slowing down

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To say that we are stretched thin right now would be a massive understatement. This morning, after attending May’s baby book club, I dropped C. off at daycare and returned home to unclog a kitchen sink, unpack from a weekend trip to St. Louis, put away two loads of laundry, do another load of laundry, apply for two jobs I came across over the weekend, and pack. Not pack for a trip but for a move. Our move that is happening in roughly a week from now.

That’s just today. Everyday is similarly full of things to be done, some more urgently needed than others but never with an hour to rest or spare.

When C. started daycare last week, I thought it would open up this huge amount of time for me. That I would have time to tackle all of those chores and life to-do lists while still finding the time to finally read a book again or take a nap or go on a walk. Maybe even do some prenatal yoga to start my days. Somehow, that time between dropping her off and picking her up in the afternoon flies. Before I know it, I’m back in the car and heading to her school. I write another list of things to do for the next day and add that to the one from the day before.

The last few months were busy because I was teaching a course and taking care of our daughter full time. The only childcare I had was for the time actually spent in the classroom and one additional two-hour slot a week for some lesson planning and grading. I did most of my lesson prep and course-related work in the evenings or during C’s naptimes. Add to that first trimester nausea and fatigue and I was definitely feeling overextended. I thought that finishing the semester and starting daycare would take care of everything.

But it doesn’t. And the truth is that it’s as much my fault as it is external circumstances. Because I’m a prodigeous over-achiever and over-committer. I take on way too many projects at once and I have a hard time saying no to anything. I love a good challenge and thrive on being active and engaged with lots of things at once. I’m sure that’s why I was able to survive grad school – a time during which you’re expected to teach, be a student, conduct research, write, travel, submit grant proposals and fellowship applications, mentor undergrads, serve on committees, and oh yeah, if there’s any time left in there, have a personal life. Because these are your prime years, so go ahead and get married. Start a family. Just, you know, don’t get too behind on your comps.

Maybe it’s a lingering case of grad-student-itis, maybe it’s just my personality, but I need to slow down. And nothing’s a better reminder of that than a tired, achey, pregnant body.

I know things won’t slow down a whole lot with our new home once we move because we’ll still need to unpack and get settled and plant a vegetable garden and make the space our own. And I still want to lead monthly Kidical Mass rides and volunteer at the library. I’m also still applying for jobs that come up and are a good fit and that takes time. Job applications and cover letters take lots of time. So does maintaining a blog and answering reader emails (although this is a thousand times more enjoyable of a time committment than applying for work). And editing submissions for Flyover Feminism and answering those reader emails also takes time.

I’m not really sure where to cut back (cutting back is not my forte, taking on more is my forte) but I recognize that it needs to happen. I want to be able to enjoy this time before the baby comes and I need to find a more balanced rhythm to my days: one that includes reading a book, taking a walk, attending a prenatal yoga class, or simply sitting still with my eyes closed and my mind blank. I also want to enjoy this coming summer, the last one with our daughter as our only child. I want to be there, fully present and awake, savoring this time for what it is before the chaos and sleep-deprived fog of newborn parenting sets in. I want our weekends to be relaxed and sponteneous and free of urgently needing to be done chores.

So I’m slowing down. And I’m cutting back. And I’m intentionally doing less. I’m going against every grad school/academia-ingrained instinct and aiming lower. Much more lower.

I’m taking a deep breath today, looking around, seeing what really needs my attention and vowing to live each day with a little more room for unplanned life.

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{Bikes, a new baby, and the story of us.}
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10 Responses to slowing down

  1. Susan K says:

    I am a huge fan of this. Since I am now 36 weeks pregnant, my daily goal is to take one thing off my to-do list everyday (so far, this hasn’t gone that well, but it’s still a goal!) I think grad school socializes us to be super ambitious in every part of our lives possible. Being a good grad student wasn’t enough- we had to cook great meals, cultivate hobbies, have dinner/parties, etc. Nowadays, I’m realizing how important slowing down and relaxing can be!

    • S. says:

      Thanks, Susan, for chiming in with shared grad school experience! And I know what you mean about the dinner parties! Always made me feel so stressed out! :) They still do a but now but I think I have the whole cooking and having friends over thing a little more under control. But I remember wondering how people just knew how to entertain and had the time to do it so elaborately when I was just figuring out how to pop a frozen pizza into the over…

      S.

      • Susan K says:

        I remember when EVERY woman in our department started going to this one local yoga studio, and it super competitive-who had gone the most? Who could rock the crow? Who was going to do instructor certification. Nutters. There was a curling club, there was intermural soccer, there was the cross country sky class a bunch of us took. I mean, it was good competition, and our DSG always told us have “outside lives” but they were never quite outside of the grad school community gaze.
        (I still miss it!)

  2. Aleksandra says:

    I recognize this. If you find the way to cut back, please, please write another post on it. I suspect there may be more of us realizing it has to happen and not knowing how to achieve that goal (the choice of words not accidental). Good luck!

    • S. says:

      Thanks, Aleksandra, I will follow up with hopefully a post on having made progress on this. And I certainly would love to hear from others how they’re managing it.

      S.

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  3. Great post. I haven’t been to graduate school . . . but I am in the same boat when it comes to chronic piling of too many projects/jobs/obligations/etc. I had made some major choices between doing more and doing less this spring that were very difficult (I think I alluded to one in another comment a couple weeks ago). Anyway, as hard as it was for me, I am very thankful to have done it because the stress of it all . . . the manic pace . . . can get to be too much. So, best of luck. Adding pregnancy to the mix is definitely a reason to take it a bit easier, even if only for a little extra rest before 1 becomes 2!

  4. Bobbie says:

    If you’d like us to take C for a bit this weekend, we’d be happy to have her over! We don’t have any plans except for Kidical Mass and I know T would like to see her. We could probably take her for a little while in the evening too if you guys need more time to pack and such. And I know you won’t but please, please, please let me know if you want to change the venue of the baby shower, if you think it’s too much to do at your place! Same if you want more help as the day gets closer. I know it’s supposed to be a party for me and all, but I do not want you feeling overwhelmed on my behalf. Unfortunately getting into the second trimester didn’t make the fatigue magically go away for me, and I totally understand how it goes when you’ve got a pile of things on your to-do list. I still have those days where I crash at nap-time…today being one of them, and I’m still in my pjs!

    • S. says:

      Hey,

      I’m actually really looking forward to hosting the shower, that’s not at all a source of stress! But I might take you up on the offer to drop C off for a bit while we pack this weekend, that would be super! Let’s talk at KM on Saturday morning!

      Thank you!!

      S.

  5. Chrissy says:

    I know exactly how you feel – I also love to over commit myself and thrive when I have too many projects at once. Sometimes this feels like a gift, other times it feels like a curse. I have no suggestions for how to slow down, but I would be willing to read a how-to if you figure it out. ;)

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