The last few weeks have been completely chaotic, over-crowded, and exhausting. On top of the end-of-term crunch, with its usual flurry of grading, review sessions, and exams, I was also trying to finish revisions on a paper, and get some research done in time to make the poster for AGU. The unintended, but entirely predictable consequences of all this was longer and longer hours working, more and more caffeine, and less and less time with Minnow.
I was getting so much done! I discovered that if I just drank more caffeine, I could reduce my nightly sleep to 6 (badly interrupted) hours. And in that clarity of caffeine and sleeplessness, I had all these great ideas for how to restructure my spring courses and move forward with some research projects. I finally felt like I was accomplishing things at the pace expected of me. And once I worked “just a little bit later” and ended up missing dinner, it was easier to justify missing dinner and bedtime the next night. Or picking up Minnow from daycare and bringing her back to my office until Fish was able to take her home. I even managed to get my milk supply down so that it wasn’t too uncomfortable to go 18 hours without nursing. It was liberating and terrifying all at the same time. For the first time since having a child, I could understand how academics get sucked into working all the time. Though I didn’t want to admit it, deep down I knew that what I really wanted was to spend time with Minnow, to store up those grins and giggles and hugs and cuddles for what was to come…the first time that she and I will be separated for any extended period of time.
And then with the simple acts of printing the poster, giving one exam, and handing off the other, I made it to a reprieve. Friday night I went home, enjoyed dinner with Minnow and Fish, and went to bed at 9:30, sleeping for the better part of 10 hours. Saturday was spent returning the house to some semblance of order and greeting Fish’s mom, who arrived to help for the week that I am gone. I took lots of time to play and snuggle with Minnow, and she did her darndest to get that milk supply back to her liking. By Sunday afternoon, with the Christmas tree up and the house cozy, I was quite ready to just spend the next week at home, curled up with my family (and a stack of grading). Forget this conference business, I was ready for a vacation.
But instead, I write this on a long flight with a laptop, a poster tube, a neatly packed suitcase full of professional clothes, and a pump to relieve extreme discomfort. My daughter is at home with her father and grandmother, and she’ll have a rough couple of nights, but she’ll be well cared for and well loved. I’ll have a much richer and more fun conference experience without a toddler in tow. I’ve tried bringing Minnow along to a conference, and I’ve tried bringing along a babysitter. This time the decision was right to leave her at home and let me be an unfettered professional for a few days.
It’s a bittersweet end to an era of trying to meld professional travel with mommying a baby, maybe (hopefully?) the era of nursing, and conclusively an end to an era of seeing Minnow every day of her life. When I go home, in just 5 days, I know we’ll rebuild our connection and our relationship will continue to be strong, joyful, and loving. But right now I miss my little girl and I feel like I’ve severed a connection that can never be remade the same way. I hope it is worth it.