Motherhood and Academia – continued

A couple of years ago, I wrote a post about the challenges of blogging, writing and research as a first-time mother. At the time, I had just completed my PhD and was on maternity leave before starting my postdoc. It was a nerve-wracking time for me back then because I was just figuring out how to take care of a newborn with daughter #1 (“Is that normal?”).

Two years later, I’ve got a better handle on being a mother with daughter #2, but I’m still learning how to balance being a professor and being a good parent to two little kids. I don’t have a lot of time to myself to think or to write. During the day, daughter #1 is at Montessori, but daughter #2 keeps me busy while I’m on leave from the university. I cherish each day that I spend with her, watching her grow and learn new things. I regret that I won’t be able to spend as long a time with daughter#2 as I did with the #1. That’s the fun part of the day. Unfortunately, there is the household to be run. My spouse is also an academic and his schedule is not an easy one, so while he is extremely supportive, I have to grapple with interminable mounds of laundry, dishes to load and unload, meals to plan and shop for, etc. I pick up daughter#1 from daycare at the end of the day and try to spend quality time with her, too.

Much of my academic work now happens in quick 5-10 minute bursts during the day, or more likely, late at night after the kids (and sometimes the spouse) has gone to bed. Two wonderful sessional instructors took over my teaching of >200 students, but I still receive emails from students and worry over student assignments, grades, disputes, etc. I like my students–they are good students–and so I care about what’s happening with them. I apply for grants because I want to and need to. I write for publication and try not to get discouraged when I cannot work as fast as I would like (my book editors are exasperated but kind). I fulfill my duties as a section editor for Qwerty by contacting reviewers and doing the English editing.

It is not easy to work in sporadic spurts at home like this. I’m used to working in my office on campus and getting in a solid day of work with minimal interruptions (usually colleagues or students dropping by for an appointment or if I’m chairing or attending a meeting). I can maybe put in a couple or hours of writing in while on leave, but it takes a toll. If I do late-nighters for a week at a stretch or so, I get run down and come down with the latest bug. Then I sound like I have tuberculosis as I cough, cough, cough for the next month or so.

Lest this post sound like a downer, I have to say that I really enjoy being an academic. I wouldn’t trade it for the world. I trained to be a researcher for most of my life (I have been in school most of my life, it seems). However, I did not train all my life to be a parent, though, so I do need a bit more support on that, but that is hugely rewarding. What I am trying to do is to learn to balance my work and the rest of my life. I got some advice on that from the wise mentors at the CSCL 2011 Early Career Workshop and other colleagues with children. Hopefully it gets easier as the kids get older!


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