Saturday, November 21, 2015

A day in the life

It occurred to me I might be able to dictate as long as Bluetooth is turned off, so I'll try that today. I wanted to walk you through a day in my life so you can understand why it feels like I'm still working full time even though I'm only working 25 hours/week.

My first alarm goes off at 6 AM.  I roll over and nurse the baby one last time while he's still mostly asleep. My next alarm goes off at 6:30, and at that point I'm actually supposed to get out of bed. If I'm lucky, I can sneak away while he's still asleep; if I'm not, either I stay in bed a little longer or he wakes up with me, which makes the whole morning routine a bit more difficult. I take the dog out and feed him, then make some coffee and check my phone for emails and Facebook messages and whatnot. I need that time to wake my brain up. 

By 7 AM, it's time to wake up my Big Guy to start getting ready for school. He, like his mother, also has ADHD (or at least, we strongly suspect it and have just started the process of getting him diagnosed), so mornings are very challenging for both of us. I drag him out of bed and try to get him to choose what he wants for breakfast, and eventually he eats but that takes at least half an hour. So around 7:30, we begin the fight to get him to pick out clothes and get dressed, which has gotten even harder lately because he's not liking school anymore. He's been going to a really nice Montessori school for the last year and a half, but this year, he has a new teacher who is much more strict and less loving than last year's teacher, so he's really struggling and not enjoying it. At least that makes it a little bit less painful that we now have to transfer him into a public pre-K program because of my pay cut. But in the meantime, he still hates school and doesn't want to go, so therefore he doesn't cooperate with getting dressed, so I have to assist every step of the way and delay getting myself ready until he leaves with his dad at 8:20. 

At that point I can get into the shower and start getting myself ready. But of course, I'm still not just getting myself ready, I have to get the baby ready. That means washing bottle and pump parts if hubby hasn't done it the night before, which he was getting into a good habit of helping with while I put the kids to bed, but then he got sick last week and he hasn't helped since. I also use cloth diapers, for more cost savings, so I wash them the night before and put them in the dryer first thing in the morning, so by this time they're dry, and I need to pack the diaper bag, prepare bottles with the milk I pumped yesterday, and pack up everything I need to pump at work today. 

So some days, like today, I get out the door around 10 AM. That's a 4 hour morning routine, mind you. So I drop the baby off, get to work around 11, work for an hour or so, then take a half hour lunch and pumping break. I'm lucky that I only have to pump once a day to make nearly enough milk for Little Bit to drink the next day, and I've got a nice freezer stash saved up from when I was way over-producing early on. I get back to work for a few more hours and leave between 4 and 4:30.  

The commute home usually takes longer than the commute in, so I pick the boys up between 5:30 and 6.  We get home, and I start cooking dinner. If we're lucky I have dinner on the table by 6:30 or 7, we eat, and it's time to start the bedtime routine for Big Guy immediately after cleaning up from dinner. He only gets a bath if we get to the bedtime routine before 7 PM, and you don't want to know how rare that is. In theory, it's lights out and I come upstairs by 8 PM, but sometimes that's as late as 9 PM.  I change the baby for bed, nurse him to sleep, and crash myself pretty much immediately. Yes, I need a lot of sleep...8 to 9 hours, 10 would be nice...I've never been one who can get away with less sleep. 

So hopefully you can see how the whole day is filled with just getting ready for work, school, and day care, being at work, school, and day care, and getting ready for bed and the next day. Weekends are a little bit less rush rush rush, but there's still constantly stuff to do. There's no time during the week to do the little maintenance cleaning tasks that would make keeping the household in order more of a doable feat, so the weekends are spent on laundry and cleaning and dishes and going through the mail and whatever...all the usual household crap just fills up all the time. 

Once in a while, I try to reach out and make friends, but then I don't have time to spend with them and maintain and build a friendship, so they tend to fizzle out except for on Facebook, like all my long-distance friendships. I'd like to go to church on Sundays, and some weeks that happens, some weeks it doesn't. I'd love to have time for volunteering and stuff like that...that was always a value that was instilled in me growing up, but there's just no time for anything.  No hobbies...I used to like to knit, and I was working on a baby blanket for Big Guy when I was pregnant with him, but it's still only about 2 feet long. I am determined to eventually catch up to how tall he is, like by the time he goes away to college, and send it with him. Little Bit will be lucky if he gets a piece of fleece fabric cut directly off of the fabric store bolt and not even hemmed at the edges.

I don't know what else to say.  I'm feeling very defeated lately. Maybe I can try to come up with a way to make this more productive... Does anyone know of any opportunities for part time data analysis work from home? I am a good Matlab programmer, and I'm sure I could figure out any other kind of coding people wanted. I'd really like to get into a different field where I know they must need specialized data analysts.  I don't want to be the PI of the lab or anything. The field I had in mind also has a closer relevance to clinical work, which appeals to me in some ways, but I'm afraid I would need to do another postdoc to get the skills needed to do that work even though it is closely related to what I'm currently doing. Maybe I could get away with applying directly for a job doing that kind of analysis? 

Oh I forgot to mention earlier, one of the reasons the morning routine gets so stretched out, aside from dealing with ADHD me and ADHD Big Guy, is nursing the baby. Little Bit likes to decide it's time to nurse while I'm in the middle of getting ready, and then fall asleep and stay latched on for like an hour. If I was ready, I would just take him to daycare and let her give him a bottle, but I can't just let him cry. I could unlatch him after 10 minutes or after he falls sleep or whatever, but I'm a sucker for a sleep-nursing baby, and I don't believe in rushing him. 

I just feel like I should be able to do this...I should be able to take care of my family's needs, my personal needs to maintain my sanity...because I am getting depressed over this. I feel like I'm kind of stuck.  How am I supposed to find a new job when I don't have a second of spare time to spend on looking for one?  Yeah, maybe I can look for jobs on my phone while I'm nursing the baby, but that's not exactly conducive to actually preparing a good targeted cover letter and resume. 

...I babbled on for a while after this, but it got repetitive, and I got sick of editing it. So, here you go. I wrote this a week or more ago, but I'm posting as it is, to capture the feelings then, even though they've evolved some in the meantime. 

Tuesday, November 3, 2015

Part time postdoc

Okay, take 3 at this blogging thing. I'm going to try dictating what I want my blog to say during my hour-long commute each day, and then editing it later. My hope is that will allow me more time to do this on a regular basis. I'm feeling the need to vent again, as it's been another two years since my last post. I'm not sure how the dictation is going to work, but I'll edit when I get home today and see how it goes. So what I need to vent about now is...wait, I should reintroduce myself. I now have a PhD, earned in May of 2014, and I very shortly got pregnant with my second son, who was born in March 2015. So my Big Guy is 5, my Little Bit is 8 months, and I am a postdoc in the same lab where I got my PhD. 

Unfortunately, as I mentioned, I have an hour plus commute each way, so given the hours that childcare is available, minus the commuting time, I am unable to work full-time. I decided I am able to reliably work about 25 hours a week, and my boss has decided that he is no longer willing to pay me as a full-time postdoc. I'm in the process of converting to a part-time position, but it's still unclear whether I will be moving up to the faculty level equivalent that postdocs are usually promoted to after they've been at the University too long, or demoted to a senior technician / staff position.  The main differences are in leave tracking and benefits - pay is flexible enough on either end to keep me at approximately the same base salary. I tried to convince my PI that I was worth more on an hourly basis, but my lack of productivity as measured by first author papers (I have zero)...ah...well, this just didn't go over well. 

Honestly, I'm pissed. I'm furious that I have earned a PhD and developed a very unique and strong skill set in data analysis and other hard to replace things, and I'm not even worth enough money to support my family on the number of hours that I can legitimately work within the hours that I have childcare and an hour commute. This is insane! I need to start looking for another job, maybe in another lab, but negotiating for a better paid part-time position from the get-go, or maybe in industry. I am definitely willing to relocate, and maybe I can avoid living an hour away from wherever I work this time. 

I don't even know what to say. I don't know how to put into words how angry and disappointed and sad I am right now. Not just at my boss personally (I feel very undervalued by him right now), but it's also the institutional structure of academia that makes it impossible for him to pay me a reasonable amount...well, not impossible, but...hard. It's ridiculous that I can have the [dictation interpreted "Tryon halogen"...WTF was I trying to say there??] and unique skill set, and I can't establish the worklife balance that I need to keep myself sane and my family cared for, emotionally, physically, and financially. Something is broken. It sucks because I'm taking a $15,000 pay cut in order to work part time, but it still feels like full time because it's still a commitment from first thing in the morning to last thing at night, and I have no free time whatsoever. I can't even maintain my household. 

Unfortunately, this driving and dictating thing is not working very well because it stops every few seconds, and I have to look at my phone to figure out where it stopped and press the microphone button again, and then the podcast I was listening to restarts itself even though I closed the program. So I'm just going to edit this post and put it up, and we'll see if I ever get around to writing anymore because I have no time. 

Monday, December 9, 2013

Monday morning dread

I'm laying in bed awake at 4 am, dreading going in to the lab today because I've fallen behind schedule again and don't want to admit it to my PI, who will be expecting an update.  It's been about 3 weeks since we last spoke, and I've only managed to write about 450 words in that time. I'm not sure why this always seems to happen...whether it's my neuroses or his added pressure or some combination thereof, but I feel the need to make excuses for my lack of progress. I haven't been depressed, per's more of an anxiety about moving into uncharted territory:  I've never written a discussion section before. And lots of personal stressors have had me completely distracted and unable to focus on my maybe I'll just blame the ADD...but then why don't the anxiolytics and stimulants help?  I even tried Hemingway's advice to "write drunk; edit sober" a couple of days last week...that's how I managed the 450 words I did get drafted.  So not only am I ashamed of this lack of progress, I'm also doubting whether I'll be able to finish the rest of my dissertation by the late-January deadline. Hence, my desire to hide under the covers and stay in denial & avoidance mode. :-(

Friday, December 6, 2013

Brainstorming blog topics

I'm having an off day, meaning absolutely no productivity. I'm still in the throes of dissertation writing, and it's still miserable. Every day I go through this internal struggle, never wanting to get started, but getting more and more discouraged as the day drags on. As I mentioned in the last post, I have a billion thoughts running through my head, distracting me, and stressing me out, and I need an outlet. I don't even know where to start, so I thought I'd just brainstorm some of the various topics I'd like to explore via this blog. I hope it will help me simply put the deliberations on hold for a while, knowing I'll come back to them later, but I also hope it will give anyone who stumbles across the blog a reason to stay, if they're interested in my thoughts on any of these. Ideally, once I do write a post on each one, I'll come back and add a link to this post.

  • my struggles with adult ADD / ADHD, depression, and anxiety
  • productivity skills I've learned, and resources for others struggling to complete their dissertations
  • the life-altering career decisions that will have to be made soon
  • trying to live a value-driven, meaningful life
  • achieving some semblance of work-life balance
  • self-improvement and family-improvement
  • marriage, compromise, and co-parenting
  • my science-minded opinions on birth, parenting, education, and anything else I feel like exploring
I'm pretty sure most of these will merit more than just one post, so maybe they'll end up being content tags instead, but anyway, hopefully that gives you a vague idea of where I'm going with this blog revival.  If you're interested in anything in particular, feel free to ask in the comments, and I'll try to get to that topic sooner.

Tuesday, December 3, 2013 come back from the dead

Sorry about going dark for so turns out having a kid is very time-consuming! ;-P My precious first-born is now 3 years old, and I'm anxiously awaiting my PhD defense this coming March, after which hubby and I will start trying for #2! This has been a long, hard slog, which I will probably go back and share some of the stories from, but the reason I've come back to restart the blog is that, similar to when I was debating on having the first child, I have a thousand and one thoughts running through my head, trying to decide what to do next. More later.

Wednesday, July 7, 2010

32 weeks, 5 days

I was reminded yesterday that it has been a ridiculously long time since I posted, again. I'm in my 8th month of pregnancy and still doing well...starting to get a bit more uncomfortable, from the baby riding up against my ribs and causing reflux, to the weight of this big baby causing pain in my pubic bone and the summer heat causing swollen feet and ankles. But overall, the pregnancy has really been treating me well. No complications - my "low-lying placenta" resolved itself completely and the baby has been head-down since my 25-week ultrasound. Hubby and I took a 12-hour roadtrip a couple weeks ago to go back to our hometown for 2 weddings and 2 baby showers, and I had no trouble with that either. We got a ton of loot from the showers - so much that we had to return a bunch of bulky items to re-buy when we got home! So with all that taken care of and a couple more people to take up on their offers of hand-me-downs, I think we're pretty set for gear and clothes. Time to start stocking up on diapers and wipes, I guess.

The more worrying thing that I have yet to figure out is childcare...I've really been dragging my feet on this because it's very anxiety-provoking to be trying to find the best possible person/place to care for your precious infant but to be restricted to such a ridiculously minuscule budget. So far, I've surveyed the field online, finding a dozen or so home childcares and centers that are on the lowest end of the price range, since that's all we can afford. I mean to call the other NAFCC accredited home childcares in the area to check their prices since they usually don't have websites...but somewhere between web/email and phone/in-person-visit is where I hit my brick wall and start making excuses like needing to take time off work to make calls and visits during business hours, etc. Any advice on getting over that anxiety and getting my ass in gear would be much appreciated!

I have a similar problem at work... Things have been going fine, generally. I've pretty much wrapped up the experiments I wanted to complete before I got too incapacitated by my big belly, and my undergrad assistant is back from a 6-week summer trip so she can finish up the rest of it without much assistance from me. The problem now is I have 2 papers I'm supposed to be writing (one of which I tried to get out of, but my committee "strongly encouraged" it, so 5 against 1 wins). There's still a load of histology and data analysis to wade through on both, in addition to the actual writing, so I just don't exactly know where to start. I've always had anxiety about starting writing projects, so this is nothing new, and probably partially explains why I'm beginning my 6th year of graduate school with no publications to my name (but there is a 4th author paper to be submitted any day now, whoohoo!). The other part of that equation is the fact that I chose a wildly ambitious project involving setting up a new technique in a lab (and in fact, at a school) where no one had done it before. Crazy naive me...but really, I wouldn't trade it for a thing. I learned so much more through that painstaking process of troubleshooting every little thing than I ever would have if someone had just handed down all the protocols and tips and tricks of the trade. Well anyway...speaking of work, I better get to it!

ETA: Oh! I completely forgot to mention a very important point! My project (and in fact, the whole lab) is now completely funded! We got both R-01s renewed, plus I had that other foundation grant I mentioned last fall, so we're all covered now. Whoohoo!

Monday, May 10, 2010

24 weeks, 3 days

I'm not sure I have anything particularly interesting to report on today, but I figured I'd pop in and say hi. I'm still feeling pretty only complaint is some hip pain when I wake up in the morning, but it's different from whatever I was experiencing earlier in pregnancy. It doesn't seem to be related to pressure, since it only shows up in my right hip, regardless of which side I spent more time on overnight. It's not alleviated by sleeping with a pillow between my knees or under my right hip. But it's not that bad and tends to go away eventually after I've been up and around for a few hours, so things could certainly be worse.

Hubby still hates Bradley class...a little more each week, in fact. He thinks the instructor is a sadist for enjoying seeing the dads pushed out of their comfort zones. But he's still suffering through because he knows it's important to me. He's a sweetheart like that. He also demonstrated his sweetness with the surprise I found on my nightstand yesterday morning. It said "Happy Mother's Day, You're Almost There" and had one of our 20-week ultrasound pictures with a bubble coming out of the baby's mouth, saying "You gestate great, Mommy. I love you." :-)