I need to learn how to say no

I’m heading to MathFest in a few days. I’m giving a talk on some generalizations of the Japanese Theorem (which I hope to blog about at some point), I am a panelist on the AWM panel called Family Matters, and, since I’m on the MAA Committee for Minicourses, I will be monitoring two minicourses. I also hope to catch up with an old friend who I haven’t seen for many years and lives in Portland.

I’m feeling somewhat overwhelmed by all that I have agreed to do. So this graphic titled how to be happy in business – venn diagram from What Consumes Me really caught my attention. It isn’t a perfect fit for an academic since I’m not getting paid for any of this. But maybe if we change “what we can be paid to do” with “what is good for the career,” then it might be a good diagram.


By the way, if any one has any wise words of advice about how parents (especially fathers since I’m the only male on the panel) can balance work and family, post them in the comments below. I need to conjure some wisdom before my panel appearance Thursday at 1:00.

[Image by Bud Caddell with a Creative Commons license]


  1. David Freeman says:

    On fathers balancing family and work:
    1) be realistic – you may have to accept less professional recognition in exchange for being the kind of father you think you should be. Women have known this for some time.
    2) be honest – are you really splitting duties equally with your spouse or are you just better than the other husbands who help little?
    3) don’t expect to have access to the same support groups a mother has. I was refused access to the new neighbors club in Rhode Island because all the other newbies in town were wives and didn’t think their husbands would approve of me. Same for play dates – most mothers were suspicious of a house husband. My kids are adults now so maybe this has changed.
    4) find a common interest to pursue with each of your children individually – this is where you’ll best make quality time to offset quantity limits
    5) be honest about your own ego needs vs your child’s needs especially in reference to youth sports or even competitive math.

    I had more flexibility in my career, research in computers and geophysics, than my pediatrician wife so I did more of the day to day parenting but my wife was big in the quality time. Even so as time passes and we get older, she unfortunately sometimes regrets that she she had to sacrifice so much family time whereas I regret my lost professional opportunities less each year. The personal satisfaction of a parenting job well done only increases with time as you watch your children begin their own careers and families.

    1. David, thank you for your thoughts on this topic. I appreciate you taking the time to share them. As a kid I always thought adults had a grand plan. Now that I’m an adult and a parent I realize that we have lots of choices, and it isn’t always obvious what the right choice is. It is good to sit back and think about the big picture and to listen to the advice of others.

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