No not like a clown, unfortunately. My skills don't stretch that far. I often get asked and emailed one or both of these things:
1) How do you do it?
2) Do you think I could do it with [insert work/child/dog/whatever commitments]?
Number 2: The answer is clearly - I don't know. I can't REALLY help you, or decide for you. I am happy to talk with you about this, I can give you my opinion, but I can't make up your mind. I can give you the pros and cons and then you have to choose.
So, number 1. I have thought about this long and hard. For about 7 years to be precise. My oral answer is usally "Oh.. I don't know... I'm bonkers!" and I'm all just crazy with a K or whatever. Up the wall, demented. And whoever I am talking to will laugh about it and that's that, I'm off the hook and I don't have to seriously answer the question. However, that is all a bit of self-conscious, nervous bullshit, I'm afraid. I'm not bonkers, or crackers. I know exactly what I am doing, and I am actually (despite appearances) highly organised.
(OK, I'm the first to admit that usual day-to-day things like opening doors and working televisions fox me.)
However, when it comes to managing being a student, working, having three kids (and occasionally writing nonsense or too-open blog posts with little or no filter) - I know what I am doing. Having thought on this a lot over the past however long - I can also now tell you how I do it. I'll warn you, it's not pleasant. I sacrifice a lot. Things that don't matter to me, but might be important to you - horses for courses. I also never stop, I HATE sleeping and I probably have a different outlook on lots of things to most people. I find I've adapted to my situation. So anyway, I'll try and keep this brief.
How I do it.
My papers and books are everywhere. I am messy with my work. But up here *points to temple* EVERYTHING is in order. I compartmentalise everything. An example would be - a to-do list for today (or a typical day)
Reply to email regarding museum event
Organise poster boards for reception
Post expense claim forms x 2
Call doctors to cancel appointment
Buy brocolli to go with the tea
Sit with Alice to go through her book
Talk to Emily for a bit
Go over potty-training rules with Rosie
Read article on easing of US/Soviet tensions in the 80s
Make essay plan
Email tutor to ask about ethics application
Flick through book to check for references
Flick through primary source archive
Choose options for next year
Set up giveaway for toy dog
Write down all events in diary and confirm attendance via email
So this is just a typical to-do list. This is precisely how I "see" it in my head. I have to do all (or most) of these things today and I will work through them piece by piece. I am actually very organised. Along with this, I am also punctual, hard-working and all of those other rubbish buzz words that people who think they are clever use. It helps.
As mentioned above, I am an absolute idiot of a person at times. I have zero common sense and sometimes my filter just goes awry and you know everything about me in ten seconds. However, when it comes to my degree, I am intelligent. (Oh God don't write that it sounds so frigging self-confident) This is a true fact though. I know what I am doing - it is a f*cking masters degree - you have to be smart, on the ball and have your wits about you. If it was easy everyone would do it.
I think fast, I write fast, I read fast. Not only do I read fast, I understand and I comprehend. This is obviously important.
There, I said it. *shows off brain*
Now, this is the tough part. I often don't think I have sacrificed anything because it doesn't feel like that. My life is FULL. I am on the go all day every day, if I am sat down my brain is ticking over, thinking of the next step, it has to be. So I'm not bored, I don't feel like I am missing anything. However, realistically, I think what I have sacrificed includes (but is not limited) to the following:
Friends, extended family time, haircuts, nails, cinema trips, relaxing, doing nothing, 100% focus on the kids, fashion, shopping, books that are not academic, reality TV, computer games.....
Ina few years I may look back and thing "Oh I wish I would have made time for ....." But there is no point in second guessing how I may or may not feel.
4) Dropping the Guilt
Or most of it. I haven't got time to feel guilty. If Alice and Rosie want me to stay home and make their breakfast, I will do it if time allows, if not, I'm out of the door. I'll make their tea later and make up for it. I can't feel any guilt for this - I have deadlines, places to be. No doubt some people will find this next sentence hateful, I can't drop everything for them.
5) Being Myself
Having moved from Manchester to live in Liverpool some time ago, I felt like I was always trying to fit in, to make people like me, to be like other people. I used to do this in work, when I was out and about - it's just hard work. At uni I feel like I can just be me. I don't have to put on an act - I can be exactly who I am. I might be a square peg in a round hole most of the time, but now being myself helps me to cope. I buy things I just like to have around me, I only do what I want to do, I surround myself with objects and things that I like. I am honest about what I don't like.
This really does make a difference. As my social life and leisure time is limited it is important that I find happiness and fulfillment in my day-to-day life, and this is how I do it. I think what I am trying to say is that I am embracing being a little bit weird instead of rejecting it.
Having written all this, people cope in different ways. This is just the way I do it. I have what I want to do in my head and I just do it.
I manage, and actually I manage very well, despite regular mini-meltdowns of course.
Sometimes it is good to write that down.