I do love coming to professional meetings. I connect with fascinating people, learn more than I thought possible, indulge in the mutual admiration society that is the academy (at least this branch of it), and usually find time for a little sightseeing in the vibrant cities where we meet.
But I hate what I miss at home. This year, like the last couple, it's Halloween (and Election Day). I've early voted already, but missing Halloween hurts like the dickens. I worked hard on Cady Gray's costume (can't claim to have done the same on Archer's, which was far more forgiving of a less-than-all-out effort), and I want to be there to see her flaunt it on the streets of our neighborhood. Plus, candy. You only get a limited number of Halloweens when the kids are small enough to really get into dressing up and trick-or-treating, and I've now missed three running.
Today I spent all day meeting and doing business, then celebrated this evening at a lovely dinner in our Executive Director's home. It was a long day of intense effort and intimate socializing. Tomorrow begins the conference proper: sessions, plenaries, receptions. I have a few obligations, but there's also a lot of choice and options in my schedule. There will be time, at last, to think.
And some of what I'll be thinking about is my family going about their weekend rounds without me.
Last week I was just as busy -- more so, actually -- and for all I missed at home, my university actually paused for that trip; classes were out for a fall break holiday while I was gone. Today, just like that, I've missed two days of classes, and by the time I'm home I'll miss two more. Meanwhile on the weekend, as I try to catch up when I can with the work my students are doing, that's when my children are most active in home life and when I miss the most time and experience with them. It feels like I can't win -- attend to duties here, and I miss class; attend to class when duties here wane, and I miss family.
All I can do, I suppose, is keep up with what's actually possible at a distance, which is the work of this meeting and the classwork that I can read and return online. Family contact isn't possible beyond a few minutes of phone conversation, so it's pointless to feel like I could be doing more or should be able to participate. Yet that's the one area where the loss of ordinary time and effort -- what I'd be doing without having to make any special arrangements, if I were just home -- seems most damning.