Tuesday, April 1, 2014

FOMO and Family

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.


Haskell Murray, Travel | Permalink


This is a brave post Haskell, and I appreciate your honesty with me in our conversations in and outside of this blog. Thank you for sharing.

Posted by: Anne Tucker | Apr 2, 2014 5:27:43 AM

This is definitely something I struggle with, often without a whole lot of success. Part of that, now, is that I am a prof at a low ranked school that if often looked down upon. So, I feel like I need to work 3x as hard and be super kickass in all things. [I obviously still have some issues as reflected in my Faculty Lounge posts this week]. My most shameful FOMO story is that I actually missed the birth of my 5th (and last) kid because I was speaking at a conference (a Bar conference to which I committed before we knew about the pregnancy, but still). She was born literally while I was speaking. My wife called at about 6:30 am the morning of my presentation to say she was in labor about a week early (and all our other kids were about a week late). I got moved up on the program to the first slot and was trying to do my presentation and get out when, about 5 mins from the end (at 9:25 am), I got a picture text of my wife holding our new daughter. I had my phone on the podium and said, “well, crap, I just missed my daughter’s birth.” My wife is still pissed about that one (for good reason). So, thanks for reminding me that it is OK to say "no" sometimes.

Posted by: Brian Clarke | Apr 2, 2014 1:21:33 PM

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