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When work and family conflict

Yesterday, I wrote about how my workaholism affects my ability to take vacations with my family. In putting that piece together, I also started to think about other ways in which work and family conflict. There are certainly lots of small ones, particularly the evenings and weekends in which I’m grading or preparing class [1] instead of spending time with family. And there are the really big ones, such as planning vacations [2].

But there are also a bunch of things in the middle. What do I do when a family obligation and a work obligation conflict? It happens a lot. I cut short our 25th-anniversary vacation for the first day of class. I’ve missed plays and concerts and more because I’ve been late coming back from a conference or meeting [3]. For example, because I’m staying at this year’s SIGCSE through Saturday night, I may miss Middle Son’s Grinnell Singers Concert and Youngest Son’s Court of Honor [4].

The things in the middle also include foreseeable conflicts. For example, this coming Friday, Middle Son is diving at 1:30 p.m. I love to watch Middle Son dive [6]. I like to support his colleagues. But I teach classes at 2:00 and 3:00 p.m., the 2:00 p.m. class is a half-semester course, and I’m already going to be gone at a conference two days the following week. On a separate front, we just heard that Youngest Son’s concert band will be performing at the Iowa Bandmasters’ associations meeting, which happens to be the last day of classes. The last day of class is special, so it’s hard to miss. Fortunately, it should only affect the morning class.

In the end, family wins. I’ll find some alternative topic or substitute for this Friday’s classes and I’ll end my morning course one day early. I’m not sure that I’ve always felt that way [7,8]. But I do now. I’m sure that my students will understand.

Postscript: I drafted this musing while waiting for the start of one of Youngest Son’s concerts. I could have been talking to Michelle, or working on grading, or getting the SIGCSE Student Volunteer System running [12], or …. So maybe I now have a Work-Family-Musing conflict. At least it meant that after eight hours of plowing through spreadsheets and semi-working software, I could spend a bit less time on this musing.

Postscript: At the occasional campus discussion of Work-Life Balance, there’s always someone [14] who says something like Don’t use the term balance, which suggests the two things are in conflict with each other. But here’s the thing, in these kinds of situations, and many others, there is a clear conflict and so you have to find a way to work out the conflict.

Here’s my recommendation to you and to myself: When work and family conflict, family should win. If possible, get to the stage in your career in which you can choose family.

Postscript: Yes, I realize that last postscript also reflects my privilege. Not everyone can have a career in which they are permitted to make these kinds of choices. But even some who should be able to make those choices, such as faculty members, don’t think that they can really make the choice.

Postscript: In this instance, I am also privileged in being male. As a male, I usually get positive reactions when I choose family over work. Women, on the other hand, may be told that they do not take their work seriously if they make the same choice that I make.

[1] Or doing professional service activities, like the one on which I spent eight painful hours today. I’ll muse about that activity in the near future.

[2] I mused yesterday about planning vacations. I failed to mention that last summer, we seemed unable to find a week when all of the workaholic Rebelskys were willing to find a week to take off together, even though Michelle identified multiple possible weeks.

[3] Unfortunately, the schedule for the plays and concerts often comes out long after I’ve made the travel plans. And we live in Iowa. So even when I’ve made appropriate plans, the weather gets in the way.

[4] I’ll almost certainly make the Court of Honor. I’m not yet sure about the Singers concert. I think it’s at 2:00 p.m. and I get in at 11:30 a.m. [5], but I have to wait for suitcases and, well, it’s Iowa.

[5] Did I really decide to fly out of Baltimore at 7:30 a.m.? I will be up early that Sunday.

[6] Correction. I usually love to watch Middle Son dive. But there are times his dives make me cringe in pain.

[7] I’m really good at forgetting things. I’m particularly good at forgetting my less-good decisions.

[8] Michelle probably knows [9].

[9] Well, that’s what I thought. But when I asked, she couldn’t remember what choices I make when I’m actually in town. With some prompting, she agreed that earlier in my career, I most likely chose class over family [10], and at this point in my career, I’m doing better at putting family first [11].

[10] I think my rationales were missing class affects more people and someone pays a lot for me to teach class.

[11] I also think that putting family first serves as an important lesson to my student. There are clearly things more important than classwork. I expect that most of them still realize that they are also very important to me.

[12] Thereby avoiding some of the eight hours I spent on it today.

[14] Usually an administrator.

Version 1.1.1 of 2018-02-11.