I’ve been thinking a lot about work-life balance these days, partly because of all the commentary on Sheryl Sandberg’s Lean In and the work-centered perspective it puts forward. I’ve been writing about that some, too, possibly for sharing here, but that’s not what I want to get into today.
No, I’m pre-occupied by the extent to which my life currently hangs on the “life” side rather than having a more adequate balance of “life” with “work.” A bit of background: up until last summer, I’d been teaching at a small college (two courses per semester as an adjunct), as well as running an online digital library. Work-life balance felt pretty good. Professor Spouse and I were able to take turns taking care of our daughter, despite his full-time tenure-track position. He could come home early a couple of afternoons so that I could go in to teach or have office hours. Our daughter had preschool in the mornings and occasional afternoon sitters to fill in when we couldn’t work out our schedules. We both worked into the evenings after DD was in bed – not my favorite time for working, but necessary.
It all changed when Professor Spouse was offered an overseas fellowship for one semester, followed by a new job in a new city after that. Of course, we went, all three of us, for a fantastic time in Finland last fall. I continued my online work and picked up an online teaching gig. I started reading about career transitions and job searching, all from the comforts of Finnish coffeeshops and libraries. But the balance was shifting towards life, away from work. While in Finland, I got pregnant (intentionally), which changed the parameters of my job search somewhat.
We’ve been back in the States since January, in other words, for about three months. My only formal job has been the digital library, which is about a 1/4 time position. While I’m very glad of the employment and I enjoy the work, I’m starting to feel housebound. Three months without other active, out-of-the-house stuff to do is getting to me. (Note to self: even if I had roughly full-time employment based at home, I still think I’d miss seeing people). And yet, I’m pregnant. Six months pregnant! Which means I have about three months left until life changes yet again. It’s not exactly the best time to be looking for a job!
Perhaps because, with one daughter already, I know what those first couple of months of new motherhood are likely to be like, I feel like walls are closing in. The nights of interrupted sleep, the crying, the poopy diapers, the lack of ability to have pretty much any kind of conversation with the (very very small) person with whom I’ll spend most of my time: it’s all starting to come back to me. Granted, I love my first daughter, but my memories of her first few months are of feeling trapped inside the house by a screaming infant who only wanted to nurse. I just wanted to finish my dissertation so I could get a real tenure-track job and be back out in the world. It was a frustrating time.
With three months of pregnancy left, the stir-craziness that’s already built up from three months of living in a new place and not having an out-of-house job makes me grate against the further time at home that I know is coming. The last thing I want to do is to be confined to house and home. I know it won’t last, and that eventually I will find a job. I also know that, baby or no, it’s quite possible that it would take me equally long to find a job in this market without a pregnancy as with, and that I’d not be starting a new job until roughly the same time as after “maternity leave” anyways. However, the very biological fact of motherhood makes the situation feel that much more difficult. Hence all the informational interviews, networking, researching: the better, I hope, to search for a job in earnest once the baby and I are past that initial period of insanity. I know I also should start planning, now, for ways to get out of the house with baby, something I eventually started doing with DD#1, but ought to do sooner with DD#2.
What’s more, and possibly crazy, is that I have a job interview! Yes, you read that right! A real, live job interview. It’s for a part-time position at an organization that I think would be a good fit, since it ties into both my subject area interest and my libraries interest. Part-time would work well both now and longer-term as a second-time new mom. The job itself is very entry level, and by no means really uses the PhD. Yet I expect it would be a good way to pick up some new skills and to meet people in a field that interests me. There’s no way to hide that I’m pregnant, so I’ll be working on how to deal with that, too, as well as the “why do you want this job” stuff that comes up more routinely at an interview.
What would you do if you felt a bit stir-crazy and had three months left before even more stir-craziness kicks in? Is it crazy of me to go on an interview at this point? Would you temp or volunteer, or take a class?