What work-life balance?!
It was my first book signing event at a national conference. 'Excited' did not begin to describe how I felt. Being able to present my book to a crowd of like-minded people was such a great thrill!
But when I realized that the dates of the conference conflicted with my husband's planned business trip, I went into panic mode. Will I have to cancel my book signing event? I had no one who could take care of my daughter for the weekend while I attended the conference. So, breathing deep and hoping for the best, I paid the train ticket to take my daughter to the conference with me. Had no choice.
Arriving at the hotel room, I was in a rush. There were a lot of last-minute things that I needed to get done. I asked my daughter to help me fold brochures, and organize business cards and fliers. Soon, we had a nice assembly line going. She carefully folded stacks of brochures and inserted cards into books with efficiency and enthusiasm. I had underestimated my little assistant!
The next day at the book-signing table, Elίs took it upon herself to hand out fliers to conference attendees and to talk with people approaching our table. I was surprised to see how much she knew about the book, and how much she believed in me and my mission.
In the middle of it, my daughter turned to me and said: "Mamami, I feel like I am helping you to help other people."
And this is how a day of inconvenience turned into a teachable moment, for ME!
Many of my students ask me questions about how to deal with "work-life balance" issues. How will they be able to have families and also succeed in science and medicine? they ask.
One thing that I can say to them now is this: I am still learning. This book signing trip was a great lesson for me.
Sure, it was expensive, inconvenient and stressful to bring my daughter to an out-of-town conference that day. And although it may not always work out as well, this is what I learned: sometimes work-life is not a balancing act at all, but a beautiful merging of the two.
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Dr. Luz Claudio is an environmental health scientist, mother and consultant, originally from Puerto Rico. She is a tenured professor of environmental medicine and public health. Luz recently published her first book: How to Write and Publish a Scientific Paper: The Step-by-Step Guide. Dr. Claudio has internship programs and resources for young scientists. Opinions expressed in this blog are solely her own and may not reflect her employer's views.