"So, are you teaching now?"
"What have you published recently?"
As the fall semester starts, I've been asked these or similar questions a few times by professors I've encountered. My answers seem to disappoint them, just a bit, before they try to cover up their concern that my current job is not what I'm supposed to be doing after finishing a PhD. Yes, I had a baby. But a baby (for me, at least), is not a career.
The transition to motherhood has been harder for me than expected. Babies are hard work without much reward. Our baby went from unbelievably fussy (colic/stomach problems) to now better, but very serious. You have to really earn a smile from her. Even her favorite toys provoke concentrated stares and scowls far more often than giggles or grins. She has little patience for lying around or being an observer, which is basically all babies are capable of doing for their first several months of life. So, taking care of her during maternity leave was mentally, physically, and emotionally exhausting for me.
Going back to work, even during our busiest time of year, has been like a vacation. When I think of all of the plans I had for maternity leave (publish articles, redesign CV, explore possible career paths, etc), all I can do is roll my eyes. It was an accomplishment if I got a load of laundry done or the dishwasher unloaded. And having been dreadfully sick throughout most of my pregnancy, I simply haven't done much in the way of advancement since finishing my degree. I'm OK with it. School and achieving my doctorate was my number one priority for a very long time. I do consider my work life to be a high priority, but something had to give, temporarily. So I let it slide, and I'm doing the same job I have been doing for years, since before I even finished my master's degree. It's comfortable and satisfying to go somewhere familiar and do something I'm good at in a time when it feels like everything else in my life has been turned upside down.
Speaking of priorities, my little girl is now 3 months old (as of today). She's learning to grab for things and put them in her mouth, and her eyes follow you around the room. She has discovered the TV and her favorite thing to watch is the opening credits of The Big Bang Theory. She is rolling front to back consistently, and has rolled back to front a couple of times too. She tries to sit up frequently, but of course cannot do it and cries to express the disgust of such an unfair lot in life. She is in her own room and sleeps through the night more often than not, which has been pleasant for us.
As I mentioned earlier, she's much more versed in expressing dissent than approval. It was even suggested by a friend that I start a Tumblr showing her scowling, screaming, or giving The Stink Eye to various "fun" activities, toys, and gear that "babies love." (I'm not going to do it, though I love the idea. Last thing I need is another blog to neglect.)
I went with my child on her first airplane trip and road trip at 2 months old, to meet her great grandparents on my side of the family. It was interesting, eventful, exhausting, wonderful, and terrible. She did not sleep on the plane as everyone assured me she would, even though I booked the flights during her nap times and attempted to giver her a bottle during takeoff. And the only thing I brought with me and did not use was the baby sling, which would surely make frequent appearances on that Tumblr blog that I'm not going to start. (I didn't bother to bring the stroller, as it retains the spot as Most Hated Device, thus far.) Still, it was a good trip, and timely since I knew once my maternity leave ended, I wouldn't have any time off for the rest of the year, basically.
I am looking forward to this fall, because it seems that she is developing much faster these days and almost every week brings something new that she couldn't do before. And maybe I'll find the time between work and baby-raising to start prioritizing career development again... but I've learned not to make plans too far in advance, since babies certainly don't. They live for the moment.