PhD + Dad = Adjusted life + Roller Coaster

I read an article on Science about an effective daily routine: getting up early and get the most important work done before any distractions kick in. I’ve been following that for a couple of weeks now. I think it works well. Being a dad, I always have mental struggle between spending time with my little one and spending time on research. Then I realize that the block of time between 4:30–6:30 in the morning is just perfect. The weather is cooling, the road is quieter, and the baby is asleep, and I have a stretch of uninterrupted time—just what I need.

Doing a PhD while having a baby also means that once in a while, I need to spend a big part of my working hours for my little one, either to bring him to see the doctor, or to bring him out and play, and I have to make up for that time during the nights (or early morning, since recently). The usual advice of working hard during the day and total break during off time doesn’t apply to me.

Besides the mixed up schedule, my mental state follows a hectic path too. Just a week ago, I was super happy in the afternoon but became worried and stressed just hours later. I can be fulfilled one day and feeling inadequate and guilty the next day. It’s such a roller coaster.

But I realize that just as the hectic schedule forces me to become more concentrated and efficient, the roller coaster mental state makes me cherish all the experiences I had. As the positive and negative moments become more extreme, they leave much deeper imprints in my memory. It’s already been a week, but sometimes I still recite parts of that presentation in my head, and I still relive its high moments. I still smile when the video of me saying “No trees were harmed in the making of these data” is played in my head. I made everyone laugh in a PhD talk. My efforts certainly paid off. That was a milestone I can look back when I get lost later.

Still a long way to go, but I think me right now and me 8 months ago are quite different already. Let the roller coaster ride continue and enjoy the thrill.


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