Category Archives: A (Good) Day’s Work

This week

Some thoughts on my work in December

  • It is exam season here, which means that Q. is refusing to have library dates with me (even though we’re now both free of teaching so we could work together) because if he goes to his office he can work in blissful silence as opposed to the “silence” of many undergraduates “studying” with their closest friends.
  • The library where I work in the mornings most days is still very quiet. The big library is not. I’ve had to shush people on a daily basis (and I am sitting in the SILENT ZONE where no talking of any kind, ever, is permitted, so I have no problem with shushing). The main irritation with exam season for me is that someone else gets the little room I like to think of as my own because they all start studying before 9:30, even on Fridays, and that’s the earliest I can get to a desk.
  • I can accept this, with some bad grace, if the people who take ‘my’ room use it wisely. Today it is occupied by a pair of love-struck undergraduates. They have been cuddling and whispering throughout the morning (I am far enough away not to hear them, but I notice this when I walk past), and are currently both asleep with their heads on the desk.
  • I am looking forward to around the third week of January when all the good intentions for the new semester have worn off and exams seem a lifetime away and the only people left in the libraries are those who are very serious.
  • When I arrived at the little library on Tuesday, one of the librarians was busily taking the ornaments off the Christmas tree at the main entrance. I walked past and then doubled back to confirm that, yes, she was taking them off and not putting them on. The tree went up in the third week of November. Confusing, but when I walked out of the library at the end of the day, the tree was fully decorated again, only now it was much bigger and bushier and it smelt divine. They’d obviously decided that a real tree couldn’t be trusted to survive if displayed any earlier, so they’d set up the fake tree first, even though that made extra work.
  • The tree smells amazing. I love walking past it.
  • I have spent the bulk of my workweek cutting words out of my chapter for our edited volume. It feels weird to consider a day productive when the end result is fewer words on the page, but the chapter was significantly over length, so it had to be done. I’ve cut 2,457 words out in the last three days. Progress, to be sure, but there is more that must be destined for the trash.
  • I have started my book revisions. This should be accompanied by several (nay, copious) exclamation marks, given this is the albatross that has hung around my neck for the past two years (moaned about most recently here and here). What forced me to get started was, I think, a combination of personal loathing (I am so sick of not having finished the book that I think the idea of continuing to not finish the book is now worse than the process of finishing it), the lack of alternatives for procrastination (chapter draft finished- all the tinkering in the world can’t eat up every day of every week), and my newly-formed writing accountability group. At the first meeting, three of my four goals for December were book related. I wanted to work on the book revisions at least an hour a day once my seminar paper was over, I wanted to have completed all the “easy” revisions my readers recommended, and I wanted to have started a new file on my computer for the second draft (which ought to be the most absurdly simple goal to meet, but the very act of starting a new file and thus BEGINNING the revisions was something which had become a huge mental block). I am motivated to not embarrass myself, and so stating these goals to the other members has meant that now I am on track to meet all three goals.
  • Before starting the revisions, I forced myself to read the readers’ reports again. For two years now I have operated under the knowledge that there was a good review and a bad review. Reviewer B really quite liked the book and thought I should be offered a contract once I had completed the (relatively minor) revisions. Reviewer A didn’t like the book all that much and had doubts about whether it ought to be published, even with significant revisions. The funny thing is that once I read them again, I realized this wasn’t quite true. Both readers had similar criticisms about the book overall: they both felt the middle four chapters were the strongest, and they both, quite rightly, felt that I suffered too much from the dissertation anxiety of “must include everything!” and used too many examples and discussed those examples at far too great a length. Reviewer A’s most serious criticism largely stems from (I think) a misunderstanding of my argument, which itself stems from the way I did (or did not) define my terms and organize my ideas. Two years of ignoring the reports has meant that I’ve created enough distance between myself and my dissertation that consigning large sections of it to the trash now seems like the obvious right thing to do instead of an unimaginable horror. I don’t think I could have made the revisions in late 2015 and early 2016 even if my life had not been derailed by pregnancy/father’s accident/stepfather’s terminal cancer; I think I would have still been too close to it. But now I have another project which I’m enjoying, and the dissertation is no longer sacrosanct. Between the two reports, the report from my external examiner (who also felt the middle four chapters were the strongest), and my own sense of what needs to be changed, I think I have a strong (and not too contradictory) framework for going forward. It will still be a lot of work, of course, especially once the easy revisions are complete and I have to get down to the business of editing, but it now seems manageable, and provided I keep telling my accountability group what I intend to do, I will have no choice but to do it.
  • And now I must go and open that new file and complete a few more revisions. To close, a different kind of Christmas tree (spotted in the big library, along with a sign explaining the history of the books used, because of course):

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Filed under A (Good) Day's Work, Books, Life after the PhD, Writing

Strength in Numbers?

A few weeks ago, after I’d taken the quiz to find out my BASE in terms of my writing (the link to the quiz is in my other post and I’ll wait while you go and take it because it’s really neat), I sent an email out to two of my female colleagues/almost friends to ask if they wanted to join a writing accountability group.

I sent the email partly because I was experimenting with improving my social skills for my writing, but also because I’d come to realize in the first month of my postdoc that I needed to be accountable to someone other than myself if I was going to make any progress on my book.

I was a model of productivity for my postdoc…right up until the point where I largely finished the first draft of the chapter I’ve been writing for the edited volume and needed to turn my attention to my book revisions.

And then I stalled.

I tinkered.

I read books related to both projects.

I decided to try to post 30 times in 30 days on this blog, which counted as writing time, but not the writing that would help get the book revisions finished.

I did not want to get started on the book revisions, the revisions I’ve needed to do since August 2015.

And it was too easy to refuse to start them (again) because if I didn’t start them, the only person I was letting down was myself.

If I didn’t write the chapter for the edited volume, I was hurting my co-contributors, but I was also hurting my co-editors, one of whom is Q.

I’m not going to disappoint Q. if he’s counting on my work for his own project.

Plus, the first draft of something is what I like to write the best, so it was easy to sit down at the keyboard and let all the ideas that had been burbling around inside of me come flowing out.

I already did that with my book. The result was my PhD dissertation.

I hate editing my work. HATE. IT.

And I hate being rejected by people. HATE. IT.

So it’s been unbelievably easy for me to just not do the revisions because they combine two of my least favourite things.

If I don’t take the risk to put myself out there, I don’t have to face the consequences of being rejected.

Somewhere in late October I realized that this situation was never going to change if I didn’t change the circumstances under which I was operating, because although I occasionally lay awake at night wondering if the editor at Esteemed University Press ever wondered where my book was (answer: no, because said editor has many other books to deal with and many, many other academics who haven’t done their revisions either), and I knew I would disappoint my supervisor (and, let’s face it, Q.) if I never published the book, ultimately it just wasn’t a strong enough motivating factor.

I’d hit the point with that research where I couldn’t see the forest for the trees. I was convinced that everything I had to say was bleedingly obvious and that any attempt on my part to publish said research would expose me for the fraud I am (see earlier post on imposter syndrome). The idea that if I published the book people might read and disagree with the book (or, worse, think the book was pointless) was paralyzing.

So I emailed two other women whom I knew were in the same boat (actual sentence from our meeting: “I invited both of you to join because we all have the same albatross around our neck.”).

Last Friday we had our first meeting.

We talked a bit about why we were there. One of us has trouble writing but loves to edit. One of us has no trouble writing but hates to edit (that’s me). And one of us has trouble with both.

We talked about the emotional, physical, and psychological toll NOT HAVING A BOOK in a monograph-centric field has taken.

We talked about how our colleagues would never take us seriously (even the one of us who is tenured) without a book.

We talked about how much we hated our research, how fear and shame were the only forces that drove us forward, how we were paralyzed by our own self-doubt.

“This is a very surreal experience,” one of them said after I’d spent several minutes explaining how I felt like I had to finish the book even though I didn’t want to finish the book because I didn’t want the people who knew me to stand around talking about me in five years saying how it was such a shame I’d never produced a book. “It’s like I’m hearing my own voice come out of someone else’s mouth.”

We’re going to try to help each other get through this and get our books done.

We set short-term goals for our next meeting (late December) and medium-term goals for where we wanted to be by the end of July 2018.

If we don’t do what we’ve said we’re going to do, we have to turn up to the next meeting and tell the others why we didn’t.

Shame and fear, yes.

But support and camaraderie too.

It might just work.

 

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Filed under A (Good) Day's Work, Anxiety Overload, Books, Life after the PhD, Writing

Microblog Mondays: My Field’s Harvey Weinstein?

TW: Sexual assault and child abuse mentioned.

Last week I was wasting time on a jobs wiki  when I stumbled across a couple of links to articles about a sexual harassment lawsuit that had been filed by a graduate student against an EXTREMELY PROMINENT academic in my field. The lawsuit alleged not only that said famous professor had harassed her repeatedly for years, but also that the university had turned a blind eye to his behaviour, even when she had complained.

Quite recently, about a month after the original articles were published, another one came out indicating that the famous professor has stood done from all teaching, advising, and other student-related activities. The anonymous comments on the job wiki have made it clear that this professor’s reputation for sexually harassing women was well known, even outside his own university.

Assuming the allegations prove to be true, and if it was also true that “everyone knew and nobody said anything”, it sparks a number of interesting moral issues. Were you complicit if you sent high-flying female graduate students to work with this individual, knowing his history? Were you complicit if you sent high-flying male graduate students to work with this individual but warned off your female students, knowing that your male students would then reap the benefits of being associated with such an academic superstar (including very high placement rates in tenure-track positions)? Were you complicit if you knew his history and still invited this individual to your campus to give a lecture, or asked him to write a chapter for an edited volume, or to review a manuscript, or any of the myriad duties that fall on established academics when it’s “business as usual”?

Are we complicit if, going forward, the allegations are proven and we still cite this individual’s articles and books in our own research?

While reading up on this I also discovered that last year another professor in our field pleaded guilty to trading child pornography over the internet. Q. has a very famous and influential article by this individual on the syllabus for one of his courses. It seems a no-brainer to strike that off, but (as my rabbit hole of Googling quickly proved) this is a thorny issue and one that a lot of academics are now wrestling with.

Can you separate the scholarship from the scholar?

This post is part of #MicroblogMondays. To read the inaugural post and find out how you can participate, click here.

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Filed under A (Good) Day's Work, Microblog Mondays, Soapbox

Dormant

Dear bulbs,

Thanks for joining our garden. I’m sorry it was so late in the year before you were planted, but luckily we’re pretty far south for such a northern country; winter hasn’t really arrived yet.

You might be wondering what kind of a life you can expect here. Perhaps you noticed the relatively haphazard way in which you were planted- at high speed, not evenly spaced, and at inconsistent depths. No one was thoroughly watered, like all the packages recommend, but it’s supposed to rain soon, so that should help. Those of you who are most likely to be eaten by squirrels over the winter (tulips- I’m looking at you) did receive a dusting of cayenne pepper before the soil was swept back over, but otherwise you’ve largely been left to fend for yourself.

The good news is you’re in good company. I planted around 250 of you this year, and I’m certain I’ve planted close to 1,500 bulbs over the last seven autumns. You probably noticed some of your older and more experienced neighbours when I accidentally dug them up while trying to find space to plant you.

That happens a lot. Every spring I tell myself I’m going to mark the areas in the garden where there aren’t enough bulbs to make things easier in the autumn, and every spring I’m too busy keeping one step ahead of the weeds to do so. Some of you had a taste of what that feels like when I accidentally dug you up the same day I planted you because I’d forgotten where I’d been digging.

I have a lot of sympathy for squirrels who can’t find their acorns.

Not all of you will grow, of course. Some of you I’ll have planted too deep, and others I’ll have planted too shallow, and some of you will be eaten by squirrels or dug up by squirrels and abandoned on the surface. Some of you will bloom next year but then never again. You at least have the advantage that I’ve learned not to cut off your leaves until they’ve died back, so you’ll be able to store up all your energy for the following year. I got a little snip-happy one day this spring, so it might not be as colourful next year as you would expect given the number of bulbs in the garden.

Some of you will get to meet my kid. He spends a lot of time keeping me company in the garden. When he was younger he used to like helping me plant bulbs. I’d dig the hole and he’d drop the bulb in, telling each one, “Night, night, bulb. See you in the spring.” These days he doesn’t plant or weed much but he loves digging for nature. The rule is he can’t dig for nature where there’s an established plant, so he digs in the empty spots which also happen to be where you hang out. He’s very good about putting you back in the ground when he fills in the hole, but he doesn’t always pay attention to which end should point up.

Lest you think the life of a bulb in the garden is unfairly difficult, I hasten to point out that, in my garden, the general attitude towards plants is one of benign neglect. I water perennials the first year they’re put into the soil, but after that they have to rely on rainfall and the occasional full-garden sprinkler. We mulch semi-regularly and I do weed, although you’re likely to have died back by the time I really get started on my annual battle against the bindweed that’s hiding almost everywhere. I’m pleased to say that I’m finally winning the war there.

I make the same mistakes with my perennials that I do with my bulbs. I forget that I’ve planted them and pull them out in the spring, thinking that they’re weeds (icelandic poppy and red coneflower, I am truly sorry). I let other plants overgrow them and block out their light (lupins, if you’re not dead, I promise no more calendula incursions next spring). I dig them up and move them around if I don’t think they’re thriving (and sometimes the digging up and the moving around guarantees that they won’t be thriving).

Plants in my garden have to make flowers (sorry, ornamental grasses, I’m not very sorry that you all died). Most of them need to attract bees and butterflies. They need to be pest resistant as the sum total of my pest control strategy is occasionally sprinkling baby powder on the oriental lilies so the red lily beetles don’t eat them. There are a lot of worms in our garden, so I hope you like worms (there are also lots of grubs and larvae and centipedes and snails and pill bugs and ants, to judge from the results of my son’s digging for nature expeditions).

The good news is that most plants get to just keep on growing. I’m always looking to fill in gaps, and block out the bindweed, so it’s rare that I make the decision to uproot or even divide a plant (although, salvia, your time is coming; yours too, prairie coneflower). I know I should pull out tulip bulbs when they only send up one leaf and no flower, but I often just cut the leaf off instead when I’m weeding, and the bulb survives to grow again another year.

You don’t know this yet, but you’ve become part of something very special. The corner where you now live used to be a terrible eyesore in the neighbourhood. It’s taken a lot of time and energy, and there’s been a lot of sweat, some swearing, some crying, and even some blood, but I’ve turned our little patch of earth into something I can be proud of, something our neighbours always comment on when they walk by. When I was out this week planting you and cutting back the frost-wilted plants, nearly everyone who walked past stopped to ask what I was planting and to tell me how much they were looking forward to the spring.

The garden is beautiful in almost every season, but you, my bulbs, you are the heralds of spring. The indigo and yellow and lavender of the crocuses is the first promise that the winter is ending, and every year I count the blooms as they emerge. Yes, daffodils, I know that when the tulips are at their peak they are a riot of colour and everyone is drawn to their showy exuberance, but I love you best for your cheerful yellow faces and your steadfast loyalty in returning every year. Irises, you are a new experiment this year as I adore your larger cousins. And snowdrops, you’ve been a dead loss in the garden every other time I’ve planted you, so hopefully you’re game for a challenge.

I may grumble and complain about planting bulbs in the autumn, when the days are too short and the wind is too sharp, but when spring comes I am reminded, again, that every bloom was worth it.

Night night, bulbs.

See you in the spring.

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Filed under A (Good) Day's Work, Choose Happiness, Daily Life

Microblog Mondays: What’s Your FOMO?

I have been reading (and enjoying) Morra Aarons-Mele’s Hiding in the Bathroom: An Introvert’s Roadmap to Getting Out There (When You’d Rather Stay Home), which I heard about from Mel (thanks, Mel!); it’s given me a lot to think about, and helped me understand why I find it so difficult to think about leaving academia (spoiler alert: I’m not only an introvert but also a hermit and academia, at least in the humanities, is great for hermits).

Early in the book, she writes about the positive side of FOMO (pages 29-31), writing that “once you get in touch with your FOMO, it can be a powerful diagnostic tool” and “like a sore muscle or overused tendon, excessive FOMO is also a sign that a behavior has to change”. If you are always feeling FOMO about the same things, that can be a signal about what you feel is lacking in your own life.

This point really struck home with me, because I know exactly where I experience FOMO. I might get a twinge of it now and again if someone has gone on a particularly exotic vacation or spent a lot of time at a cottage or gone out for a weekend of eating at nice restaurants and watching live theatre, but those moments of FOMO are fleeting: I don’t really want to be that person doing those things. I wish I could do those things too, but I’m content with the current phase of my life and I can see that those things don’t easily align with that phase (read: raising small children). I’m even less likely to experience FOMO with career-related news (which is the kind of FOMO Aarons-Mele is discussing) because I’m not ambitious in that regard (even though I often feel guilty that this is true).

When does my FOMO strike?

  1. When people take better photographs than I do (especially of their kids and/or landscapes)
  2. When people announce they’re publishing a book (especially bloggers who started blogging after I did [not that I ever thought this blog would lead to a book- it’s more that they were able to find a blogging niche that eventually opened the door to a book]).

It’s not rocket science to see the changes I need to make to triumph over my FOMO.

For photography:

  1. Take more pictures
  2. Switch from AV to Manual mode and start shooting in RAW
  3. Read my camera’s manual to figure out what I don’t yet know how to do
  4. Learn how to edit my pictures using Lightroom
  5. Possibly take some sort of online course if I’m still not seeing the results I want

For writing:

  1. Write more
  2. Set aside dedicated time for writing each day/week
  3. Edit my work if I finish something
  4. Actually submit my work somewhere so it might have the opportunity to see the light of day

Seeing the steps forward is always easy for me. Actually taking those steps is often another story.

Do you experience FOMO? Is it fleeting or is your mind trying to tell you something?

This post is part of #MicroblogMondays. To read the inaugural post and find out how you can participate, click here.

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Filed under A (Good) Day's Work, Anxiety Overload, Microblog Mondays, Writing

How To Stop Sitting

When I went back to work (two months ago, already!), I very quickly reached one inescapable conclusion:

I sit too much.

Not just in a “gee, I should get up more often” sense.

We’re talking “sit down in the chair and don’t get up again until four hours later” SERIOUS sitting.

Even though I figured this out very early on, I haven’t found any satisfactory way to solve the problem (and I know it’s a problem- I know sitting is really really bad for me).

I incorporate a walk into my commute- I try to walk to and from the station each day (barring extreme weather and/or running late to relieve the nanny). With dropping E. off at school in the mornings as well, it means I’m walking close to 4 km in a day.

In between those walks, however, I sit, in one library or another, at one desk or another, writing or reading. It all looks the same: me, sitting in a chair, hunched over my laptop or a book (although I try to be better with posture these days, especially since reading Amy Cuddy’s Presence).

The contrast between those work days and my day at home with P. could not be more stark. When I’m home with P., I have exactly one point in the day where I sit: when she is napping and I can prep my class. I make tea, sit down at the kitchen table, and usually don’t get up again until she wakes up because I’m trying to squeeze as much work as I can into those two hours (give or take thirty minutes). The rest of the day finds me chasing after her, prepping meals, cleaning up after meals, taking E. to school, picking E. up after school, taking both kids to a park, etc. etc. I go up and down our stairs easily 20 times a day.

In my original work plan, I’d intended to change work locations at lunch time each day, which would add in a ten minute walk from one library to the other. I haven’t done well with sticking to this, largely because I don’t like working in the big library because people don’t respect the silent zones. The library where I do like to work is almost always silent, and there’s a little room on the second floor with just enough space for one desk, with a window that overlooks the gardens where I eat lunch on nice days. I think of that room as “mine” and if I get in too late in the morning to claim it, I will set myself up as close to it as possible, ready to pounce if its occupant vacates.

Working in the little room means I can stand up at my desk and stretch without feeling silly, but it also means I can surreptitiously eat my lunch without having to go outside (which will become a pressing issue as the weather gets colder).

The fundamental issue is, regardless of which library I’m working in, it’s not an office.

If I want to get up, even just to refill my water bottle or go to the bathroom, I have to take all of my valuable belongings (laptop, wallet, phone) with me, which means I have to take my backpack (to carry my laptop) while still leaving enough items strewn around on the desk to show that the room is still occupied. My coat is helpful in this regard, but not if I’ve had to take it with me to go for a walk beyond the building.

Going for a walk, even a short one, is a bit of a process, and so I tend not to do it unless I have no other choice.

Q. has this year started working almost entirely in his office at the university (as opposed to only going in when he had to teach). Partly this is because he’s realized how easy it is to swim there, and partly it’s because the transit is about to get much more convenient and make the commute almost as short as it is to get to the other university downtown, but it’s also because he can work in his own private space in peace and quiet and if he wants to get up to do something, he just has to lock his office and everything inside is secure.

In a stark illustration of the differences between the lives of the tenured professors (like Q.) and those who teach classes on contract (like me), I have access to an office at the university for exactly four hours a week. The first hour is directly before my class and is my office hour when students can come to see me with their questions. The other three hours allocated to me are when I’m teaching (and can’t make use of the office). I’ve figured out this bizarre scheduling holds true for everyone assigned that office, which means I can perch in the office for two hours before my office hour without disturbing anyone, as the individual who technically has rights to the office at that point is teaching.

Yes, it’s absurd.

One eventual solution for me will be to work at home more, because at home I can make snacks and make tea and check the mail and find the cat and do any number of myriad things that distract from my work but also get me out of my chair. Provided I’m disciplined about when I take those breaks (and about how long they last), it’s a good system. It doesn’t work well right now with P. at home with her nanny- the house is too noisy and I’m trapped downstairs in the basement to make sure that P. doesn’t realize I’m there- and I will always have to clear out of the house before the kids get home from school if I’m not the one picking them up, but there are plenty of options near my house that would be suitable for a couple of hours work late in the day (when I’ve already used up my capacity for deep work).

Until then, I need to figure out ways to stop sitting.

Any suggestions?

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Filed under A (Good) Day's Work, Life after the PhD

Accountability- September

Today is my last day of work for September, my last day of work in my first month back from maternity leave.

What have I accomplished?

  • I have written just shy of 8,000 words of the first draft of a chapter for the edited volume which Q. and I are editing. The chapter is meant to be no more than 10,000. I will be over this in the first draft, but I am not worrying about that at this point.
  • I have entered all of my evidence into my giant spreadsheet, which means I no longer have a million post-it notes in several books, left over from the reading I was able to do in the spring. I’ve also read a few more authors and have added their evidence too. I am not finished collecting evidence, but I’m far enough along with the project that my argument is clear and it makes sense to write at the same time as I read.
  • I have read and provided feedback on some of the other chapter drafts for the edited volume (although not as many as I feel I should have, since our co-editors aren’t doing their work and the lion’s share has landed squarely on Q’s shoulders).
  • I am 25% of the way through the fall semester of my class. I have taught the second half of this class before, but the first semester is new to me, so there is a lot of prep work. I am enjoying the teaching and my anxiety about teaching has largely dissipated now that I have a connection with the students. (I am a very good teacher but I always feel sick before teaching a class, especially in the first couple of weeks. I think it’s a form of performance anxiety. I’m so introverted that even though I genuinely love teaching I have to consciously prepare myself to do it.)
  • I have managed a daily (almost) writing practice on work days. Four days a week, I sit down first thing in the morning with my laptop and write for ninety minutes (or two hours if it is going well). The morning is my most productive time by far and I have fiercely protected my writing time from teaching prep, marking, reading, email, life admin, etc. I have always been an academic writer who think and thinks and thinks and then writes and writes and writes. I wrote my dissertation by not writing for weeks or months at a time and then writing 1,000 words a day (or more) for a few weeks when it was time to produce another chapter. This wasn’t a form of procrastination- it was just how I operated. I thought about my ideas for so long that when it was time to write them up the first draft needed very little to be changed. It worked well with the dissertation, where probably 85% of the finished product is identical to what I first drafted, but it meant I hit a hard wall when it came time to think about making revisions for the book. Admittedly, with this current chapter, I have been thinking about it for months, but I can certainly see a difference in the way that I’m writing. My hope goal is that when I get the draft finished I will be able to just start tinkering with editing the book manuscript, since I will have established writing and rewriting as part of the daily routine. I love to write and hate to edit. I’m trying to change that as it’s become abundantly clear to me that I will never publish if I don’t.
  • I have found places I like to work, particularly a little room on the second floor of one of the smaller libraries of the university that is not mine (but at which I have borrowing privileges).
  • I have completed the first three weeks of the C25K running program (and started week four this morning). That is the most consistent running I have managed since I last completed the C25K program, right before our final FET in the fall of 2014. I have run three days a week every week for three weeks. That should make a habit.
  • I have read five books for fun and am well advanced on a sixth. That is the most books I have read in a month since December 2015.
  • I have mostly stayed on top of our life admin. I have figured out how to pay our nanny; booked a cottage holiday for Thanksgiving; ordered hot lunches for E. at school and signed both children up for activities (swimming lessons and an after school science class for E., music with her nanny for P.); read emails and (mostly) answered them; had my eyebrows waxed and my bangs/fringe trimmed; visited the dentist (twice in two weeks since I am someone who needs to go every three months and I hadn’t been in nine).
  • I went out for lunch with Q., the first of our monthly lunch dates that Q. packed into my tin lunch box on our tenth anniversary, even though we didn’t actually go to the restaurant he had planned as it was so unseasonably warm I insisted we find a patio. I went out for lunch on two other occasions with dear friends whom I never get to see often enough.
  • I ended my work day early once to go and sit in a cafe and drink tea and eat cake and read a book. It was so lovely I had to promise myself I would only do this once a month.

There are still things I am working on. I haven’t quite figured out the best way to use my time in the afternoons when I am tired from the writing and the reading and the deep work but it’s still too early to pack it in for the day. I haven’t solved the problem of how to get up from my desk frequently during the day, particularly since I have to bring my laptop, phone, and wallet with me wherever I go. My original plan was to walk over at lunch time from the small library to the big library, but it turns out I don’t like working in the big library all that much.

I do not feel like I am being a good mother, at least not to the standards to which I hold myself. I am not getting enough sleep because P. is up more than she should be at night and she gets so angry and sad when Q. goes in to try to settle her that it is just easier for me to go in instead and give her the cuddle and the milk that she wants. I am sure I would be better at managing this if I were home more during the day and did not feel as guilty. I am convinced she wakes up because she is missing that connection with me, but it is probably teeth or developmental or habit.

I am not as patient with E. as I would like to be, which is a constant battle made worse by the fact that I feel like I should have so much more patience for him since I now see him less. I have a lot of patience, but there are many days where it is not enough.

I do not always manage to have a real conversation with Q. rather than one about logistics and timings and schedules and house needs and kids needs. This morning I volunteered to take E. to school since I was going to be ready to go at about that time anyway, and then E. took a very long time to brush his teeth so I ended up bundling him out the door and forgot that I hadn’t said a proper goodbye to Q. or given him a kiss.

I still think Q. is doing too much of the housework, but every time I suggest an alternative he restates his position that he thinks it makes sense to just get it all done in one morning. He certainly is doing too much of the cooking, but I have to admit that the nights when I need to cook from scratch are frantic and stressful as it turns out there are very few meals you can cook from scratch with a toddler on your hip who is usually trying to nurse. My idea of “easy weeknight dinners” is not the same as Q.’s, so if he wants to do most of the prep on the weekends, I think I should just gracefully accept.

I am still not sure this is what I want, but I do like having the time and space to think about my research and I can see how difficult it would be to build momentum if I had any less time in which to do that. It’s also extremely difficult for me to rationalize taking any time for myself if I’m working less than four days a week, as I feel that if I’m not with the kids I need to be working, especially if Q. is at home with them.

I am still taking it one day at a time, but, on balance, I think this month has gone well.

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Filed under A (Good) Day's Work, Blink and you'll miss it, Butter scraped over too much bread (a.k.a. modern motherhood), Choose Happiness, Life after the PhD, My addled brain, Nursing, Sleep, Who am I really? (Career Angst), Writing