I'm back from my two weeks with my family today. Last night was really rough on my psyche. I kep asking myself why I was continuing to travel back and forth across the country when my official teaching duties are over. Why did I take on two summer students, when I could be sitting in my partner's office or his university's library doing my own research, and spending time with Epsilon in the evening? Why does it seem like the two of us are not satisfied unless we push ourselves to the very limits of what we can take emotionally.
But morning is wiser than evening.
1) I took on summer students because I benefited greatly from undergraduate research. I went to graduate school at a university where the undergrads were mostly neither interested in, nor capable of tackling current research problems. I didn't like working with those students. I like working with the students here who can do research. I believe in passing forward kindnesses done to me. All the faculty mentors I had as an undergrad took me on without much direct benefit to themselves. I should pass that on to the next generation.
2) I've heard from several friends of mine who did their undergrads at this university "I wish I had a female teaching an intro level class in your department." I realize that I could be a strong female mentor at this university, if I choose to be. Whether or not I want to, my presence has an impact. It is probably unlikely that all 3 of the students who approached me for a project randomly happened to be female. As someone who struggled through my decision to continue in academia, and almost chose not to for lack of female mentors, I can't turn my back on this situation.
The real test is whether these answers will hold water next time I have to sneak out of my apartment to catch a plane to avoid upsetting a toddler.