Clearly, the three best things about being an academic are June, July, and August. I’ve heard many people say that this is why they stay with the lower pay of a college/university career instead of turning to the private sector. For me, it’s a wonderful time because I can work (mostly) from home and not have to tell students “it’s on the syllabus” for three glorious months. But, I just want to make one thing perfectly clear to those outside of the academy (including, but not limited to, friends, family, neighbors, and especially my children): I’m still working. Too many people equate a professor’s summer months of a professor with being “off,” but don’t let the shorts and sunblock confuse you. I may be busier than during the academic year.
Summer is the time when I actually try to write. It’s the time I have to catch up on all the things I ignored during the year, such as my department’s OARs (Outcome Assessment Reports, if you’ve been lucky enough to avoid sitting on that committee). I work on updating my syllabus and classroom examples, so I’m not still showing When Harry Met Sally to illustrate theories on social relationships.
Unfortunately, dealing with work-life balance does not get easier during the summer. I hire babysitters (who also need to understand I’m still working) and work in my home office, but of course, that doesn’t work because I can still hear my children fighting over who has the bigger serving of sliced strawberries. I’ve also tried getting out, but I’m just not able to write at Panera Bread. And if I go back to the office, what’s the point of having the summer off? It’s the principle of the thing. I recognize that I have the luxury of being home when my son finds a cicada and wants to show me its wings or to hear my daughter describe her very first kickball game: “It’s like baseball, you see,” she says, “except you kick this ball.” Summer is the time when boundaries between home and work become porous.
So, when you see me catching up on Homeland in my living room, don’t make assumptions. I may be finally watching a TV drama I’ve only heard people talking about, or I could be developing a class lesson on the representation of terrorism on television. The beauty of academia is that it could be both. Happy summer times!