Thursday, March 27, 2014

I'm a campus alien

Even though on maternity leave I drop by uni once in a while to meet with my students or some colleagues. Sometimes I have to take the LittleOne with me to not be ordered back home after half an hour because he decides that he's suddenly very hungry. It's quite easy to get around campus with a pram because there are elevators and ramps everywhere you need them. But walking over campus with a pram in the middle of semester is the strangest thing!  Because I'm the only one - so there is a lot of staring. I never have realized that there are no people with prams (as I think about it: not many people in wheelchairs either) on our campus. Occasionally you can see someone with young kids and on very hot days there are people with babies enjoying the AC cooled buildings. But they are obviously not there for work or study. In my home country it is very common to see students with their babies on campus and even in lectures. But here: nothing! And it's certainly not because all the babies are in day care - it's very hard to get a place in day care, even in the universities own places. Students just don't seem to have kids. Or maybe they have family around to take care of them? On the other hand: paying more than 10k per year for studying is a very compelling argument to delay the family business until after the degree.

Sunday, March 16, 2014

the newborn-grant writing combination

I've been quiet here for a few weeks now as I've been busy sorting out my new life as a mom-scientist. Since my LittleOne was born my life has been up side down - just as everybody with more experience in parenting tells you beforehand. In the first few weeks there was a lot of getting to know each other and trying to sort out our communications. Or better: me trying to understand what the LittleOne wants to tell me. This is a special time and I'm happy that I can stay at home and focus on it - learn and enjoy.
However, science never stops and so don't the projects that were still on my table when I started maternity leave. It would be good to continue working on all of them to avoid the scary gaps in my CV. But, honestly, most of them don't feel important enough at the moment to give them any attention.
However, there is the one big project that needs to be finished as it will determine if and when the whole family can transfer back to Europe. I've been writing on a big grant application since half a year now and the original plan was to finish it before the family business starts. Obviously, I haven't! And as every month later handed in means another month closer to the expiration of our visa and the finalization of my current funding, there is a bit of pressure to get this monster off my desk.
InBabyattachmode has described it spot on: the secret words are "naptime science". While I was pretty bad in writing when tired beforehand, I feel that now I can get a decent amount of stuff done while LittleOne is asleep (and I should be asleep, too). I quickly realized that more than one task per day is impossible to do. So I give myself one chapter per day to work on, one set of tables or graphs and I sit down to work on it as soon as my son closes his eyes or goes for a walk with his Dad. It's great to see the tiny progress steps and by now my application is in pretty good shape, even though I will need another couple of weeks to finalize it - at least that is what I hope. I haven't been able to work on the proposal every day, which gave me a very hard time in beginning and I was really stressing out about not being able to ever finish this proposal. Mostly these breaks were because of all the 500 medical check-ups babies have to go through, which means hours and hours spend in doctors waiting rooms. Last time I took my laptop with me to continue working while waiting - and then we didn't have to wait for more than 10 minutes. Must be something about the laptop-vibes, I guess.
It really is a game of patience and learning not to freak out if something can not be done as planned. Before LittleOne arrived we thought about how we can organize our little family beforehand, but decided at some point to just wing it. Because who knows what kind of character our son would be, how demanding or how relaxed and on what schedule he would run. Up to now it seems it was a good decision not to stress out too much beforehand, because now we have to adapt to his rhythm anyways - which might change from one day to the other - and we have to fit in our work and our sleep somehow.
I've already decided that when this proposal is off my desk I will spend at least a full week where I will always take a nap when LittleOne takes a nap and leave the science out of it for a few days. Looking forward to it!