I spent the fall semester on maternity leave. My daughter arrived in August, a new and wondrous source of joy in my life. I needed weeks to recover physically from the stresses of childbirth, and months to figure out what my life looks like with another little person in it. The first few times the three of us (my baby, my husband and I) left the house, it felt like an endeavor. The first time I took Sweet Pea out on my own was a monumental challenge. With time and practice, it’s all gotten easier. You can get used to almost anything if you do it enough – like wake up in the middle of the night every night for months.
I stopped my tenure clock and I took my leave, but my job didn’t actually stop. Students still needed recommendations. The final report for my summer research was still due. Grant proposal deadlines still came and went. I didn’t start teaching again until January, but many other things couldn’t get pushed back or put on hold.
I wanted to remain a part of the campus community, so I attended the student seminars, baby in tow. I was nervous the first time, but after one uneventful evening, I decided not to care anymore. Sweet Pea is a pretty happy, content baby, but even if she had fussed, I think I still would have stayed. We were a package deal.
Right before the Spring semester began, we were able to get Sweet Pea into a daycare very close to my work. I’m able to walk over and nurse her on my lunch break. When I have a lunchtime meeting, I plan to leave early so I can dash off and feed her before my afternoon classes begin. Some days I have fed her instead of myself. I realize I have not been very good at taking care of myself lately.
How often have I heard “I don’t know how she does it”? Well I can tell you now, I don’t really know how I do it, either. One foot in front of another is my best guess. I plan more than before because I have to. Even something as quick and simple as a few photocopies takes forethought. If I need copies on Wednesday afternoon, I have to make them Wednesday morning, or better yet, sometime Monday or Tuesday. Once I get to work, there are no minutes to spare.
I got an Apple Watch for Valentine’s Day. I was skeptical of the need for a “Breathe” app – it’s supposed to encourage minutes of mindfulness throughout the day. But it turns out that I haven’t been breathing. I haven’t stopped, haven’t taken down-time, haven’t had idle time. I’ve been scrambling since mid-January, and I’m exhausted.
This morning it poured. It rained so hard I couldn’t listen to the radio or my podcasts like I usually do. All I could hear was the rain and my wipers pushing the downpour out of my way. Sweet Pea fell asleep in her car seat, and I had almost 30 minutes of quiet time. My brain, boosted by a decent night’s sleep, danced from thought to thought making connections, and digging up memories, and tickling out new ideas. I had three new teaching ideas and a potential research question when I got to work, not to mention all of these words tumbling over each other, eager to get out.
An idle mind is a playground, Devil’s or otherwise. And I see now, stopping to take that much-needed breath, that I haven’t been idle enough.