• Mama PhD

    Mothers attempting to balance parenthood and academics.


ABC's and PhD's: Call it a day

I was taken with the “What do professors do all day?” blog that Libby pointed to in her blog a while ago – so I thought I’d try to document a day similarly. This is actually a day from several weeks ago. It’s not necessarily typical of what I do every day, but lately it’s typical of a day’s general busy-ness and scattered-ness.

May 10, 2011

I was taken with the “What do professors do all day?” blog that Libby pointed to in her blog a while ago – so I thought I’d try to document a day similarly. This is actually a day from several weeks ago. It’s not necessarily typical of what I do every day, but lately it’s typical of a day’s general busy-ness and scattered-ness.

6:30 - Roll out of bed, pull on some clothes and wake up younger daughter. Older is much more independent and sets her alarm, wakes, dresses and comes downstairs all on her own, but younger routinely sleeps through her alarm so we act as her human alarm clock. She gets mad if she falls behind older’s schedule, so immediately it’s a race to get her up and moving.

7:00 – Breakfast, get last minute lunch stuff together, make sure everyone has what they need for school. Flurry. Hurry. Blurry. I can’t remember exactly how it all goes (there’s a hunt for a shoe and a last-minute panic on a homework assignment that got forgotten), but somehow they get ready and at 7:35 my husband scurries the kids into school and then continues on to walk into the university.

7:30 – I shower, dress properly, get a huge cup of tea and open up my computer. Often I peruse blogs I follow and/or read the newspaper. I also open my email, which on some days takes up too much time because I’m a slow email writer – I’m trying to get better at dashing notes off to people without over-thinking them (huge time sink). Since I have a 9:30 phone conference this morning, I start preparing for that right off the bat. I enjoy our weekly meetings, just two other very nice people, and it’s usually brief, an hour at most. Having a meeting is a good motivator, I’m currently writing up the results from our study and I work well after we talk about it (other days can be a different story). I spend 10-15 hours per week on this project, and at this point we are wrapping up – our grant money runs out at the end of the year. I’m keeping my eyes and ears out for potential ways to continue working on this project, including networking with a friend/colleague from grad school – we may write a grant together. Also, I’m stepping up my search for other research opportunities, since time’s a tickin’.

11:30 – I sometimes use this as a break point to go help out in my younger’s class for ½ an hour. They do math from 11:30-12, and I try to get in once a week, especially since their class is 32 kids with one teacher. We live two minutes walk from the school so it’s easy to get there. Usually I work with one or two students who are having trouble with a concept. I’ve gotten to know a little group of about six students who I work with most, and I enjoy them a lot. Today, though, since I was going strong, I worked straight through on my paper research at home.

1:00 – Carpet dude calls – he has cut and bound a new carpet for us to replace our disgustingly old living room rug and it’s ready. I go down and pick it up, grabbing a granola bar and an apple to eat on the way.

1:30 – Back from carpet place. I leave the carpet rolled up in the car because it’s heavy! Phone rings, it’s a friend of mine whose daughter, like mine, is applying to the local public middle school magnet program for next year. It’s a big application, including an audition, so we compare notes. We also discuss the upcoming school fundraiser that we’re both involved in organizing, and I get the scoop from her on the upcoming math placement exam our daughters will soon take – also for middle school. This can be my downfall – talking on the phone. It eats up a lot of time, and it’s also how I get roped into volunteering for things. I’m now secretary of our PTA, leader of a subcommittee on a messy teacher staffing issue at the school, co-prop master for the school play, chair of the 6th grade end of school dance organizing committee, head of our school write-a-book competition, and involved in changing the PTA website over to a new format. Really, this is too many things for me to do a very good job on any of them.

1:55 – Fortunately today I can’t talk long because I need to rush off to help with the school play that my older daughter is in (fun!) Since I’m the co-prop-master, I’m attending after-school rehearsals for the next couple days to help the kids in the tech crew figure out cues and use for all the props we’ve accumulated. I lug in a box with the last of the props we need – a giant acorn my daughter and I made out of paper mache, a sleeping bag, a box wrapped up as a present, a workman’s belt. Play practice lasts until 4, during which time I keep tabs on my younger daughter who starts out doing homework balanced on her lap and quickly moves to investigating a dusty hidy-hole behind a row of chairs in the back. Mercifully, a friend finds her and my daughter gets invited to play over to her house for the afternoon.

After play practice I shoo my older daughter off to her violin lesson; I then have about 45 minutes at home before both kids come back from their respective activities. Email frenzy. Hubby comes home about that time too and we get the carpet out of the car and roll it out (looks good! but the kids complain that it’s too different). We make dinner together on the grill as kids do homework and piano practice. This sounds nice and relaxed but don’t be fooled: there’s also a lot of back and forth helping as homework and practicing progresses (and stalls).

5:45 – We eat a quick dinner together before starting a complicated series of carpooling pickups and drop-offs for the back-to-back choir practices of both kids. During dinner the phone rings and a friend invites me to see the movie “Race to Nowhere” [see my last blog] – “I’ll pick you up in 10 minutes,” she says. So I leave carpooling and homework remainders to my dear husband. Before I leave, I put together lunches for the kids for tomorrow (always do most of it the night before because of that hurry, blurry the next morning). More normally, if I wasn’t going out, my husband and I would get kids in bed after choir by about 9 then work on our computers until 10:30ish, and then Netflix half an episode of “A Touch of Frost” – a BBC production we’re addicted to – before bed. I also like to read in bed before going to sleep. Sometimes I can even stay awake for another half hour, if it’s an exciting book (right now I’m reading Al Capone Does My Shirts for an upcoming mother-daughter book club meeting – it’s excellent!)

Things that did not get done today:

  • about 6 loads of laundry
  • the assignment for the drawing class I take on Thursdays
  • any of my own writing for the book I’m “working on” – well, this hasn’t been done for a long time. Maybe this summer.
  • grocery shopping, and we’re really low on milk.
  • call a handyman to get work done on roof.
  • etc.

Well, there’s always tomorrow.


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