appreciation · balance · conferences

Leaning into the weight and being off balance

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This is me giving a conference paper in Paris a few years ago. That’s my daughter in the baby wrap thing. Those are her little legs sticking out. She had  fallen asleep right before my panel. We had just survived our first trans-Atlantic flight together. I was SO tired. I know she was too. Once she fell asleep, that was it. I was not going to disturb that nap no matter what. So I gave my paper with the lights dimmed and reveling in the white noise of the projector. I whispered. The whole time. The room was hot. I am pretty sure everyone in the room was asleep by the time I was done.

Not the greatest conference paper of my career. For sure. But I got through. And the whole thing seems very funny now.

I’ve been thinking about this moment again. There’s always a lot of talk about work-life balance and how hard it is to strike that balance. I would be the first to agree. But I’m also starting to think that, sometimes, it’s ok for things to be kind of totally unbalanced. Maybe you’re a new parent. Maybe you have to care for a parent. Maybe your partner needs you a lot all of a sudden and you need to be there for them.

When I look at this picture, I can feel how heavy my baby was. I can feel the straps cutting into my shoulders and the heat of her little head against my chest. It wasn’t exactly pleasant, but there was a kind of sweetness in that weight too and I want to hang on to that.

Let’s keep talking and staying with each other about all the craziness of this thing called work-life balance, about whether to lean in or lean out.  I don’t have a lot of grand thoughts about any of that except to say that, sometimes, things just won’t be in balance. You will try. And you will let that be good enough. And, sometimes, you will lean into the weight of the things that throw you off balance. You’ll feel it in your shoulders and your in your chest and it will probably be exhausting. Lean into that too. It’s ok.

4 thoughts on “Leaning into the weight and being off balance

  1. I have moved to another country, and in the last month, turned down two administrative appointments. None of these decisions have helped my career (arguably the inverse), but they are what my partner and marriage have needed. Is this kind of accommodation acceptedly feminist? I don’t know. So be it.

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    1. Good question. I guess for me, it’s not so much about what is or isn’t feminist. I’m just thinking about how the whole conversation about leaning in and whatnot can feel very either/or and binarized. I know that is not the intention but it has often come down that way. And we all know that binaries just don’t hold and that we have to sometimes embrace the wobbliness of things. In the last few years I have found myself saying no to things (mostly work travel that I would have jumped at before and that certainly would have looked good on my CV) and realizing that this is just where I am right now.

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  2. I love this. It reminds me of the time I wore my son when he was a year and a half (and, poor bubs, a little under the weather). I had to do a reading and right before I went up, he puked on me. Thankfully it was hidden between the two of us. (We were both “leaning into it.”) So I read poems and it was sticky and gross, but I wouldn’t have wanted him to be anywhere else.

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