New sabbatical routines upon returning home

In my last post, I reflected on kicking off my year-long sabbatical with a six-week trip abroad with my daughter and husband. In this post, I will discuss new routines for the next several months of my sabbatical, and the transition from traveling to being at home.

I’ve already written one post about new sabbatical habits. Many of those habits lapsed while I was traveling due to the irregular work hours, but I aim to resume as I settle in at home again: keeping a lab notebook, journaling daily, listing accomplishments daily, writing for the public, and having lunch with my family on Fridays.

In the last week of our trip, I started talking with my partner Brooks about my work schedule and locations. Why? Today our daughter started day care at The Kids Place, right by campus, about a five minute walk from my office and ten minutes from our home. Since her initial enrollment is mornings only, we need to orchestrate a midday transition from Kids Place to other care.

Here’s what we worked out:

  • On Monday and Friday, Brooks will pick up our daughter from Kids Place and settle her for her nap. Her grandmother will care for her after she wakes up from her nap until the end of the day. We both dropped our daughter off together for today, our first day, but it’s still undecided who will drop off these days in the long run.
  • On Tuesday and Thursday, a Whitman senior who cared for our daughter over the summer will pick her up from Kids Place and care for her until the end of the day. I will do the morning drop-off and take the stroller to my office, so he can pick it up from there.
  • On Wednesday, I’ll do drop-off and pick-up and spend the afternoon with my daughter. (This is one of the things I wanted to do during my sabbatical, after all.)

So, the day care schedule determines much of my work schedule and locations for the week:

  • I’m off the hook altogether on Monday and Friday afternoons, so I’ll work from Emberfuel downtown. I had been aiming for two days a week, so this works out well.
  • Tuesdays and Thursdays I need to be at my office to pass the stroller to our babysitter, or at least to leave the little folding travel stroller outside my office door. This also meshes with my intentions for department engagement. Thursdays will be my primary day each week for appointments and office hours, so that I am on campus to join in CS Lunch at noon. I will occasionally participate in department meetings on Tuesday afternoons; I may work at my office before and after, or I may not.
  • Wednesday is a short day. I may work from home so that I can put down my work to get my daughter from day care and pick it up again during her nap. Or I may work from an undisclosed location on campus for the morning and eat lunch during her nap. I haven’t decided yet.

On the one hand, it’s evident how having a child is reshaping my work life. On the other hand, I’m reminded of my last few years of graduate school, when I had three desks: one in the main CSE building and one in each of my two advisors’ research labs. And in my final year, I still worked in coffee shops when I needed to focus on writing! We’ll see if I’m working in coffee shops by the end of this sabbatical.

As should be clear from the above, the transition from traveling to being at home doesn’t just affect me, but my whole family. Remembering that my daughter took a long time to get over her jet lag when we returned from the UK last summer, I planned to spend some time at home with her, not working, after we returned from this trip. Moreover, during the trip our daughter showed several signs of being ready to give up diapers.

So I spent most of last week at home with my daughter, re-establishing our daily sleep schedules and learning to use the potty. It was exhausting (to watch her every moment), frustrating (when my attention flagged), and exhilarating (to see her learning).

I will take away some important lessons for my college teaching about patience, consistency, and explicitly stating desired outcomes. But until we resumed our weekly “grandma time” on Friday afternoon, the only work I had the time or energy for was keeping up with my email.

So: not only am I returning home, re-establishing important habits, and starting some new routines, I’m also returning to work from my longest period of mostly-not-working since my maternity leave. What does that look like?

  • Writing these blog posts has been really helpful for externalizing my accumulated thoughts.
  • Over the weekend I updated our weekly home planning sheet to include who is responsible for our daughter’s care each weekday afternoon, as well as space to plan her lunches to take to day care.
  • This morning I came to Emberfuel and signed up for a part-time membership. I’ll probably be learning my way around for the first few days I’m here. I already learned I should bring in a coffee mug and an HDMI adapter, so I made a task to get those items from my office on Thursday before I come back here on Friday.
  • I’ve just had a text message exchange with Brooks about picking our daughter up from day care, feeding her more lunch, and putting her down for her nap. One of his transitional tasks was putting his daycare pickups on his work calendar. I just put mine on my calendar.
  • I also put the daily “Go home” event back on my calendar for the other days of the week, having deleting it while traveling.
  • I put a weekly review on my calendar for Thursdays after my office hours are over. I’ve been a GTD-er for fifteen years. By now I know I feel better when I clear my inboxes and review all my projects every week, even though it’s a difficult habit to maintain. Processing inbox items will be good to work on between appointments, and then I’ve blocked out some time to focus on planning for the next week.
  • I’ve already started updating the Kanban board I started to help me set goals before the trip. I should probably check in with my Kanban board during every review to set a weekly intention for what project(s) to focus on, so I added that to my list of review tasks.
  • That said, I already have a sense of the shape of my work for the next three weeks, until I leave for a workshop in the Netherlands. I have three medium-sized writing projects: a tenure review letter, a short conference paper, and the talk for the workshop. I also have a few miscellaneous meetings scheduled now that I’m back in town, and a few more to schedule. Finally, I hope to have our job ad out before I leave.
  • It’s going to take a long time to clear out my inboxes after nearly two months of inattention, so I’ll start after I finish this blog post. As part of that processing, I want make sure I know where to find the information for the review letter. Maybe I’ll even figure out how to print documents at Emberfuel and start my preparatory reading.
  • I just discovered I didn’t transfer my lab notebook to my new backpack. This evening, I should jot down my accomplishments for today and put my lab notebook in my backpack. Tomorrow morning, I may start my day at a coffee shop to facilitate a return to journaling. I’m looking forward to it.

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