Tuesday, April 1, 2014
A friend with two small children recently told me that he has a bad case of FOMO (“fear of missing out”) at work because of his obligations at home. His comment struck a chord with me because I recently turned down an opportunity to present a paper because the conference falls on my son’s upcoming first birthday. Last year, I passed on another wonderful opportunity because it was extremely close to my son’s due date. (Privileged, first world problems, I realize). Unlike some of our readers, I am not usually inundated with requests to speak, so both of these opportunities were difficult to turn down.
Do not get me wrong, the flexibility provided by a career as a professor is fabulous for raising a family. However, while the baseline day-to-day work requirements for professors are relatively limited, the possible uses of our time are infinite. For Type-A people like me (and most business and law professors I know), it can be difficult to know where to draw the line at work. And even when we do draw the line, like I did in the two cases mentioned above, there can be nagging feelings that we are missing out, that those types of opportunities will not surface again, and that we will “fall behind” our peers.
My FOMO is exacerbated by the fear that I am simply not good enough. Surrounded by brilliant Harvard-Yale-Stanford graduates, I have a gigantic state-school chip on my shoulder. With no disrespect to my alma mater intended, every time I am introduced at a conference as a graduate of Georgia State University School of Law – usually surrounded by people with much more impressive resumes – I fear I will be taken a bit (or a lot) less seriously than others. I am also (constantly) reminded how incredibly fortunate I am to have a tenure-track professor position.
I have plenty on my plate for the rest of 2014, but missed opportunities still eat at me.
Yes, I know, I am experiencing only a very small fraction of what female professors experience. I do not approach Professor Usha Rodrigues’ schedule and sacrifices that she blogged about in January 2013. That said, as a man who wants to be deeply involved at home, but also wants to excel as a professor—I live in that family-work tension.