I have a friend who is not in academia. We spend a lot of time together. And every time we meet (which is about twice a week every week), she asks, “Did you teach today? Did you teach yesterday? No? And Klara was still at school??? Why?”
I have tried opening every encounter with a list of everything work-related that I’ve done this day. I have explained the tripartite nature of academic work (teaching-research-service). I have shown my publications. I have quoted my CV. But it didn’t work. When I meet her and her husband, they both go at me with this question, so I have to answer it twice in a day.
And it’s getting to me. I don’t feel any guilt over Klara being in preschool. She’s objectively happier doing fun activities with friends part of the day than stewing at home with me. The week before last, a chef came to school every day to teach them recipes. Klara learned how to make tiny pizzas, tacos, etc. Last week, they had a woman from the science museum who showed them science experiments.
“She taught us to make soda water out of gummy bears, mommy,” Klara reported. “It was pshhhh, bam!, into the ceiling!” I have no idea what this means but the kid seemed wildly enthusiastic.
This week they have a puppeteer who will teach them to make puppets and put on shows.
I’m not supposed to feel guilty about Klara doing all this fun stuff while I work on 3 articles in different stages, a new book, organizing a conference, and running a scholar organization. But I’m beginning to feel guilty. See this long post? That’s my guilt speaking.
Maybe other people would make a different choice, and good for them. But this is who I am and I just want to be left in peace by my closest friends to run my life as I see fit.
There is a point to this ranting, so wait for the second part of the post for me to get to it.