Anne-Marie Slaughter + time off

by K.M.

Last night I had the privilege of hearing Anne-Marie Slaughter speak at the LSE. It was a brilliant and inspiring talk and I am struggling to compose any coherent thoughts on it because it made me think so much (another blog post to come).

Slaughter spoke (without any notes I might add!) about her new book, Unfinished Business, which centres on women, men, and valuing care. She did not mention anything to do with time off, but this morning I came across this video that she’d posted on Twitter:

Watching this video was a revelation to me. Time off is something that I think about a lot. Like many people in academia, I worry that I work too much, but I also feel guilty taking time off.

I took a full 2.5 weeks off this past summer, and around 10 days this past Christmas break. Before both of these periods, I worried. I worried that I was neglecting my work, that I was somehow not dedicated enough to what I was doing. I heard other PhD students talk about how much they were looking forward to some time to just focus on the PhD and, thinking the exact opposite, I worried that I was somehow less committed.

However, after both breaks, despite a day or two of a bit of a rough ‘transition’ back to work, I felt rejuvenated and raring to go. Breaks make my work stronger and they make me happier.

There is another more pressing issue: weekends. With the exception of weekends within longer breaks, I have not taken a full weekend off in well over a year and a half. I typically work 6 or 5.5 days a week.

After hearing Anne-Marie speak last night and watching this video, I have decided that I am going to try to never again feel guilty about taking time off.* I absolutely love that she straight up admits that she takes 6 to 8 weeks off a year — and this is someone who has an extremely accomplished CV. I am also going to try to take one full weekend off a month. I know this will be tricky — particularly those quiet weekends when we’re at home, because I am going to start to feel the guilt as I enter the difficult phase of finishing the PhD and applying for jobs. *I say try because, particularly with weekends, this is really going to take some getting used to for me.

A related part of Slaughter’s message is to talk about the difficulties we face combining work with the ‘rest’ of our lives. So, I also pledge to continue the conversation and to encourage as many people as I know to take more time off!

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