I've been thinking a lot today about the little blog tempest stirred up over at Geeky Mom, Cul de Sac, and JMP. Various persons made comments that have been analysed, regretted, apologised for. I myself made a comment that a few hours later I wished I could edit.
All of this reminds me of a roundtable discussion at a conference that was supposed to be focusing on work/life issues for female academics. Very shortly it turned into a kind of perverse competition, pitting the mothers against the childfree and the singletons against the partnered in a race to prove that each had it the worst. Really, people, it's not a zero-sum game. My time can't become yours. Some relevant numbers: every one of us has 1440 minutes in the day. Every one of us has 168 hours in the week. And I don't know a single person who would say she or he has enough time to do everything that she or he would like to do/feels necessary to do/is required to do. And yet it's really hard not to feel those comparisons sneaking around the edges...is it silly of me to write about my own stuff when other people have it worse?
Most human beings need emotional connections, physical sources of well being (food, shelter, hygiene), intellectual satisfaction, relaxation, work/task satisfaction (sense of completion, accomplishment, etc), and monetary compensation. How you rank those different needs in your own hierarchy, and how you achieve those needs is going to be different according to your circumstances. When I lived alone, for instance, I had much more control over my physical well-being -- but I had to really work to get enough emotional connection in my life. Now that I'm partnered and live with the dogs, I have emotional connection but have to work to fit in some of the other things on the list. Your needs change over time, and according to context, too.
Now, there are societal expectations and institutional structures that support some of these needs for some kinds of people and not for others. In my own department, for instance, people with children have a free pass to get out of all meetings. I know that's not the case everywhere. Some days I read blogs by people with children and wonder how any of them are coherent enough to type anything at all. But the same is true of people everywhere: someone you know is struggling with kids, with illness, with insomnia, with a demanding and unrewarding job, with older parents, with anxiety, with loss, with uncertainty. And reading blogs offers little moments of possible connection and understanding, with even the most unlikely people.
So: it's my blog. And if you read it long enough you're likely to learn about my own struggles to get enough done, my own struggles with efficiency and depression. And I think I have as much a right to feel overwhelmed as anyone else does. At least here in my own blog. The same right I extend to everyone else.