A couple of months ago, I wrote a post about writing a dissertation as a stay-at-home mom. I get the question a lot: How do you do it? I’m not sure how to answer it, I mean, I just do it. The obvious answer is the Mr.‘s support. He brings home just enough salary for me to stay home and write with the kiddo. I’m incredibly lucky in that I don’t have to teach and it’s a travesty that so many of us burgeoning academics are left shit out of luck when “academia” doesn’t allow room for families. But that’s another post.
Anyway, I thought I’d open the door to a day in the life of a writing mama. I keep a pretty regular schedule which, for me, is the only way I accomplish anything. This is just what I do and I would love to hear what all you dissertating mamas do as well.
5:45–6:45AM: HELLO MOMMY! HELLO DADDY!
6:45AM: Get out of bed
7:01–8:15AM: Coffee, Rachel Maddow Show, hang out with the Mr., catch up on emails, read daily news, blogs, tweets
8:16–8:45AM: Get dressed for gym, pack snacks for Althea
8:46-11AM: Walk to the Y and drop Althea at childcare (SO AWESOME!), Kill myself on the treadmill for 40 minutes, then take Althea to open gym or the playground.
11:01–11:30AM: Head home and shower. Althea gets a snack and watches an episode or two of Maisy.
11:31–3:00PM (give or take 30 minutes): Althea naps, I work.
3:01–4:00PM: snacks, storytime, drawing, etc. She’s starting to play a lot by herself which buys me another half an hour of writing time.
4:01–5:00PM: Do dishes from the day, tidy, sporadically check email
5:01–6:30PM: Prepare and eat dinner or get takeout. The Mr. comes home.
6:31–7:30PM: Bathtime or playtime (depending on night)
7:31–8:00PM: Bedtime for Althea. It takes this long for diaper changes, finding favorite stuffed animals, and reading a bedtime story.
8:01PM-10:00PM: Have a beer and flop down on sofa. This involves lots of sighing. I usually spend a few minutes of this time organizing my work schedule for the next day.
I do this without fail Monday through Friday. It’s pretty fantastic because I get time with my kid and time with my husband. Work happens slowly but reliably so I keep a really nice momentum. For me, the key is routine routine routine. The much younger me would have hated this life, I thought in order to keep things interesting I had to be spontaneous. But I have a 30 pound perpetual motion machine of spontaneity, I don’t think I need to insert any more chaos into the equation.
The big secret lies in that 3.5 hour window of writing time. You might think that’s not enough. You might think that the only way to plan to write is to set aside entire 8–10 hour work days. But I learned that I really only have 3–4 hours of solid critical thinking time in a day. Some folks have a bit more, others less, but in talking with colleagues and from my own experience, I don’t think anyone can sit and generate new connections and ideas for 8 solid hours. I work in 25 minute bursts, take 5 minute breaks, and I manage to get remarkable amounts of work done when I focus my attention that way.
Before having my kid, I never had this kind of focus. I would spend days doing other stuff and bank my time for long 10–12 hour work days. 10 hours is a lot of time in theory, and I had fantasies about all of the amazing reading and writing I could get done if I just blocked out an entire day. But they were just that, fantasies. I can only critically think for up to 4 hours, the remaining 6–8 hours would inevitably fill with procrastination and guilt. So I guess when people ask how I write my dissertation with a kid, I should say, I don’t know how I ever wrote without her.