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    Mothers attempting to balance parenthood and academics.

ABCs and PhDs: Taking stock on my last six months as "½-time mom"
March 11, 2009 - 9:11am

Here’s my weekday morning start: I wake up in time for about 10 minutes of quiet before the 45 minutes of frenetic activity of everyone getting ready for the day – breakfasted, dressed, brushed, packed, (sometimes a last minute homework assignment), shod, appropriately suited up for the weather – crescendos into a burst out the door and then, they are gone – my husband walks the kids into school on his way to work.

At the beginning of this school year, the thought of my house after 8am, suddenly silent for 6 hours at a time, was quite alarming for me. In fact, even while my youngest was in her 2-hour-a-day pre-school I had started worrying about the transition that full-day kindergarten would bring from full-time mommy to “half-time” mom and half-time something else (still figuring out what that is). With the impending deadline of “What are you going to do now, with so much time on your hands?” came a build-up of anxiety which I blogged on last September.
So, even before my daughter’s pre-school days were done, I leapt into a part-time administrative position in a biology graduate program at the university near by during much of her school hours, and when another appropriate, interesting research faculty job opportunity came along just before kindergarten started and I took it on too. Zoop - jobs expanded to fill in all my “kids-in-school” time. Now, taking stock six months later, here’s what I have:

  • Reasonable, enjoyable, part-time, career-oriented productivity – check.
  • Paycheck – check.
  • Progress on my book project -- zilch.
  • Progress on my grant proposal – a tiny little bit more than zilch

On those last two items, my own creative projects, I’ve gotten less accomplished than when I was momming full time. Now I work away in the evenings, keeping up on emails from work and collecting data, but never on my own projects, which I love and about which I have been thinking and writing (in snatches) from the beginning of my parenting years. Aaargh. Did I make a mistake? Did I jump the gun? Wouldn’t it have been nice to have the confidence to let myself have time to work on my own projects, without feeling the need for a formal job?

(Sort of obvious, in retrospect) conclusions:

1. When head-to-head in a limited amount of time, getting the work done for official jobs with external deadlines and expectations will win out over getting my own projects accomplished. I do enjoy my jobs. I still cherish having as much mom-time as I can, and I am committed keeping my work flexible for this reason. If I want to continue my other projects, I need to clear a space for them, too.

2. Transitions can be hard. But now that I have navigated this one, I feel more comfortable with clearing space for getting my own projects accomplished, and planning a future gift of time for myself – a sabbatical – when the next opportunity for transition comes along. One advantage to accepting a “non-traditional” academic lifestyle is that there is room for tweaking, which is nice, because life is always changing.


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