Are your children home on vacation from school? And you’re trying to keep an eye on your children, as well as make headway on your writing project?
How’s that working for you?
During the school year, most academics teach and try to write. Both teaching and writing are critical for an academic’s success and are important parts of the academic’s identity. The plan is that once summer comes, the writing takes priority.
But no matter how carefully and hopefully they have planned, more than one of my dissertation and writing clients say that once summer comes, they lose their work identity.
It’s difficult to deal with the reality of summer. You go into summer with those unspoken hopes and expectations that you’ll make significant progress toward your writing goals. Then before long you realize that it isn’t going to be the way you think it’s supposed to be.
You had thought that with no papers to grade or classes to prepare for that you’d have long, quiet afternoons, or at least a couple of hours a day with no interruptions, when you could read and, more importantly, write.
And the writing is not happening.
It’s emotionally stressful, enough so that you may find yourself waking in the night and having trouble turning off your mind and getting back to sleep.
And even though you want to be writing, you get such comments from other parents as, “Oh, you’re not working this summer?” Grrr…if only I could work, you think.
You need to write, and not only during those 15 minutes when you can hide in the bathroom or duck downstairs to the basement.
For years, I juggled teaching during the school year with being at home during the summer.
My fantasy was to have a summer cottage in Maine where I could go to write in the summer.
I was never going to have a real cottage for writing, but I needed to make a space for writing—a cottage, if you will—inside my house.
My kids were old enough to be on their own in the house for an hour or two, and so I put a sign on my office door that read “Mom is in Maine.”
My kids thought it was great, or at least some of the time they thought it was o.k. And my “Mom is in Maine” sign wasn’t as forbidding as the “Keep Out” sign that they occasionally used on their bedroom doors.
For the most part, my sign worked. I had to keep an ear open for any sort of hubbub, or alternately, when it was too quiet. But I made sure that my kids knew that this was not a one-time event, and that I expected everybody to work with me on this.
At least my daughter gave me her stamp of approval, including drawing pictures of light houses for me.
It wasn’t a solution, but it helped.
A client told me that she, too, had to be creative in order to write at home. The door to her home office is framed in clear glass. Her preschool-aged children would routinely outrun the family au pair and bolt for the office door, where they would peer through the glass in an attempt to see their mother. To block their view, their mother put black curtains over the glass. Kids are smart, and so they weren’t completely deceived. Occasionally, she would still hear their little voices, outside her door, saying, “I think she’s in there.”
All of these attempts to find a space and time to write remind me of a client’s great a-ha moment: “I found I could not write my dissertation at the dining room table.”
Have you decided that you can’t write your dissertation at the dining room table? Where do you go? How do you juggle writing and taking care of your kids?
I’d love to hear from you.
Nancy Whichard, Ph.D., PCC
Your International Dissertation Coach and Academic Career Coach
nancy @ nancywhichard.com