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January 7, 2021

From: Denise K. Magner

Subject: The Quick Tip: How to Be a Caregiver While Caring for Your Career

It's not uncommon to lose professional ground because of obligations to elderly or disabled relatives.

    By the time most academics find a tenure-track job (if they find one), they are in their early 30s. As luck would have it, that’s also the age when many people start dealing with aging or infirm relatives. We already know how parenting can set back an academic career — but so can being the primary unpaid caregiver for a chronically ill, disabled, or aged family member.

    When nonwork hours are consumed with familial responsibilities, it can be nearly impossible to meet the ever-increasing expectations for publishing, teaching, and service. Additionally, because nonacademics often perceive the “life of the mind” to be easy, flexible, and lucrative, you are often the one the family turns to when a relative falls ill and needs help. Here are some coping strategies:

    • Tell your colleagues about your family obligations. This can be tricky, but they can't help you if they don't know you need it. If your department chair and colleagues are aware of your situation, they may be less likely to ask you to do extra work and may be more forgiving if you miss a deadline.
    • Be a stickler about your work hours and job duties. You may feel uncomfortable sharing your personal life with colleagues, but you are well within your rights to control your own work schedule. Be sure that your signed contract clearly describes your teaching load, scholarship expectations, and service requirements — and use it as a guide.
    • Write when you can, but try to keep a schedule. Writing for 15 minutes a day doesn’t work for everyone. If you need to write in large chunks of time, choose a day and time when you can be away from home.

    Continue reading: "How to Be a Caregiver While Caring for Your Career," by Manya Whitaker

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    Denise K. Magner is senior editor of The Chronicle’s advice section, which features articles written by academics for academics on faculty and administrative career issues.