I am in a position where I can compare the experience of being a graduate research student pre and post children. Star was born three weeks after I submitted my Masters thesis. She was eight months when I returned to research. Undoubtedly, the experience is different this time around. Here’s how I spent my time before becoming a mummy:
- Sleeping in on research days, and having a hot beverage as I leisurely checked my emails
- Then onto it – a good six hours of solid uninterrupted work
- Followed by a relaxing run in the park, and a civilised dinner at 7pm
Here’s how I spend it now:
- Wake up at 7:30am to the cries of “Mummy! Mummy!” (I know, 7:30am is a sleep-in for parents! We’re lucky!)
- Feed toddler, remember to feed self, chase toddler around, find clean clothes for toddler (everything has food or crayon stains on it…) Clean up the mess after breakfast, remember to pack the comfort toys for naptime, walk toddler to childcare centre, try not to hurry toddler as she investigates the leaves on the bushes, the gumnuts on the ground, the rocks and the gravel as we walk there – I should be smelling the roses too but I have an appointment to get to so hurry up darling…
- Travel to Uni, work like a maniac for 7 hrs, no Facebook time – time is so precious
- Pick up toddler from childcare, dinner at 5:30pm during which she refuses everything except steamed carrots, throws food on the floor (often deliberately). Bathe toddler, read “Goodnight Moon”, into bed at 7:30pm.
- Work from 7:30-10pm
I must add, things are really quite cruisy with Star’s sleep now, but most of last year was also spent managing her multiple wakings at night.
Different, much? Having a child has introduced new pressures – and she isn’t even in school yet. Childcare, mother guilt, keeping to a routine, not attending overseas conferences, crayon scrawls on my laptop. And yet it’s made coming home all the more rewarding. It’s made me want to work hard to be a role model. And it’s presented me with the greatest challenge of all – the enigma, the Holy grail, the thing we call “work/life balance”. And I formally accept the challenge. Bring it on.
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