This post is perhaps a bit premature as today is only halfway through the second week, but whatever.
As I wrote previously, I was feeling a lot of anxiety about starting a new semester after such a large change in my life. A good friend who has also just returned to work after having her first baby was feeling much the same way and we have commiserated a lot these past couple weeks. The main concern we shared all summer was in regards to how we would see our work now that we’re also trying to balance it with an extended family. She wondered if her work – particularly scholarship – would be as important to her as it used to be. I was concerned that I would do an equally mediocre job at everything, and who wants to be a mediocre parent and a mediocre scholar?
Now that we’re two weeks in, I’m finding that some of my concerns were well placed while others were not. The first week I felt absolutely swamped by teaching related work and I was concerned that I might never get anywhere in my research. Today I’m happy to report that when I recognized that I got strict with my schedule and set aside all of Tuesday and Thursday for research only – no course work allowed. Granted it’s been a week with that strategy but so far it has been fruitful. The baby is clearly quite happy at daycare and that allows me to work through the day without constantly worrying about her and wanting to call and check in. That, in turn, allows me to be more productive in the office. It’s important to me to get home early enough in the evening to actually spend time with her, so I find myself more focused while I am at work. I waste less time and I work more efficiently. Pregnancy changed my vision so I got new glasses (with no-line bifocals, ugh) and I feel much better than I did whenever I tried to work over the summer.
Other things have not gone as well. Mornings are really productive times for me. Afternoons…well, I’m writing this at 1:45 so you tell me. It just seems like I run out of gas a little before lunch and never get it back again. A few times I’ve given up on doing anything serious in the afternoon and taken my laptop home, but the computer stays in my bag til I arrive back in the office the next morning. I’m toast in the evenings. Making dinner is a struggle, let alone trying to turn my brain back on. Maybe that will get better as she gets older, or maybe I’ll get used to this half-awake state. Only time will tell.
Daycare Plague hasn’t kicked in yet but I’ve already had to cancel class once, when I woke up with my eye nearly swollen shut on the third day of class. This is like the third year of my PhD when we actually had two snow days in the first two weeks and so we started the semester already behind. But course schedules and lectures can be modified and over half of my students wound up with a four day weekend, so they weren’t complaining.
Baby brain – combined with chemo brain still lingering 4 years later – sometimes leaves me standing in front of the class (or sitting in front of the computer, as ironically happened writing this sentence) unable to find the right word. Knowing it, but not being able to get it out. This week I forgot to get lecture slides online for my students. Just completely forgot. I really hate looking scatterbrained, flaky, stupid…it’s something I’ve always been sensitive about but it’s gotten significantly worse since chemo. That time in my life left me feeling like I had something to prove, that being “cancer girl” didn’t mean I couldn’t still have real career aspirations, couldn’t have a normal life. I think being a new mom has only worsened that feeling. Chances are that when I’m standing there looking for a word it seems like ages to me but students don’t even notice. I hope that’s the case. Maybe it just seems like I’m purposefully slowing down.
This week’s Chronicle Review included a piece about the “superwoman myth” – I have some thoughts to share related to that but need to spend some more time getting them together, so look for a post on that (and related to this post) in the near future.