Lessons from Sabbatical, Part 2: Mothering on Tenure Track

Even before my sabbatical started, I was really obsessed with “doing it right”. I asked a group of scholars and they advised me: never to go on campus, put an away message in my inbox, set clear goals. So I did that, and then life stepped in.

When I started sabbatical, Cy was just 18 months old. Really still a baby. He was just getting his legs under him, walking like a drunk man. Still nursing. Still babbling, trying to grasp sign language and even string syllables together. Trying his best to figure out how to sleep through the night. He was growing but he was still just so little.

Aya was starting preschool. At a co-op, no less. Our friend circle went from 5 at her home daycare setting, to 25 children at her new preschool. We were both transitioning into a new social space and,  for me, a different type of workload: integrating into the preschool meant I had to learn how to teach and be with 3-4 year olds. And more importantly, how to step back so AYA could learn how to be with 3-4 year olds.

Not exactly what I dreamed of when I envisioned sabbatical during my grad school years. I imagined myself with a rigorous writing schedule, only taking breaks for healthful meals or physical activity. I saw myself cafe hopping, churning out an outline for my second book. Working endlessly at a huge writing project that connects workers struggles to academic thinking. Actually, in my successful sabbatical application, I proposed to collect x number of surveys from Filipino caregivers assessing their physical and mental health, I’d finish an article manuscript, setting me up for a stronger grant proposal in the future.

In my actual sabbatical, I didn’t pump out my new book. I didn’t get to cozy up to cool new cafes in San Francisco. I only hit a little over 50% of my goal in terms of research collection. I wasn’t as productive in the writing and research vision that I had.

But I was so productive in so many other ways: I weaned Cy and my partner sleep trained him while I was away on a book talk in Singapore. I’ve been able to volunteer at Cy’s daycare and see him really grow in his interests: building and stacking, mixing colors and running–really running. I’ve gotten to get to know Aya in another element: her fearless attitude interacting with other children, her ability to take and not take rejection from other kids, her curiosity to learn.

I chose to be present in these ways on my sabbatical. I chose to be with my children in their spaces instead of writing my new book. I figured I’m still gonna write that book, but when else will I have the time to be so present to watch my small children discover such new things: rain, ballet, kicking a ball for the first time, snow.

Don’t get me wrong. I did a bunch of good things too.

But I also cherished my time and privilege in mothering my children during this sabbatical. So I think I did it right.

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