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Mama’s day, PhD work and being grounded

I always wanted to work part-time after having kids. However in my twenties that was just a professional target: to become good enough to be hired to do interesting things even if I don’t dedicate full working week to my work. I never knew how much having a day at home with Alexander would mean to me in practice.

Like now. Finishing my PhD is the worst ever experience of unbalancing work-life balance. As I wrote before, I don’t mind and even appreciate professional thinking and activities outside of work hours, and think of holidays and weekends as a time when I don’t have to work, but may very well do it if I feel like it.

Well, at the current stage my PhD is mainly what I have to do: I focus on finishing it, cutting off most of the fun (well, I do a few fun things like going to IR9 and Berlin6 recently, or occasionally reading a few blog posts or papers that have nothing to do with what I have to write). The worst thing is that PhD I-have-to-work spills off to evenings and weekends. Not that I work all my free time, I make sure I do things with family and friends, but it feels that I work all the time when I’m not busy with something necessary or social (I read a paper a while ago discussing a nice concept of pottering – this is exactly what I miss right now).

And then comes a day like yesterday. I went swimming with Alexander and admired how good he was (usually he goes with Robert, so I only get to hear the stories), sleept when he did, recovering from travel and writing induced sleep deprivation, was outside feeding animals, playing with sand, collecting acorns, getting warm in a shopping centre and then cycling to another park when it was already dark to wake up sleeping sheep to give them acorns and to look at Luna (one of a few Russian words he says) between the trees… We made pancakes together and played with the Lego train (again!), read books from my own childhood, called papa to say good night and looked at the moon once again before going to bed…

The whole day I kept feeling how precious and important it was to be like that, grounded in everyday details, feeling life as an experience, and not as the time ticking towards the moment the next chapter is due. When I wanted to work less to spend time with hypothetical kids I didn’t even come close realising how important that would be for staying sane.

{ 3 comments… add one }
  • henriette weber November 14, 2008, 14:21

    I think that having kids is the most grounding experience you can have. Sometimes I just need to hang out and focus on my daughter for a whole day. It’s very energizing and I think it gives me a better work/life balance for sure.

    Anyway I just know that your PhD is going to be great – and you will be able to work halftime as well =) you deserve it – you’re brilliant =)

  • Martin Dugage November 24, 2008, 23:51

    “I didn’t even come close realising how important that would be for staying sane.”
    How true.
    I just read you post to Nathalie. It makes me think of a chapter of Citadel of Antoine de Saint-Exupery, where he writes about the magic of Christmas with little children: “And you are overjoyed at a certain color of eyes that becomes darker…” (it sounds better in French)
    Nothing is more important than the eyes of a little child.

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