Here I sit in surprise that this year’s blogging amounts to the equivalent of punctuation— one paltry opening parenthetical of a post and now this closing parenthetical (still remains to see whether it will be a meager post or something replete with, err, wisdom, or humor, or just, well… best not to set the bar too high, I think).  Year four on the tenure track turned out to be one long slog of a temporal paradox– simultaneously maddeningly quick, frustratingly slow, and dense and, hey!  Where’d all the time go?  I didn’t think it would be a two-blog post kind of a year, but here I am, a couple of days after having turned in all final grades, no papers to grade, no student emails to respond to (now that the grade grubbers/whiners/whingers have been dispatched) with the summer stretched out ahead of me. For a few moments, I get to feel calm. It will be a few weeks more till the panic sets in and the realization that my ambitions for the summer are utterly unrealistic hits me.

As with any good doggy (as in, tenure track assistant professor), this summer comes with pre-set research must-do’s. A conference to attend (and a new paper to write), a grant to submit (and pilot research to wrap up re: said grant), a chapter to finish. There will be research and writing and living life to the fullest in the in-betweens. Summer is when Rottweilers delude themselves with the notion of achieving work-life balance, in which there will be dedicated time to play and relax, and then research intensity of the likes heretofor unseen. I will cling to this fantasy until the summer blows past and it’s August.

At present, however, I am full of good intentions. I am also accepting that while I am surprised that I’ve had zero time to blog, I shouldn’t be. This year was the year of the third year review, in which your department analyzes your scholarly record since your appointment and decides whether or not they want to give you another three years to make the big run up to tenure. But it was year four at Midwestern U., you say?  That is, if you have been paying attention. Ah, but with a new addition to the Rottweiler household last year, a year was added to my tenure clock, so I essentially get a do-over of year three.  Those of you who think that Midwestern U. is a benevolent and thoughtful employer with this awesome policy of adding a year to the tenure clock to tenure track parents (be they of the maternal or paternal persuasion) are both correct and incorrect.  You are correct because this is an awesome policy and every university should give such gender-blind considerations to the tenure trapped [like that?  It’s the fantasy sitcom title Schnauzer and I picked out for our hilarious series on the lives of faculty– Tenure Trapped, coming soon to a blog near you].

But the thing is, if a university is willing to give you year to “make up” for the loss of time you will experience upon becoming a parent, then you’d better believe that you are going to have WAY MORE GROUND TO RECOVER.  Particularly given that most of us faculty types relocate to wherever the job may be miles away from friends, family, and other support structures that will help ease the burden of child-rearing.  Grandparents, uncles, aunts, childhood best friends whom you would trust with life and limb…. we have many of these folks in our lives, but few to none live within hiking distance of our family. So this was a very busy year because it meant getting back into the teaching, researching, publishing, advising swing of things while simultaneously taking care of a growing little one. And let me just say that one can anticipate what it means to care for a child, but never in my life have I ever shared the responsibility for caring for someone (or thing, for that matter) 24/7. There is no off-duty when you are parenting, EVER. Even when you aren’t on duty, there is always a possibility you can get tagged in.

Somehow within the 24/7 world of being responsible for another human being, I put together a mini-portfolio in which I fashioned a narrative of modest academic success (some articles out, a completed book manuscript under review, a new project in the works, “solid” teaching evaluations, “interesting” courses taught). In order for this modest success to be truthful, it meant that I had to get my book manuscript in shape and shop it before I submitted my materials, which made the Spring semester an awful lot of fun. I sharpened up the first two chapters until they were in acceptable form, and then polished up my book prospectus and sent it out, thinking it would be weeks and weeks before I heard from anyone. Instead, one editor swiftly and politely rejected the manuscript, another has not bothered to even acknowledge the submission, and a third turned around and said, “Send me everything you’ve got NOW.” This last prompted much excitement and panic on my part and lead to another rather intense period of manuscript revision (this is where my Spring Break went).

In the mean time, the parenting continued and the youngest Rottweiler seems to be mastering bipedalism and not displaying any signs of sociopathy, which is all you can hope for.  The summer lies ahead, a hazy set of days through which I can continue to blaze an insane pace or, if I choose, slow my speed, re-evaluate, and may be, if the forces that be cooperate, write a couple of blog entries now and again.