“I should be working…”: Confessions from the cloud

I feel like I spend 99% or my life reminding myself of how much I have to do.  I know.  That can’t be healthy.  I blame it in part on my Jewish mother.  But at the moment, I know for sure that I should be working.

Most immediate are the folders of papers I have to grade, final presentations to attend, and loose ends to tie up with students I am advising.  Next, the family obligations up and down the foodchain.  From ailing older folks to needy wee ones, I’m a slave to others much of the day.  I’m heading out of town at the end of next week to attend my first professional conference in four years, and I want to prepare myself to make the most of my time with professional colleagues, but I also have to get the house and babe ready for my leave of absence.  This will be my first time on my own for more than a few hours at a time since Cora was born 2 1/2 years ago.  I’m excited, but I also feeling guilty.

Finally, there are all the things I want to be doing, like writing about things here.  And so, I should be working, but instead I’m blogging.  But what’s the difference anymore, really. So much of my life is happening in the cloud. So when is work work and when is it something else?  I find this line harder and harder to put my finger on as my home and work life continue to converge.  And I’m not alone, as this week’s stories about Sugata Mitra’s TED Prize for developing self-organized learning environments and Marissa Mayer ending Yahoo’s progressive work from home policy highlighted so well.

In many ways I agree with Mayer.  Sometimes I wish I could leave the house and go to work.  And I’m not talking about down the block at the coffee shop.  I’m talking about in a classroom, in a building, on a campus.  I long to be in the same physical space with my students and colleagues, to be having the kinds of casual conversations and unplanned interactions that happen best, for me, in person.

I do believe that it is possible to have such experiences online.  UFARTED (short for University of Florida Art Education, please don’t laugh) has a very active Facebook group for our program that feels a lot like a student lounge.  It is full of rich content and useful links.  Only, there aren’t any actual people speaking, instead are their comments, the traces of them, staring out at me from the screen.  All the same font.  All the same tone.  No matter how hard I try, it just doesn’t feel the same as face-to-face.

Which is not to say that I don’t value and cherish my job.  I feel appreciated by my students and colleagues, the work is fairly steady (or has been for the first 2+ years.  We’ll see if that remains the case after budget tightening.  Fingers crossed, but breath not held.), and while the pay isn’t great, it could be worse.  My position has allowed me to stay at home with my daughter these first few years as I maintained some sort of a professional life.  I couldn’t have asked for a better opportunity at the time I found it.  But I’m torn.  I could always be doing more to make my classes more robust, to help students harness the power of the world of art and ideas that literally comprise our classroom.  But then I could also sit for hours and watch Cora play, clean up after her when she paints the floors of the kitchen with her watercolors, bake fresh bread, talk on the phone to my mom, sister, brother, friend Audrey, work in the garden…  You get the point.  There is a lot of freedom in working from home.  But there’s some fear too.

So, all I’m saying is, that like Debbie Mayer, I kinda agree with Marissa Mayer.  I recognize that Mayer’s speaking from a position of privilege about the joys of working from the office, which in her case includes a customized nursery for her infant (maintained by some high end-help, to be sure). But I’m just not sure that it’s really possible to have it all.

Now, back to work.

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13 thoughts on ““I should be working…”: Confessions from the cloud

  1. I like how work and interactions in the cloud get translated into action in the real world. Because of an online class, I am now making plans to teach real people in a real place. My partner was the first girl I had a crush on in high school. We reconnected online decades later. Now we live together.

  2. Oh can I relate to this! Unlike you I am not telecommuting, but I connect with other art educators online. I am a single parent of two teenage boys and they are busy developing personal interests like music and soccer. I am a chauffeur more often than I could have ever imagined, but we also have some great talks in the car. I teach art in five different programs. I work for a school district two days a week, at a Boys and Girls Club one day a week, and offer my own classes. I wear a lot of hats. My garage is my art closet and my van is my mobile art on a cart. I upload photos to Facebook for parents to view. I participate in an online professional learning community. I have e-mail. I occasionally peek into Twitter to see what amazing art educators like your colleague at UF Craig Rolland are sharing. I also have an art ed blog which I wish I could post to more than once a month. My life is crazy, but good! I have a to do list a mile long which always has some new critical task which needs to be dealt with first before I get to something like organizing my taxes for what currently seems a ways off, but will soon feel like egad….it’s next week! I also have things that have been on the list for years like repairing a dent in the sheet rock where one of my son’s home made arrows left its mark. So…I’m happy you get to NAEA in Fort Worth, and wish I was able to attend this year too! I hope you’ll post some inspiring brainwave you got as a result of attending NAEA, and believe me I know how difficult (yet liberating, exciting, stimulating) it is to leave a child (or in my case two children) for a few days to attend!

  3. Nice post. By the way, when you wrote that, you were quite literally working. you just aren’t getting paid directly for this work. much like work in our home. xo

    • I am so lucky to be married to a man who understands that creative work is just as essential to our lives as the work we do for love and for money. I should mention, I met him online, so Hilary, I totally agree that the space between the virtual and physical worlds is rich, indeed!

  4. It totally get where you’re coming from on so many levels. I chose not to work after my kids were born and I wouldn’t trade it for the world, but there are times when I regret that decision not to keep a toe dipped in the professional world because now, well… I just sort of feel a bit like a fish out of water. The topic of working moms, working from home with a family, and choosing to stay home came up often at a progressive moms’ blog I used to frequent back when my kids were young. Years ago, that blog became my island of serenity. I connected with so many amazing women online who I’m still online friends with today in facebookland. I had just moved to a conservative rural ‘burb, so I really needed that connection…that commonality with others who were also experiencing the same reality as I was. I met other groups of people online too when social networking was young in the early blog age. I still treasure their friendships. But, I completely get what you mean about conversations being in comments. There’s not a lot of spontaneity there. There’s no instant interaction. I have to say, that day I visited OSU’s Art Ed Department when I was looking into their PhD program, I got a glimpse of what I was missing. I got to opportunity to sit in and observe a class. I forgotten how it felt to hear a professor pose questions and get class conversation going. It was truly enriching. It impacted me so much that I sort of memorized a lot of what was said in that one class that day. It’s not the same as the forums in Sakai. I think there is something to be said for online school. It’s enriching in its own way. It’s different from brick and mortar classes, but I still felt/feel connected to the people I met in the program. We seemed to have this connection 24/7, because class never really has a start and an end time. That’s both good and bad. ;)

    • Remember that time we met up at the park in Dublin, Hilary? That was fun. And so different than chatting on the phone or online. Like you said, we got to feel the energy of one another’s presence. We are both type A personalities and I’m sure we finished each other’s sentences on a few occasions…
      I really like what you say about online learning having no beginning and no end. That’s powerful. And, as you say, both good and bad.

  5. via email
    Dear Jodi,
    Although I have been reading and enjoying your blog for a few months now, it’s finally today’s that made me “make” the time to comment… You see, the feeling that we should be working can plague any Mom, even any person, parenting or not! But it was your final comment that really prodded me to write because I, too, don’t believe it is possible to “have it all.” And yet, more and more over the years, I have come to believe there’s no need for “having it all.” No matter what choices we make, there always, ALWAYS will be other choices we necessarily preclude by whatever we do include in our lives. You can’t live in the city and in the country at the exact same time. I have known a lot of people who worry about that, about what they might be missing, starting with a college friend who broke up with a great guy because there MIGHT be someone better out there. But more and more over the years, I believe life’s greatest blessings come in appreciating what we have instead of worrying about what might be missing. I guess I really am a “glass half full” kind of person. I don’t need to “have it all;” all I need is what I have right now… plus you never know what unexpected blessings the Universe might throw your way at some other time.
    Much love, and loads of admiration!
    Cousin Bonnie

    • Like Sheryl Crow crooned, “It’s not having what you want. It’s wanting what you’ve got.”
      I appreciate your comments Bonnie because I know they come from a place of both love and life experience. I know you made many tough choices in your life. And I know you came of age at a time when women were lead to believe that they could have it all. Most of my friends and I seem resigned to the fact that we can’t. But we, I, still long for so much more.
      I guess wanting what you’ve got doesn’t mean you can’t want more. Just so long as the longing doesn’t weigh you down.

  6. Pingback: Dispatch from NAEA: I’ll see you in the lobby | Outside The lines

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