This is a more personal post than my usual. After my post last week, I was asked to say something about how I manage my work life alongside my life in the country. So far I’ve shied away from talking too much about myself, partly from a fear of giving too much away, and partly because I haven’t wanted to bore you! But, since I’ve actually been asked to talk about me, well … you asked for it so here goes!
If you’ve read my other posts you might have gathered that I’m an academic. To be precise, I’m a psychology lecturer. No, I can’t read your mind, no, I’m not analysing you, and no, I can’t offer advice on your issues! I’m not that kind of psychologist. I work full-time and it’s pretty full-on a lot of the time. Lectures don’t just materialize out of thin air, ready to be delivered; I only wish they did! Preparing a lecture can involve weeks of research, reading, writing, and putting slides together. Related seminars also need to be put together, and this often means having to put together activities designed to engage the students and to consolidate and build on what’s been covered in the lectures. It’s a lot of work to get to the point where we’re delivering lectures but our face-to-face teaching time is just the tip of the iceberg so far as workload is concerned. I’d say 70% of my time is spent on admin. Emails, meetings, and increasing layers of administrative red-tape can drive you crazy. Marking is incredibly time-consuming and stressful. We have just two weeks to get all our marking done once it comes in, before it goes off for moderation. This fast turnaround means we’re marking in the evenings and at weekends. On top of all this, it takes me the best part of an hour to get to uni by car. There’s no other way for me to get there in that time frame. I have to leave at 7am or wait til 8.40am if I want to miss the traffic. And I absolutely loathe driving in the dark which makes winter particularly difficult.
The question which was put to me last week, then, about how I manage to balance this with my life in the country was pretty apt. I’ll be honest here – it’s difficult, and at times I think I must be mad to even try. But actually, I’d be mad if I didn’t do it. It’s the allotment, the chickens, dogs, and sense of community (not to mention Mr P) that keep me relatively sane. So how do I do it? Well I wish I could say it was all down to some amazing organization on my part, but I’d be lying, I’m afraid. Basically, I just squidge things in where I can. I’ll try to give you some examples.
OK, so in the morning I roll out of bed, and without bothering to take off my night things, I just tuck them into my walking trousers, mooch downstairs and, pushing my feet into wellies, I head to the chickens to let them out of their coop, feed them, and give them fresh water. Luckily, they’re handily located on a bit of land just behind the house – I can see them clearly from my sitting room and bedroom windows, so this doesn’t take more than about ten minutes. Except in winter when the outside tap’s frozen … Anyway, then it’s off to work after a quick breakfast.
In the evenings, the chickens (aka ‘the girls’) go into their coop as soon as it starts to get dark and they need shutting up then to keep them safe from the fox. The rest of the evening is mine so depending on the time of year I might be reading about allotments, planning the allotment, sowing seeds for the allotment … you get the picture! Now that the lighter nights are on their way, I can get up to the allotment after work for an hour or two before the girls need putting to bed, which works really well. On Tuesdays I have the quilting group for a couple of hours before meeting Mr P in The Bull’s Head for a quick drink. One night a week, Mr P plays squash, so I take advantage of that quiet time to write my blog post, and take Basil for his evening constitutional. I’m often able to work from home one or two days a week (depending on teaching commitments, meetings, etc.,) and this offers a little more flexibility. For instance, because I don’t lose up to two hours travelling on those days, I’m able to take an hour or two to work on the allotment or clean the girls’ coop, maybe sow a few seeds, and still fit my work hours in. At weekends, I’m usually desperate to get out for a walk, so I generally join Mr P and Basil for a good couple of hours’ walk before coming home to either work on the allotment (!!!) or maybe do a bit of baking, reading or sewing. We generally head to the pub at least once over the weekend, often heading to The Flying Childers at Stanton-in-the-Peak, which is a pub I can’t recommend highly enough – http://www.flyingchilders.com/
You have probably gathered by now that I’m pretty busy most of the time but I think that without my life in the country, I wouldn’t be able to keep going with the day-job. That time spent on the allotment, in the fresh air, with fabulous 360 degree views, is one of the things that keeps me on the level. Digging, hard work though it undoubtedly is, stops me from thinking about any problems I might have. Pulling up weeds keeps me in the here and now instead of worrying about the future. At some point, I hope the allotment will provide me with more than just raspberries! Spending time with the chickens keeps me entertained and supplied with fresh eggs daily. The quilting group ensures I have female company, and helps me learn new skills. I suppose, in a nutshell, my life in the country acts as a counterbalance to work.
Because, let’s face it, it’s all about work-life balance. For me, that means that my life is what happens in the country. My day-job is just that; it simply facilitates my country life. It provides me with the means to replace the roof on the chicken enclosure after it was blown off in the recent high winds. It enabled me to buy a shed for the allotment when I was desperate for somewhere to store my tools and shelter from the wind and rain. It pays my share of the rent on a cottage in a beautiful part of the world. I’m grateful for my job. But it’s not my life.
What does work-life balance mean for you? I’d love to hear from you so please drop me a line.