By Friday I am exhausted. Whether it has been a stressful week or an easy one, whether students have come to every single office hour I have had, and pounded on the door when it was closed so I could get class prep done or I have had no one talk to me, whether there have been days with three or four meetings in a row, or an off week where the number of meetings hovered about two or three in total, by Friday it is a desperately-needed respite. This past week had five meetings (one I missed because I was in class, and three were on one day so that wasn't bad for the rest of the week), two public lectures (both on the same day, of course), one dinner with students and visiting speaker, two sets of papers due and two quizzes, a last minute letter of rec to write (I figure it will get in by Sunday evening, although I have started it), and an advisee who suddenly dropped out of the university, much to my surprise -- she had not said anything to me at all. So all in all a pretty typical week, one that culminated in, what else?, a dinner party.
Follow me below the orange cat fur filigree to celebrate the weekend!
My parents did this entertaining thing on weekends. I grew up with it -- intellectual conversation, and at least three courses (hors d'ouevres, main, and dessert), and coffee and/or tea at the end of the meal. My Mom didn't work, and my Dad didn't cook, so that was the division of labor at our house. Dad did help to set up and take down, and the kids were allowed to surf the appetizers after the guests went upstairs from the downstairs living room for dinner. Dad was an English professor and the guests were mostly professors. I thought this was the way things were meant to be.
What did they talk about at those dinners? There were couples invited (not all male/female, I should note), and mostly university types, although occasionally one would be a doctor or another university-educated professional. There were scientists and humanists, and sometimes someone from the law or business school. They gossiped a little bit, I am sure, and talked about local politics, but for the most part it was obscure and exotic and terribly grown up. I think perhaps having spouses would have kept the conversation more focused on not-work, but the only times I was invited to the table it was when the conversation was about me (where are you thinking about going to college? Tell us about your science fair project).
But that was what one did on weekends. I don't know when my Dad got his grading done, but it might have been in the office. I didn't see him grading at home. I can't get the grading done there -- there are too many office visitors and too many meetings and too many classes to meet with. So for me the grading and working with students extends into (and takes up) the weekend. Judging from the way teacherken talks about his life, it is very much the same thing at the secondary (and one would guess primary) level as well.
Friday nights are times when I usually just collapse. Last night I had a dinner party with a retired couple I haven't seen for a whilte, and a couple of other university faculty I have wanted to invite. I made the main dish (a stew) on Wednesday night, and the cookies to go with cheese for dessert the night before but baked them Friday afternoon. That meant that by the time I got home on Friday at 3, I really didn't have too much to do other than set the table, bake the cookies and the sourdough bread (which had been rising since the previous night). I had it all written down from a few days earlier, because -- have I mentioned it yet? -- I am a blithering idiot by Friday afternoon. I often have a crockpot stew going until I get home on Fridays. Or I am really bad and order out Chinese food. Preferably fried.
What is it about the week that is so exhausting? It is continual performance -- you are on stage, playing the authority, the helpful scholar, etc. I have not yet completely figured out how to do the teaching thing in a way that doesn't make it so tiring. If I did I would patent it and slip it into the water or wine. I can't imagine how much worse it would be if I had a child, particularly one I might have to take with me to work (a little one). There wouldn't be any down time then.
Part of the problem this week is that I have been driving my car to and from work. If I walk (not a long distance) I have a transition (both chronological and physical) and time to adjust either to work or away from it. Yesterday I had to transport boxes of exhibit material from work so I needed my car, but the weather was beautiful and I missed out on the walk and a podcast. So I was grumpy. The relaxation over a pot of stew and four bottles of wine and maybe a quarter of a bottle of cognac made the week seem more rounded. But now, on my weekend, I am back to grading and grading and grading and thinking sadly of leftovers.
Do those who manage their week better really have more energy on Saturdays? Because when I am organized and get things done, I still don't have the ability to relax --to have the same kind of break I remember my parents having when I was little. What do you do on weekends that is different from what goes on during the week? And most importantly, does it work?