Editors’ Choice: Paradigms in Academe – On the Digital, Motherhood, and Location-Nonspecific Work

While I am deeply awed by people who are able to choose to be stay-at-home parents, I never imagined myself to be one of them. Simply put, I never thought in that way about my contribution to the world. I always endeavored to seek my own path, to put my heart and soul into making the world a better place through meaningful work. But when my children were born, as happens to many people, my values about work were put to the test. How could I raise these beautiful tiny humans we had created, while running off to teach Spanish, attend literature seminars, and write a dissertation? I’m still not sure how I completed that journey, but somehow in five years’ time I had birthed three babies, earned an MA and a PhD alongside a full-time working spouse, and not completely lost my mind.

The truth is I have the digital to thank for enabling me to flex my multi-tasking muscles since the babies were born. (You should see my multi-tasking biceps; they are huge!) After completing my graduate degrees, the first few professional positions I held included the sort of work that could be completed from anywhere — either at home, in my office on campus, or anywhere I could bring along my laptop and get online. Even as a language teacher, I could complete everything but the actual teaching from home (grading, lesson planning, corresponding — these were all location-nonspecific tasks that went along with my teaching). Digital technology made this work life possible for me.

I have never had — and probably never will have — a desk job. Even the term “desk job” gives me the willies. To be honest, I don’t care for desks in the least. In my mind, a desk is a place of stasis, a place where you stop moving and acting and doing, a place where things come to a screeching halt. I do have a desk, but it’s set to a permanent standing height because I don’t sit at it, ever. My desk feels more like a landing station than a desk, a place where my laptop happens to come to rest occasionally on my journey through the workday. Because these days, as an instructional designer at Middlebury’s Office of Digital Learning, I complete my work from everywhere.


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