Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Advancing breastfeeding and research 15 minutes at a time

Initially when I went back to work when my daughter was only 10 and a half weeks old I was only working 6-8 hours per week and didn't expect to get much done. However, as time progressed, I had expectations I would get back into the swing of things and really be back full time. Sure enough, here we are at 9 months and things are looking better for working. I now only pump twice a day, once before I leave the house in the morning and once in the later afternoon a couple hours after I visit Anya to nurse her. So this means I have two regular interruptions at work rather than the three I used to have. Finally, the kid is sleeping quasi-regularly and the fog is starting to clear a little bit. Also, I really feel like I am in the reward period of breastfeeding. The kid smiles back at me while nursing and in the night when something bothers her, sometimes nothing else will soothe her. I have a superpower that I can use and I am very grateful I have stuck it out to nine months.

However, one thing I have been battling is the higher level of chaos in our lives now. Some of this is directly related to the baby (pumping breaks, etc.) and some is indirectly related (we can’t stand commuting in DC traffic anymore with a baby, so we are moving into a new house). That calm time for doing research has not re-emerged. But does one need long, calm periods to do research? In exasperation I called up one of my friends recently (another currently-breastfeeding astrophysicist!) and she tipped me off to a great idea and resource. The idea is that sure, you need to put in the time, but if you make a little bit of solid progress each day that is better than nothing!

So what I have tried just recently is to join an academic writing group and to make sure that the first thing I do each day when I walk into the office is to write and/or do data analysis directly relevant to my paper, no matter what. I don't have a big problem with this as since the baby came, I have been taking pumping and nursing breaks no matter what. Breastfeeding is important and so is research. Everything else at the office, pretty much, can wait! So if the baby was up all night and I have 7 letters of recommendation due for a former student and I have a paper to review for a collaborator and I need to call the lender about the mortgage paperwork, I still start off with 15-40 minutes of writing and/or data analysis. I have to check in with my writing group that consists of other people at the “professor” rank (there is another group for grad students). Note that by including that dedicated time, I find even more time later in the day to work on my data analysis and writing. It helps me stay focused and work harder.

The writing group that I am using, FYI, is and I am just into my first session. The main thing I still need to conquer is working from home. I have to admit that I am struggling with this and am hoping that some other people will post their wisdom in the comment section. I am writing/researching very well when in my office but the distractions of home have been heavily amplified since I became a mother (that’s one reason why we’re moving closer to the office!). However, since I started this writing group, things have improved greatly in terms of my work efficiency.

So, these are two very important things can happen with dedicated time periods two to three times per work day: 15-40 minutes for pumping or breastfeeding or for writing a paper and doing data analysis. Both of them make me feel much better and greatly enhance the value of my day.