Do you need a special kickoff post if you are starting a new blog? Do you need to explain yourself, what you plan to do, what to expect? Probably. I could write about why I am choosing to blog. I could write about myself and explain the snarky title of my blog. I could explain my background and my hopes for this particular project. But an accomplished writer (and blogger) friend of mine told me not to waste my time because I don’t even know what this project will be yet.
Instead, I’ll simply dive in to what’s going on at our house.
It’s Labor Day weekend and the summer is officially over. It came to a grinding halt over a week ago when the girls went back to their daycare/preschool arrangement full time, and I was thrown into a new job while in the throes of writing my doctoral dissertation. The summer actually went by in a complete flash. At the start of the summer, I thought it would drag on forever because after six years of full time graduate school and the addition of two incredible little women, for the first time, my husband and I had to scale back our full-time child-care arrangement in the summertime. Back in May, after I had defended my dissertation proposal, I was getting closer to the finish line, so we decided. I stay home with the kids all day Monday and every other afternoon, leaving me four mornings a week to work. I am most productive in the morning anyway, so I liked the arrangement. If they kids napped (even half the time), I could conceivably work on projects around the house during naptime, leaving evenings for more academic work if necessary. But I was worried that I would fall behind, get discouraged, or worse, resent our arrangement (and, in turn, my husband).
Looking back, the kids were incredible. They were champion nappers (even if they woke up in grumpy moods) and they were up for anything (and flexible when plans got rained out or play dates fell through). The summer was full of personal successes (managing both kids at the pool, taking them to the farm, the library, wherever) and a few challenges (carrying both children—albeit one strapped to my back—in the middle of a fiery tantrum at the public library). We met some new parents and their children, fell into and out of routines, and had a mostly fun summer. When I was feeling slightly panicky about staying on task and on track for my own work, I would look at their little faces and think about how luck I am to have this time with them. Many other mothers I know would gladly trade positions.
It is just this issue—flexible work time and work/life balance—that has been on my mind as I settle back into a more predictable routine. Since I have been in graduate school, I have had a flexible schedule and that schedule has been a blessing and a curse. Graduate school, much like freelancing, demands few face time commitments once you are past the coursework phase. The rest of the work is largely self-directed. Not having a brick and mortar office or the expectation of a standard workday might be liberating to some (and most of the time, it is). In this way, the flexible schedule is a blessing. But a full summer of reporting to oneself, keeping oneself focused and productive, and giving oneself time off for good behavior is a curse as well. Most days I would work while my girls slept in the afternoon. I would also neglect every dirty dish in the sink and the wet swimsuits at the bottom of the pool bag and the laundry piling up. I could not count this summer as a productive household summer—that’s for sure.
I was sad to bring them back to their preschool where they will now spend most of their week while I work. I never thought I would be conflicted about this arrangement. I am not alone in having re-evaluated my professional life or my professional goals. Two-thirds of working mothers say they would prefer to work part-time. One mom I met this summer told me she thought she was “at her best” when she was working. Work (in her case as a teacher) gave her some balance, time away from her house, and the ability to contribute financially to the household. The allure of the part-time schedule is elusive because of working moms, close to the ¾ of them are working full time.
With the start of this new semester, I am looking forward to some extra space to think and write and to getting settled in a new position while I finish my dissertation work. I also hope this blog becomes an outlet for my non-dissertation but still sociological musings. It is too soon to tell.