, but if we're being honest here, there are going to be times when at that specific moment the thing you're getting done at work is more important than spending time with her. And he stopped and said, yeah, but you can't say those things out loud.
I want to be clear. I'm not advocating for workaholism. And I know that I personally have constant work to do to maintain healthy work-life boundaries. But I simply refuse to believe that work is always less important than life. Because my work is a part of my life. It is not sufficient to define who I am, but it is necessary. I am a statistician. It is a piece of me. I chose this. I worked my ass off, for 11 years in university, for this.
And I know part of that is a luxury - to have a career that is meaningful and fulfilling and not just the thing I do to I make rent every month. So isn't it disingenuous if I treat it otherwise?
I love the people in my life and I value the time that I spend with them. But if I'm being honest, there are going to be times when getting that report submitted to that group, finishing calculating those estimates, is more important than sitting on the couch with someone I love. Similarly, there will be times when celebrating an occasion, going for a hike, with someone I love is more important than those reports and estimates.
Isn't that the whole point of balance? So why isn't it ok to say out loud that sometimes the work part is more important?
I've also been thinking about this because my current job comes with a lot of last minute travel. Most recently, I almost had to cancel on a long-planned baseball outing because I thought I was going to be out of the country. The trip didn't end up coming together, and I would have been forgiven for missing the game if it had. But I had this clear realization that I'm likely to be the parent frequently apologizing for missing stuff with my kids. The kids are totally hypothetical at this point, and I may not have this specific job by the time kids roll around. But I do foresee this type of gig for a while in my future. And I believe kids benefit from seeing happy, fulfilled parents. But yikes. If the thought of having to apologize to my boyfriend for missing a baseball game made me feel bad, I can't even begin to imagine what it feels like to try to communicate to a toddler why mommy can't tuck them in for the next five nights.