I’m now roughly two-thirds of the way through my maternity leave, and feeling surprisingly good. After nearly three months with my new son, I’m finally under control: he is starting to sleep well at night, and I have mastered all the tricks we need to get through the day together in a reasonably calm and happy manner.
My academic life, meanwhile, continues on the back burner. I coach my PhD student by telephone, continue to work on a manuscript with my old lab via email, and start gearing up for a major fellowship application due in February. My team just had a second paper out, this time in PLoS One. And I need to write up some interim results for the grant – on treating urinary tract infections with microspheres – that currently pays my salary.
Yesterday I popped into the lab to pick up a notebook I need to consult for the interim report. Nobody was currently working in it, but I was pleased to see how inviting the space appeared now that everything’s been properly unpacked and put to use.
Unlocking my office next door, I was stricken to see I’d forgotten to arrange care for my roommate:
Otherwise, all was well. The room was cozy and warm from the central heating – a distinct novelty – and all of my books, folders and notebooks were lined up patiently on the shelf, waiting for me to consult them once again. Everything felt peaceful and conducive to serious thinking. Suddenly, I experienced the deep urge to cancel my afternoon plans and dawdle there for a while, perhaps catching up on some reading or proofing the fellowship draft. The pull was both primitive and seductive: the urge to discover, to know, to keep building my project like a house of blocks, one little teetering cube at a time.
Instead, with only a small twinge of regret, I changed my son’s nappy, tucked him back into his pram and headed out into the chill London daylight. He was smiling in his sleep. My office – my job, my science – isn’t going anywhere. It will still be there when I return. But in the meantime, it’s good to know it’s waiting, patiently, a little secret world especially for me.