Caregiver Testimonial 3

From Elizabeth Tippett, School of Law:

I am an associate professor at the law school, with two young children in elementary school. I have many competing research projects, as well as frequent projects that involve public outreach. My husband is an essential health care worker who has been working full time throughout the pandemic.

When the schools were closed, I took the children to Canada to live with my parents for two and a half months. Upon our arrival, the kids and I self-quarantined in a single room for two weeks. Later, my father fell ill and needed to be quarantined for two weeks from my mother who was quarantined separately in the house, during which time I spent most of my time cooking, cleaning, and delivering meals through closed doors in different parts of the house. My father recovered but obviously I did not do much work during that period. Later, my 85-year old aunt (whose son died of cancer at the height of the pandemic) also came to live with us to avoid getting infected in her assisted living facility. The kids and I really enjoyed spending time with her.

I was able to do some work during subsequent weeks. However, I have friends and collaborators who found themselves overwhelmed with their work and caretaking responsibilities or who needed mental support from various pandemic-related crises. This sometimes meant taking on more work in joint projects, or interrupting my work day to provide support. I feel a particular obligation to pre-tenure collaborators who need our joint projects published to support their tenure files.

My children interrupt my work regularly with demands for my attention or tech support requests, or have bad days where I can’t just ignore them and do work. I also generally like to do public education and outreach, and have been trying to do that during the pandemic wherever I can. However, I find I have less and less time and energy to do so these days. Some days, I have a lot of trouble thinking and concentrating. My collaborators report a similar experience.

Now that we have returned to Eugene, I have no child care beyond my mother-in-law, who often watches the kids for a few hours in the afternoon. My husband cannot work from home or reduce his work hours, as he is required to be on the worksite while they are treating cancer patients. Although he does his best to help, he is emotionally exhausted when he gets home from work each day. The fall will be very difficult for me career-wise if the schools and aftercare do not reopen. I feel like I live in the 1980s, when my own mother furtively worked from home on her Apple II computer when she wasn’t busy doing everything else around the house.

Despite these challenges, I have managed to stay somewhat productive, largely by working early in the morning, late at night, or on weekends. However, I am very worried about meeting a book deadline while also maintaining projects with my collaborators. I am very stressed about the next several months. I am also keenly aware of my many obligations to the people in my life who depend on me in various ways. I try not to feel overwhelmed and concentrate on what I can get done in the time available.

– Elizabeth Tippett

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