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  • vikki-houlden

When I thought I was learning to juggle before...

Updated: Jul 4

Well, its been a (bit more than) a minute, hasn't it?!

A few months after my last post, where I bemoaned the constant juggle of teaching, programme management, lecturing, admin, training, and blogging- I fell pregnant. And now the word 'juggle' has taken on an entirely new level of intensity that I definitely absolutely and emphatically have no real idea how to attain just yet.

After several months of feeling queasy while teaching, sneaking afternoon naps on the sofa, and an increasing propensity to take the lift rather than dragging my swelling feet (and belly) up the many flights of stairs to my office, I finished work in March 2023 and welcomed by baby boy a couple of weeks later.

The next, wonderful, year of baby classes, sleepless nights, and trying to submit an ESRC funding bid while simultaneously breastfeeding a two-month-old (literally- more on this in the next post!) flew by, and I returned to work in March this year filled with trepidation to be leaving my child at daycare, conflicted and guilty to be feeling ready to start finding a bit of 'me' again.

I've now been back at work for a little over three months, and I've only just remembered I have a website which was in need of updating, which tells you how well that's going. While maternity leave was relatively calm and unstructured, I now feel like I've be catapulted into a world of juggling and prioritising between home and work, all while battling the seemingly endless stream of nursery plagues. It's a constant game of catch-up that I can never quite get on top of.

If this is all sounding a bit negative- that's not my intention. Rather, I want to draw attention to the fact that while becoming a mother is absolutely the most delightful, empowering, and rewarding thing I've ever done, it's also the most exhausting. And just when I thought I'd mastered the art of exhaustion, I levelled up by trying to be a mother and an academic.

My new Research Assistant, who joined the lab in April '23, checking out some spring blossom.

The problem with trying to balance it all is that, when back at work, everything is the same as it was before- except nothing is the same. My priorities have changed, and my brain is always trying to do a million things at once. When I'm at home, I can sometimes switch off my 'work-brain' and focus on being mum. But at work, while I can try to deal with the tasks in front of me, I can never quite detach from the newly-activated Mum Mode that takes so much emotional energy and head space- meaning that, no matter how hard I try, I can never be fully 'at work' in the same way I was before. And maybe that's not a bad thing. Maybe it will make me better at prioritising work tasks to always be there for nursery pick-up. Maybe it will make me more empathetic. Maybe it will help me give grace to everyone who is trying to figure out their identity while keeping their head above water.

We need to acknowledge that juggling is hard- but it's probably worth it. (And I say that while simultaneously learning to actually juggle, as my husband can do it to much hilarity, and I don't want to risk losing Favourite Parent (c) status). While I'm loving trying figure out the balance, it will likely be an ongoing very very steep learning curve- and I'll try to remember to update this blog when I can!

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