So I could use some advice.
I had to start working this week. This feels far, far too soon. To be fair, working for me involves grading, reading, researching, writing, revising, and prepping from home, with only a few hours of teaching when I have to be away. I won’t teach for the first post-Bram time until next Tuesday night, but I’m behind on grading, reading, and prepping, I’m not sure I even remember my dissertation topic, and I’m up against a fellowship application deadline. So it’s time.
Until I actually started working yesterday, the thought of pulling my attention away from my family – of putting it on anything other than J and B – made me feel vaguely nauseated. When a dear friend came over when Bram was about four days old, and she and J started discussing queer theory in relationship to Jeanette Winterson’s Written on the Body (a text my students read last week), I had to leave the room because I couldn’t even follow their conversation. This is my field, folks, but I felt like that part of me had been shut off, and I wondered if it might never come on again. “What other careers might I be good at?,” I asked myself all last week. “If I never get this back, what else might I do with my life?” Though I didn’t come up with any alternatives, the thought of leaving academia wasn’t upsetting.
When I finally forced myself to start reading yesterday, however, I found the routine of it surprisingly comforting. Gather coffee, a glass a water, the book, a pen, and a big blanket. Oh, I know how to do this! Unlike skin-to-skin with a mysterious new person, near-hourly diaper changes, and learning how to use my baby carrier, these tasks were familiar. The slow paragraph-by-paragraph read, taking the time to mark passages that might be useful in the classroom, as well as those important to the dissertation – there’s muscle memory there. I was pleasantly surprised to find that I didn’t mind working. I even liked knowing that while I read, my son was sleeping in the next room or nursing with his mum. It felt a little like coming home from a much-planned, deeply-desired vacation, only the vacation was still upstairs, just waiting for me.
But here’s the tricky part. My very meager goals for yesterday were to read fifty pages of J.M. Coetzee’s Waiting for the Barbarians (which is a part of my third chapter, and which I’m teaching next Tuesday) and to do one set of revisions on my fellowship application. What I managed, however, was about eighteen pages of Waiting. And nothing else. That’s it. And I came back to it about a dozen times, so I don’t even know how this is possible.
So my question to you is this: Do you have any suggestions for how I might begin to achieve a work/life balance, working from home, with a newborn I’m madly in love with? Any and all suggestions are welcome. Thanks in advance; I’ll reward you with sweet Bram photographs if you help me. :)
*** Good luck to the mamas over at Baby Mama(s) Drama! We’re holding you in our thoughts as you prepare to meet your sweet, sweet son, and we can’t wait to hear that you’re all together, healthy, and happy! ***