August 25th, 2010
We’ve launched another school year around here, and thank goodness, all my kids seem happy.
I too am back at work: writing syllabi, attending meetings, working on my research. I too am happy.
Even though we are only a couple of weeks in, I have already learned the hard way that I am still going to take awhile to get myself up to speed in any way that feels recognizable or familiar.
The biggest difference is that my old fallback, Plan B, is no longer possible.
Working parents probably know what I’m talking about. There is very little room for error when you have your schedule, your partner’s schedule, the kids’ schedules. There are few degrees of freedom. It’s the unexpected things that require a regrouping of Plan A –– a kid gets sick, a car needs repair. Truth be told, even the expected stuff can perturb the delicate balance of Plan A –– early dismissals, dentist appointments.
Up until now, my Plan B has been to take advantage of my flexible schedule. In my job, the work just needs to get done. For most things, it doesn’t matter when or where it happens. I can read, write, grade, review, plan, email at almost any time or place. So my usual way of absorbing these upsets –– my Plan B –– has been to work at odd hours in the evening, often after the kids are in bed.
That time is no longer mine for the taking.
I am lucky if I have much cognitive functioning past 3 PM, let alone 9 PM. This past week, most of my “good work” has to be done by lunch time. After that, I’m able to answer simple emails, file my papers, or straighten my bookshelf, but the heavy thinking time is over.
I am coming up with other ways to insulate my work time. It’s not what I expected, but I think I might pull it off.
My new Plan B?
I’m asking for a little latitude.
The hard part is that I have always prided myself on my punctuality, on making meetings and meeting deadlines. If I say I will do something, I come through. I am having to let that go a bit. Sometimes, I ask forgiveness upfront so that I do not feel the distress of letting somebody down. I’m adding “ish” to any promised deadline. I have to say no to things that are outside of the essential parts of my job, even if I feel a pull toward them for reasons of citizenship or duty.
Because my hair has come back and the worst of my treatment is over, I find that I have to explain myself occasionally. I tell people to think of me as being on energy conserve mode. When I’m on, I work pretty well. But I might unexpectedly need to shut down and reboot. If they still look puzzled, I might truck out the notion that it takes you as many months to recover from treatment as you spent in it.
Eventually, people get it. That’s my new Plan B. I’ll let you know how it goes.
This entry was posted on Wednesday, August 25th, 2010 at 11:38 pm and is filed under Survivorship. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. You can leave a response, or trackback from your own site.