Tuesday, June 24, 2008

Protected time

For awhile now, I've been in a subclinical funk about work. Don't get me wrong, I love my job and what I do, but over the years in my present position, I've been acquiring more and more responsibilities but not more time or support to do them. Some of it, I'll admit, is self-inflicted. I've taken on a bunch of research projects and mentoring, all important for my academic career and all things I've been told I should be doing. Other responsibilities have insidiously appeared on top of what I already do, or have mushroomed out of existing roles.

I've been wanting to say something to my boss.

My feelings, though, of disgruntlement have waxed and waned. One day I came into work, so fired up by my thoughts of injustice on the commute in, I furiously scribbled a list of Things I Do as ammunition.

I need more protected time.

But, things were busy that day and the list got pushed under a million other things, and by the time I remembered, the fire had smoldered and I thought, it's not that bad.

Another thing was holding me back.

Among my colleagues, I am the only one with children.

I've always feared that saying something about wanting a decreased workload or other dispensation would automatically trigger the - oh, that's the (weak) mother talking. At times, I feel like I need to prove myself as extra-productive to counteract such thoughts. Look! I can do all of this despite having kids!

Yet, the last couple of days were so overwhelmingly hectic that I again felt that need to have The Talk with The Boss. I talked it over with my husband and he agreed: I was doing too much, especially now while I was still nursing my son. But, do you think I should even mention family issues? I really didn't want to. Yes, it is part of the equation but it's not a part I'm willing to admit to my work (male) superior.

So, I sat down with The Boss and explained what I felt. I went over my projects and significant responsibilities, and asked for more protected time.

Which I was granted.
(Where's the Staples' That Was Easy button when you need one?)
I wish sticking up for myself was easier, and that I didn't feel such hesitance due to my mothering identity. Maybe I would feel the same way, even if I didn't have children...women tend to be not as good negotiators when it comes to our jobs.

The extra protected time, though, is a serious boon. I'm glad I said something.


  1. Good for you.

    We recently juggled some days around at the clinic. Everyone had some days that they weren't available, because of commitments at other clinics. I had days when I wasn't available, because I didn't have childcare.

    I couldn't help but feel that my reasons were less valid. But no one complained. I think the issue is my own - perhaps I'm defensive over how I might be perceived.

  2. Learned the hard way - no one sticks up for you except yourself - congratulations! What will you do with your protected time? (Blog?!?!) Seriously though, I expect that by being the only doc with kids that you bring a unique perspective to your job, boss, and fellow employees. By carving your job into what's meningful to you, you are modeling behavior for others including your own munchkins.

  3. freshmd-yes, it's a defensiveness. To threats real or perceived. I wonder if it ever goes away.

    mwas-ah, I'll probably use the time to tackle all the administrative and research-related tasks I routinely neglect. If I could justify blogging as part of my job...

  4. I still have a problem with committing to what I'm SUPPOSED to do (to get promoted) and I don't really like, and what I WANT to do (which really helps the department clinically but doesn't show up on the radar screen of the affiliated giant parent instutition). I wish there was an in between!!! Unfortunately that protected time is VERY hard to come by in our department and causes SO much strife and tension among a usually very congenial set of people that asking doesn't get you anywhere. Too much pressured work (albeit fun) and very little compensation...


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