Friday, June 01, 2007

When the professional and personal collide

Back in the day, when parenthood was still an abstract concept, I looked forward to the arrival of Hypothetical Future Child as a time where I could take a nice little hiatus from my professional life. I thought that of course it would be no big deal to put my research and teaching and everything else on hold for a few months and concentrate on Hypothetical Future Child.

Well, now Hypothetical Future Child is not hypothetical anymore, and ironically, it seems that now is the time that my career has decided to really take off.

Within the next couple of months, I will be presenting my work at two significant conferences. Turnaround times on papers are getting shorter and shorter, which means that either I'm a much better writer now or that my ideas are really at the mature stage and that the field is really interested in them. (Probably a bit of both.) I've received a lot of good professional news just in the weeks since Baby Jane arrived. And I'm at the stage where I could get a journal paper out, an entirely new one, by the end of the summer, based on these conference papers and talks. Things are coming together rapidly and opportunities abound: a perfect storm of career productivity.

So much for that break from my career, huh?

So now I find myself with an interesting dilemma. Part of me wants to capitalize on this career momentum while I can, because who knows how long it will last? And it won't be long before I go up for tenure, so sustaining this momentum is very important. But how much can I conceivably get done with a very young infant? And how true do I want to be to my original plan to take some time off and *enjoy* this time as a mother and not as a professor? Where should the balance be?

At least I now have something new and concrete to think about during all those middle-of-the-night feedings. It should be an interesting couple of weeks while I try to figure this all out.



Zuska said...

Jane, I don't know if you saw this post I wrote, "Fast-Track Mommy Manual" It's about a new book out about women balancing career and family. From what I read, it seems to me you ought to find ways to keep your career momentum going as much as possible, this is a critical time. But of course - that depends upon how important it is to you to be on the "fast-track", so to speak.

I don't have kids so I can't really give you advice from experience. A successful woman I much admired once told me that she ultimately came to realize that her children needed her presence much more as they aged, than they had when they were infants; she sometimes thought you ought to get a maternity leave when they hit adolescence! In the end, it may come down to sheer physical endurance, what your body and mind are capable of doing on the amount of sleep Baby Jane lets you have. Oh, I so much wish for you to keep that career momentum going AND have happy bonding with Baby Jane! I want you to have it all!

Anonymous said...

Dear Professor Jane,
Please, please use this time wisely to advance your career! If your husband's career is not at such an interesting junction, then get him to take over 80% of the child rearing duties while you get your work done. Remember, male professors expect their wives to do 95% of the child rearing duties while they get tenure, I'm sure it's not unreasonable for you to request your husband to do a larger share for 1/2 a year or so. Although, this is just my opinion based on observing my own sister going through a similar situation to you.

Erin said...

Jane -

I'm a graduate student who recently had a baby. I made the decision to put my daughter in daycare at an earlier age than I initially wanted to, and have not regretted that decision. As long as you are comfortable with the daycare, I've found it to be a wonderful experience. The first few days were very hard, but I found that she adjusted to her teacher very quickly and that I was much happier and enjoyed my time with her when I was able to work and have some alone time again.

Just a note that I don't think it's the end of the world if you don't stay home as much as you originally anticipated. I don't use the full 8 hours a day every day, but even dropping her off and working for 4-6 hours while she is in competant, professional hands is nice. And the price of daycare is a good motivation to actually work, too. (Despite the fact that I'm commenting on a blog here...)

Good luck with your decision. A lot depends on what you and the baby decide is right, but don't be afraid to try a daycare or nanny - you can always take her out again if it's not for you.

Anonymous said...

Jane, I wrote many of my best papers while The Child was sleeping, really keeps your mind focussed.

And I have taken children to conferences (gasp!) with me! First, I love to rattle people's cases by asking what the childcare arrangements at the conference are (Duh??). I plan myself, however, either taking a babysitter along (who could be hubby) or hiring one at the venue. Hotels have good lists of prospective babysitters, like the wives of waiters, etc.

I lug a ton of stuff, and have The Child and babysitter join us for meals. You get into some interesting conversations this way, BigShotProfessor comes over to da-da-da the little girl, and Momma jumps in asking about his newest paper :)

Giving a great paper while openly having a child with you will show the guys: yes, your brain does not wither when you have a child.

It is a lot to organize - fortunately, we are women and can get that all sorted out.

And article papers are better - they can just be written between feedings. You can sleep when Baby Jane is 21.....


Jane said...

Thanks for all of the advice, everyone! I have started thinking a bit more seriously about finding some day care sooner rather than later---even if it's just a sitter for one day a week. Mr. Jane is also being good about taking over more of the child care on weekends so that I can do work (or have some kind of baby-free time). It's tricky given that I'm interrupted every couple of hours for feedings, but when you think about it, that's not much different than during the academic year, when one has to try to squeeze productive work into half-hour chunks of time (between classes and such)!

And anonymous, we will be taking Baby Jane to a few conferences this year, so thanks for including your conference-attending tips! Very helpful.