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Being Overwhelmed is Way Scarier Than a Paranormal Activity Movie

The views expressed are those of the author and are not necessarily those of Scientific American.


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Want a little lesson in the life of a scientist? On my plate right now:

  • Proposal reviews: OVERDUE
  • Book chapter: OVERDUE
  • Two revise and resubmits: one OVERDUE, one not (yet)
  • Manuscript review: SUBMITTED LATE
  • Proposal revision to mock panel: only a matter of time before OVERDUE
  • New grant proposals: WAY BEHIND SCHEDULE
  • Workouts: NOT HAPPENING with husband out of town and sitters unavailable
  • Emails to me these days: GO INTO A BLACK HOLE UNLESS YOU WRITE A SECOND TIME AND ARE ON FIRE
  • Kiddo’s Halloween costume: NOT QUITE DONE AND THE CLOCK IS TICKING
  • Blog post: well, at least I got something done.

A number of deadlines and personal difficulties (like single parenting due to husband travel, being in the derby mini off-season and thus unable to hit anyone, teaching and service ridiculousness) have made this an especially scary Halloween. That list frightens me more than any movie.

Here is a very random list of links I’ve enjoyed over the last week or so that helps things look up:

Kate Clancy About the Author: Dr. Kate Clancy is an Assistant Professor of Anthropology at the University of Illinois. She studies the evolutionary medicine of women’s reproductive physiology, and blogs about her field, the evolution of human behavior and issues for women in science. Find her comment policy here. Follow on Twitter @KateClancy.

The views expressed are those of the author and are not necessarily those of Scientific American.





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  1. 1. anonpostdoc 8:37 am 10/31/2012

    I am not currently single-parenting, nor am I advanced enough in my career to have quite as many responsibilities as you list, so I can’t empathize with you, but I can sympathize. You CAN make it through this! You are an inspiration to many, and we’re all rooting for your sanity and productivity and happiness through the next few months!

    I really liked the link to the NYT article about big companies rethinking their employee “perks.” I think universities offering free dinner and housecleaning is an amazing idea. It seems to me that your professional responsibilities alone are overwhelming (i.e., academic jobs are extremely challenging on their own, and all faculty members could use some help on the home front), and then to add in the additional challenges/joys of raising small children (or taking care of an ailing spouse or aging parents) makes the task nearly impossible. I hate feeling like our institutions are setting us up to fail because the task they set before us is just so difficult (regardless of the family circumstances almost everyone has to deal with in some way or another). Providing help with house cleaning or dinner would probably only save each individual a small amount of actual time, but I think the offer would go a long way toward making employees feel like their employer is on their side, instead of like we’ve been tossed into a pool of sharks without a life vest (publish or perish? not the most encouraging language). And feeling supported by ones employer would go a huge way to helping morale and probably, therefore, productivity.

    Link to this
  2. 2. Kate Clancy in reply to Kate Clancy 10:06 am 10/31/2012

    Thanks, anonpostdoc :) . We’ll all keep on keepin’ on! Every now and then I like to make the continual freakout in my head a bit more transparent so that folks wanting to go the academic route know what they’re getting into, and that even when we look great on the outside we’re usually running on fumes on the inside. Things are a bit more stressful right now than usual, but still pretty much in the normal range of variation for the job.

    I also love that NYT article. University of Illinois, you can make my family dinner any time :) .

    Link to this
  3. 3. HeatherSF 2:00 pm 11/2/2012

    Holy jesus, that list. As a graduate student, the consistent sense that those further along than me in this career path are overwhelmed is really daunting.
    Sometimes I think, well, I’ll just see what happens, everything’s ok right now. But then, it seems foolish to think I’ll have a different experience than what is being repeatedly laid out by others.
    That’s ok – I’ve got tons of back up plans. This is a lot of education for a local foods caterer or a baker, but hey, I can think about human evolution while my bread proofs…
    I do know, I don’t think I can (or want to) handle stress like that…

    Link to this
  4. 4. Kate Clancy in reply to Kate Clancy 2:38 pm 11/2/2012

    I think local foods catering and baking are both great career options and are quite personally fulfilling – I’ve considered both myself :) . But I also think it’s a great idea for us to think about what we can do to make this job more sane. Because I think there are a lot of people out there that would be good at it, but they’re often the ones who are smart enough to get out while they can and take their toys elsewhere.

    Link to this

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