Academic Smothering. Part II.

5 November 2018, 1157 EST

To illustrate this post, I would love to put that cute stock photo of a woman dressed in a taupe formal suit holding an adorable baby in a diaper, but it is just wildly unrealistic. For starters, the baby is horribly underdressed and the suit would have been covered in drool/spit-up/mysterious orange food rests in mere seconds. FYI, stock photo editors, working on a computer with a baby on your lap is also not an option, because in the end there will be one, and it will not be your computer.

Guilt ridden and severely sleep deprived (and by “severely” I mean no sleep stretches longer than 3 hours at a time for the past year) you are back at work. You have secured a coveted day care place for your adorable baby boy who now has to navigate about 3-4 languages in his head because as an academic you often do not live in your home country and you drag your better foreign half with you wherever the job market takes you. You are excited to be back… until you realize that daycare is great, but it also means germs and your baby getting sick and you taking sick leave to make sure the little one recovers. Hello, sleep stretches of one hour and carrying the baby upright for most of the day because the stuffed nose would not let him breathe properly. While we are on the subject of carrying, why does nobody tell you that the best preparation for having babies is heavy-weight lifting? German pre-war housing is sure lovely until you have to carry a 9-kg baby, a diaper bag, a laptop and a couple of books on everyday nationalism 4 flights of stairs.

Guilt ridden and severely sleep deprived you are back at work and start teaching. No, the long scratch on my face and bite marks on my neck are not evidence of a date night with my partner, it’s my son discovering that he has grown 2 bottom teeth and a broken nail, thank you for asking. Also, sorry, for presenting barefoot, I underestimated my ability for wearing dress shoes after a year and a half of total sneaker domination. On the positive side, given that my students are pretty woke, I am mostly “Dr.” now and only occasionally get a Mrs. Maybe maternity leave has aged me: just a year ago I was a chipper “Miss” or even Lisa. Gone are the days of answering student emails at 23.46 on a Friday night or slapping together an ersatz presentation at 6 in the morning because a student suddenly dropped out at the last minute.  By the way, do I need to warn the students that I might to take off in the middle of the class in case the Panda group calls me to say that my son is not feeling well and I should pick him up really soon?

Guilt ridden and severely sleep deprived you are back at work and start doing research again. Good news, you are super productive now because in the couple of hours you have to crunch out the same amount of work that previously you could have stretched out for the entire day with an occasional to-read article still on your bed-side table (that is now torn apart and spat upon – sorry, Sahana Udupa!). Speaking of research: can we talk about the prohibitive nature of university colloquia scheduling? In most universities, they take place after school hours – and definitely after daycare opening hours. Option number one: taking the baby with you. That worked great with my search committee participation when one of the interviewees enjoyed the eau de diaper fragrance in the middle of his job talk. Option number two: partner who will have to rush from work before the Pandas retreat to the forest for the night and pick him up. Should work? Unless the little one wants mommy right now.

I am not saying academia and babies are not compatible, they can be. But you sure need a lot of support structures. And I am not just talking about proper shoes.