Wednesday, September 05, 2007

Early lessons in prioritizing

So the short story is that I'm not going to the Grace Hopper conference this year.

The long story is not all that interesting, but I'll tell it anyway.

As usual, the task of organizing/rallying the undergrads fell to me, so I spent the latter part of last month "recruiting", in a sense. And worrying about the initial lack of response from the students. And stressing about finding funding so that I could go.

A few days ago, I was searching online for flights, hotel, registration information, etc., and mentally composing the email that I'd have to send to the dean in charge of discretionary funds. And...I had to stop. I just couldn't do it, didn't want to do it, was just getting all sorts of stressed out about it.

It was about that time that I realized that maybe I'd be happier skipping out on GHC this year.

I was very conflicted about this. I love going to GHC, love the environment, love being in a place where I don't feel so darned weird about being a woman in computing. I love taking undergrads, many of whom have never been to a conference before, and seeing them experience a whole other side of CS. I love the energy, love the ideas I hear about and bring back with me, and love meeting other women in CS, particularly other junior women faculty.

But I just couldn't stomach the thought of going to yet another conference at this point. I knew I'd have to do some serious juggling, just like I did in the last two conferences, between baby care/breastfeeding/pumping and conferencing/networking. And this time, I'd have to add in the whole traveling-with-students thing, too. All three of those things, individually, takes a lot of energy, and I just don't feel like I have the energy to do any of that right now, much less all of that. I'm exhausted already; the trip might just kill me.

So I've decided to skip out this year. On the one hand, I'm disappointed. On the other hand, I'm relieved. I figure there will be plenty of time for the whole work/baby care balance circus to play itself out once I go back to work; the longer I can defer that, and enjoy my time at home with Baby Jane, the better.


ScienceWoman said...

I'm so proud that you were able to come to a decision and feel good about it. I'm attending my first post-baby conference in October. Minnow and I will be traveling alone. There's daycare at the conference (yeah!), but I'm still not sure how I'll manage it. Any suggestions?

Jane said...

Sciencewoman, daycare at the conference is a huge plus! (the 2 conferences I went to had zero day care, which made the whole juggling thing more difficult.) Definitely exploit that for all it's worth. My best piece of advice is to go in with low expectations as to how much of the conference stuff you'll be able to do. For instance, you might only be able to attend half-sessions, instead of a whole session; or you may find that you have to skip out on some or most of the networking stuff, like breaks between sessions and dinners. (This all depends on how often you're breastfeeding/pumping, too---when I went, I was still feeding Baby Jane every 2-2.5 hours, which made things tricky.) Figure out what you absolutely want to or have to do, plan on doing that, and consider the rest of the stuff as a bonus. Good luck!

PhD Mom said...

Sometimes you have to make hard choices and this seems like one of those times. I am glad that you had the courage to recognize and follow through with whats best for you. You go girl.

Anonymous said...

Good. By focusing on what's best for your daughter you found what was best for yourself. Skip more conferences, get the papers from the conferences and don't worry about "the energy" rush or introducing CS students to such things. They've got the Internet and can read about these things. Save time and energy for what is critical-what is of greatest importance-and let the rest go. Now, your learning to prioritize...without feeling as if you have to do everything. Guess what? You don't!

Anonymous said...

I think conferences without daycare should be boycotted (girlcotted or even grrlcotted?) until they wise up and start providing daycare.

estraven said...

I think you will find more such decisions are waiting for you in the future. Do as much or as little as you're comfortable with. You are already amazingly efficient!
On a different note, if I were to boycott every conference in my field that doesn't offer childcare, I would just stay at home all the time.

EcoGeoFemme said...

I went to a meeting this summer that was brimming with kids. It was cool because the babies were strapped to moms' chests and dads' chests alike. If it bothered anyone, they just had to suck it up. I think it takes a critical mass of people to change what seems normal (i.e. at this conference kids are normal) so it's encouraging to see the women science bloggers banding together.

Anyway, good for you for deciding what's best for you. There will be many more great conferences.

B said...

Great job! Do what you need too! There is always next year if you feel like going again then :)

Wicked Teacher of the West said...

I am selfishly glad that you won't be at GHC. I am also not going this year for a variety of reasons. Funding was a problem, getting free from my committments at school was a bigger problem... One of my only regrets (and one of the factors that made it hard to decide myself) was the possibility of meeting you! So knowing that you won't be there either just confirms that I chose well.

All that said, I am proud of you for choosing to say No.

Jane said...

Thanks for the words of support, everyone! I know that I will face many more similar dilemmas in the future, and I am proud of myself for handling this first such dilemma in a healthy way.

ecogeofemme, I would love to see conferences as you describe---what a great concept!

estraven, you've hit the nail on the head---and how sad is that, that we don't even have enough critical mass to call for things like child care at conferences. (GHC is the only CS conference I know of that has child care.)

wtotw, I was considering putting out a blogger meet-up call for GHC, actually! Maybe next year.