Monday, July 30, 2007

On Balance

It's funny that the themes of the last two blog carnivals I've participated in have matched so well with my work. Last month the postdoc carnival theme was uniqueness, and I worked on ill-posed problems for my dissertation. The theme for this month's scientiae carnival is balance, and my current research is in the field of load balancing.

In my research, I'm looking for a way to distribute the work derived from an application in computational quantum chemistry over thousands or even tens of thousands of processors on a supercomputer. There are two conflicting objectives in this work: evenly spread the work across all the processors, while minimizing the number of links broken by dividing up the work.

I suppose there are many apt comparisons to be made between the work that I do and the life that I live. After all, I have many conflicting pulls on my time, and I have to reach a balance in my life, one that minimizes the broken links and missed opportunities. But instead I want to focus on a particular aspect of my life in which I am reaching a balance.

When I returned to work at the end of November after Vinny was born, I really felt like I had no time at all. I got up, went to work, came home, ate dinner, and went to bed, only to start the cycle all over again. It was really hard because I needed to get back into the swing of work, and at the same time I didn't want to miss out on anything in Vinny's life. I was going crazy because I just felt like I had no time.

Catching up at work was really hard to do, because even though I was out for only eight weeks, it felt more like a lifetime. I had written myself what I believed would be good notes before I left, but basically it felt like I was new to my job again. I couldn't remember what I was doing or what I had done before and every day I rediscovered something for the second time. It took me until about February to get back on my feet. At that point, I no longer felt that I was playing catch-up, and started actually making some progress instead of retracing my steps. But I was still sleep-deprived and felt that I had no time to do anything but work.

Two things made a difference: First, Vinny started sleeping through the night, and it didn't take as long to get enough sleep. Second, I began working the 9/80 schedule, which gave me every other Friday to spend with my family.

Fighting the pull of gravity against my eyelids had been affecting my productivity at work, but once Vinny started sleeping through the night, I could get enough sleep to keep me from dozing off during the day. I would take him to bed with me in the evening, and I could actually get a full eight hours of sleep, which was just wonderful!

And having every other Friday to spend with my family is marvelous! I work an extra hour each of the other days of the week, but I was able to accomplish this simply by getting up an hour earlier than before. The full night's sleep is what made this possible.

I just love spending time with Jeff and Vinny, and having a three-day weekend every other weekend really gives me a lot more quality time with my boys. I wish that I could be there to see every development, as Vinny learns to do various things. Unfortunately, I am not there for those things, but Jeff records the momentous occasions as best he can. But I don't feel completely shortchanged because I do have quite a bit of quality time with my family, thanks to my flexible work schedule. So I think I have reached a pretty good balance between my responsibilities as primary breadwinner and as a wife and mother.

No comments: