It’s taken me quite a while to understand how having children really changes your life and forces you to make choices about your priorities. Since today is Mother’s Day, I thought it would be a good time to share some of the ways I have found some sort of work-life balance.
1. I have mastered the art of the 10 minute cleanup. At the end of the day I set the stove timer for 10 minutes and clean as much as I can. Sometimes this motivates me to keep going and other times I get half the toys in a basket and the dishes washed.
2. I continue to negotiate balance. Some weeks I have a lot of work commitments and some weeks it’s a little slower. Learning to anticipate the ebb and flow and accept it has been really key for me. For example, last week I had a presentation to prepare for, a teaching job application to submit, a training session at the hospital, and work to do for my supervisor. It was a busy week and I ended up taking a few days off from the gym. Big deal. Got back to it the next day and life goes on. This doesn’t mean I’m always happy. Sometimes it is very frustrating when you can’t do everything that you wanted to do. For me, acceptance is a helpful way forward.
3. Unless I am going to be teaching, presenting, or meeting someone important, I don’t wear fancy clothes or do my hair. Maybe this sounds silly but getting ready in the morning takes time and effort and I would rather have my hair in a bun and spend some quality time with my son in the morning than fuss with a hair straightener and panty hose. If you spend thirty minutes a day getting ready that adds up to 2 ½ hours per week! This doesn’t mean I’m a total slob. I draw the line at tank tops and yoga pants (unless I am writing at home, in which case it’s pretty much guaranteed that I am wearing workout clothes). I also don’t own a lot of clothes which means fewer choices but that’s sometimes a good thing.
4. I prioritize fitness and health. Recreation and leisure time is really important to me so our entertainment is playing at the park, going swimming, etc. I also plan healthy meals and cook at home. We have a lot of fun together, spend time outside, and I find myself refreshed for the week ahead.
5. I have amazing support. It’s not easy to be a single parent while working on a doctorate and building an academic career. If I want to go to a conference or attend a workshop I need to find someone to look after my son while I go. I can’t just go to Toronto for the day or stay late on campus. Thankfully, I have found an amazing daycare and many friends and family members have helped me out when I need some help. I have also learned that I need to be more selective about my commitments. While I would love to go to everything and be part of many more committees and professional groups, I can’t do it all.
6. I remember why I am doing this. The reason I am pursing an academic career in nursing is to help create positive changes in health care and ultimately in people’s lives. I envision a health care system where quality of life and preventative health care is valued. I could go on about this but my point is that I am very fortunate to be doing my PhD with world-renown scholars in my discipline. Sure, I want to keep publishing and yes, I will literally jump for joy if I ever do receive an elusive CIHR grant, but at the end of the day, the impact that I have through the students that I teach and the research work that I do is the end goal. Publications, presentations, and grants are all helpful, but the way I see it, if you focus on doing work that matters and doing it well, those other things will come.
There is time to write and play trains, but the time to play trains is rather short, whereas there will always be another paper to write. Happy Mother’s Day everyone!