Lately I've been thinking more about this whole research/teaching/life balance thing, and no more than yesterday, when I was having a conversation with a friend and junior colleague. We were just walking to another part of campus to grab a cup of coffee to take back to the office, and the subject turned to teaching, and our recently increased teaching load. We're up to a 3-4 now. That four-course semester is rough, but it's even rougher on some of my junior colleagues, many of whom have been protected from even three-course semesters.
So, this colleague was talking about how he was dealing with it, and was making noises about how he was not going to be able to publish with the extra course load. At first, I was inwardly incredulous -- after all, many of us have been teaching the "increased" load for most of our time there. But then I had two thoughts:
First thought: it's only partly how much you're teaching; the real shock comes with adding a course to what you're used to handling, regardless of the absolute numbers. Whether you're being increased from a 1-2 to a 2-2, or a 3-3 to a 4-4, it's going to feel like the world is coming crashing down on you head. So it's not really fair that my first, fleeting thought was "sack up, man!" Thought banished.
Second thought: As I was trying to make encouraging noises ("Hey, I think you can do it -- it just takes some getting used to." "If you want a writing partner to keep you going, let me know. I'm happy to have someone to work with."), I found myself doubling back. Because I realized what I'd given up to maintain even a semblance of productivity under increased teaching loads: when I'm keeping on top of both teaching and writing, I have no life outside work. None at all.
You may think I'm exaggerating. I'm really not, or at least not much. If I socialize here in Grit City, it's with work colleagues. I don't have "vacations" so much as work trips to places that sometimes offer interesting scenery while I'm there. I haven't been on anything resembling a date in almost two years. I haven't taken the camera out in weeks. Nada. And still, I only seem to have time for six hours of sleep a night. Meanwhile, my colleague has a happy marriage in which he and his husband spend time together, cook, see friends, go on trips. Doesn't that sound nice?
It occurs to me that I may have made a bad bargain.