The worlds of business and academia are harsh and at times, unforgiving. Behind the highlights of corporate attire, trips away and television interviews is the under belly of pushing deadlines, working in the wee hours, having to call people to put off payments, and huge self-doubt. Plus, I am still a mum with all the sleep-less nights, snotty noses, scraped knees, tantrums and a truck-load of mothers guilt thrown in there too.
If I said to you that I never felt like giving up – it would be a down right lie.
The last couple of weeks have been especially tough. Battling the never-ending juggle of invoices, feeling the fatigue of the year and struggling with some very tight deadlines ahead of me. I am particularly feeling the pressure with my book. And it is not just the book, it is making the jigsaw pieces fit. I know it seems like you receive a book deal and ride off into the sunset, writing away and a quiet table under the trees with a vino beside you.
It is not like that, least not for me.
The writing is squeezed into an already full schedule. I have set myself a minimum to do 10 minutes a day on my book. The way I see it, 10 minutes is better than nothing and it keeps it ticking away in the back of my mind. Sometimes that means doing it with Smushie on my hip while cooking dinner. Or at 11.57pm at night because that is the only time – and it is not enough. I know to get good quality writing in I need to go away and hibernate for a few days at a time. This works, I did it for my thesis but it is not easy creating this time with a family.
No, I do not want to give my book up, it is a dream come true. No, we cannot afford for me to not work and just write a book. And even if we were in that position I would not want to give up holding onto my place in the world of academia. Trust me – I have gone around and around and around in circles with all this. I have been angry it is not easier. I have been frustrated we do not have a lot of family support. I have dwelled a lot in the ‘if onlys….’
But then just when I felt like giving up – I got some news this week that turned everything around.
I found out the one of my research papers from my thesis has been accepted to be published and accepted with only a couple of minor changes. It is normally ripped to shreds (and this is after a gazillion changes before it even gets to the submission stage).
Now this is no ordinary research article.
This is my most statistics heavily research article that I did for my thesis.
AND I started writing this paper when our Smushie was one week old.
Yes, ONE WEEK OLD.
To re-create this – Seven days post-birth, after a night of getting snatches of sleep, I took our eldest son to daycare, came back home and put Smushie down to sleep. I managed a quick shower, did not dry my hair (time was too precious) but put on a skirt (to make me feel slightly human), and in a nursing bra and singlet, sat our humble kitchen table had a pump on one boob and my statistics book open, lap top up and started writing. (Picture above is sometime in the early days!).
I was exhausted but I was HAPPY.
I know this was so outside the realm of normal; what-ever normal is.
I know how I was judged for it.
But I also know that I did it.
Seeing this paper accepted, more then 18 months later from this particular day, knowing what I went through to get there…..knowing that I defied all odds, all judgement, all criticism, all self-doubt and thoughts of “I can’t” and “I won’t make it”…..
It helped me to see the person I really am.
I am the woman who wrote a very statistics heavy research paper with two babies, one just a week old and one not even three yet. I am the woman who wrote this darn paper from my kitchen table, boobs out and all.
So yes right now I am overwhelmed and feeling the pressure but that is because I think things should be a different way. Our house is a constant mess and I am behind on every deadline. I feel like I should remember things more (like dress up days at daycare). I feel like I should cook better meals (yes even I think this!). I feel like I should have a tidy house and that I should be more into Christmas….you get the picture.
But the truth is – I am scared.
I am scared of failure (will that ever go away?).
I am scared of my own ability. That just like with my thesis. What if I actually write this book and keep hold of everything else?
I am scared of having my name on the map in children’s health. I would much rather hide than accept that I AM the woman who completed a doctoral thesis with two children – literally in the same year I gave birth.
I am scared of letting people down, that the book may take longer despite my best efforts, scared of juggling bills, having to feel guilty (where do I even start with all that?).
I am sacred that I can fight for my place in the world of business and the world of academia – at the same time.
Seeing my research accepted AGAINST the most impossible odds has given me so much courage.
So now I am turning my overwhelm and my fear into my fuel. My drive.
I do not want to give up on my dreams because I am scared and think that what I am doing is not normal – clearly I have never ‘done normal’ so why do I keep wanting to do it now?
I know that this means I am going to make some sacrifices, that I might let people down, that our invoices may be late and that is not because we do not want to; it is because we are so desperately trying to create something else for our lives and make a difference to the world on a global scale – all off our own back.
If it were my boys that came to me and said “mum what should I do?”
I would tell them – Forget the harsh words, forget the judgement, say thank you to your self-doubt and then put that in a bubble. Listen to those who support you, who care, who believe in your crazy-as dreams and trust yourself, dare to be different. Dare to defy the odds and just never give up.
This is not just about writing a book or getting an article published. I know that some of you reading this may also want something that you feel is outside what is ‘normal’. Maybe you want a fourth baby and are afraid of the financial implications. Maybe you want to go back to work and do not know where to start. Maybe you actually want to spend more time with your children – real quality time. Maybe you want to take up dancing or art or just meet a friend for coffee without your children and are afraid that you are putting time into yourself.
Just Do It.
Dare to be Different.
You just never know where you could end up, even if it takes three times as long to get there.
And if it helps – just know that there is one other sleep deprived mum also juggling invoices, with a messy house, playing with dinosaurs in the bath by day and at a lap top typing away at midnight.
Xxx Dr Julie Bhosale