What to do on maternity leave from a PhD

I still feel utterly resentful that my former employer asked me for a lengthy work-related phone call 8 weeks after the birth of my first baby. In the fug of first time parenthood and sleep deprivation I felt obliged, but now it seems downright rude. So this time round I went into maternity leave determined to have a “clean break” and only float around the peripheries of the world of my PhD. But as it has turned out, it’s hard to break free! Not only because of the connected world we live in – Facebook and Twitter constantly updating me about literature, events, and so on, such is the nature of the people I follow – but also because, rather predictably, it’s impossible to simply switch off thinking about my thesis, especially as I am so used to fitting it around one baby anyway. Crucially, as it turns out, I don’t mind dipping in here and there!

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Baby 2 is now 16 weeks old. Baby 1 is three-and-a-half (so she keeps telling me). PhD gubbins I’ve completed in the last few weeks:

  • co-organising an event in Denmark for literary translators – i.e. liaising with the host-translator about speakers, programme, attendees, publicity, etc, and, rather importantly, submitting a funding application to cover all expenses
  • maintaining my role as coordinator for the online network of literary translators – for example, adding new members and passing on contact details to enable a meet-up during London Book Fair
  • keeping in the loop as a member of the organising committee for a day conference later this year in London (the conference takes place after I resume my studies)
  • sharing specific data about Danish publications in English following a request from my funders (simple enough to copy/paste that section of an existing spreadsheet)
  • final edits of my first chapter for publication following editors’ feedback – the chapter is based on my presentation at a conference early last year, and I submitted it late last year.

The latter was the hardest of all to make time for, as I had to really use my grey matter! Rather a challenge on poor-quality broken sleep. Firstly, I read the editors’ comments and suggestions for changes when I first received the email, to give me an idea of how long it would take, and also give me a chance to mull things over. Then I chose a clear weekend day when I knew my partner could take both children. I fed baby after lunch before he took both out to the park in the afternoon. It rained which curtailed their time out of the house, but thanks to him keeping both kids occupied upon their return, I was still able to complete my edits. A small complication owing to my fickle document editor meant that to finally submit my completed chapter, I had to use some time that evening (after Child 1 was asleep) on a different laptop to make final changes before sending it off!

I don’t intend to make a habit of dipping in to my PhD-related work over the next few months, but I thought it would be interesting to record what I have done.