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Monday, September 29, 2014

The Joy and Sadness of a Productive Summer

by Shawn Tucker:

This past summer was particularly productive. I teach at a small, liberal arts University in North Carolina. Summer is the only time that I can do research, since teaching and other responsibilities take up most of my time during the rest of the year. And this summer was particularly productive. But there is something sad about why this summer was productive. Let me explain.

This summer I only have two of my four children at home. My oldest is serving as a missionary in Nevada, and my second child was off at BYU. I was home with my 15-year-old and my 11-year-old sons. We did some fun things together this summer including going to the pool, playing basketball, and seeing family. But only having half of my children at home, and having my remaining children a bit older, I found that I could get more of my academic work done. In fact this summer I completed the second half of a book manuscript. I was very happy to get that project done, but I learned something interesting in the process. Never before in my life could I have been as productive. It is not that I am smarter than before, it is just that I have fewer children at home. And when I got the book manuscript completed not only did I feel grateful to have it done, but I also felt grateful that I had never done so much previously. Every other summer I had spent more time with my children. I do not regret that at all, and as a matter fact I would prefer to be unproductive if it meant spending more time with my kids. If I would have completed a similar project in years past, it would have taken too much time from being with my children. To use this metaphor: I would have got to the top of my ladder only to realize that it had been leaning against the wrong wall.

And that is one of the nice lessons I have learned from being 45 years old and having older children. I do not regret that for most of my career I have been a father first and an employee second. I have done a good job at my job, but I have never let that job become my primary focus. So it is bittersweet now that I can spend more time and be more productive at my job precisely because my real job, my most satisfying job, requires somewhat less of my time.

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Shawn Tucker grew up with amazing parents and five younger, wonderful siblings. He served as a missionary in Chile during the Plebiscite and the first post-dictatorship election. After his mission, he attended BYU, where he married ... you guessed it ... his wife. They both graduated, with Shawn earning a BA in Humanities. Fearing that his BA in Humanities, which is essentially a degree in Jeopardy, would not be sufficient, Shawn completed graduate work in the same ... stuff ... at Florida State University. He currently teaches at Elon University in North Carolina. He and ... you guessed it ... his wife have four great children. Twitter: @MoTabEnquirer. Website:
 photo Line-625_zpse3e49f32.gifImage credit: clarkrc (used with permission).

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