How I Published the Semester I Came Back from Maternity Leave

by | Dec 7, 2017 | academic writing, mindset, publishing, time management

During academic year 2015-2016, I had the longest and most amazing maternity leave with my third (and last!) baby.

When I came back to work in Fall 2017, my two edited volumes and an article in Anthropology and Education Quarterly were published.

Now, because my colleagues didn’t quite understand what *maternity leave* means, I started to hear people saying, “You did all that writing when you were on maternity leave?” And I quickly schooled them, “Of course not! I breastfed and got pooped on and didn’t sleep during maternity leave. I did not work.”

And then they started asking: “How is publishing after maternity leave even possible? How do you do it?”

My answer: I had a publication pipeline planned out and I executed my plan.

Was there luck involved? Absolutely. We were super lucky to get pregnant when we did. But the rest was not luck or accident. It was strategy, focus, and planning.

What babies taught me about academic productivity

I owe everything about what I know about finding time to write and publish in academia to my babies. Baby #1 was particularly demanding. She never wanted to be alone. She dropped naps at 2 years old. She was not that interested in playing with toys. She really just wanted to play with me.

Pre-motherhood I felt like I never had time to write. I was transitioning from PhD student to full-time professor on the tenure track (which nobody really prepares you for). My beautiful dissertation just sat there, getting old, while I tried to learn how to teach ninety first-year students English as a second language and participate in way too many committees and navigate department politics.

How could I possibly find time to write?

Publishing After Maternity LeaveThen super-demanding-baby arrived and it was like: WOAH. Time to re-group. If I thought I didn’t have time to write before I REALLY didn’t have time to write now. There was no more grading at home after dinner. In fact, since baby didn’t sleep, I pretty much collapsed every day after she did. All of my work had to get done during the time that baby was in daycare: that is, 8:00-4:00.

And that was it. My academic priorities completely changed, but maybe not in the way that you might think. What happened to me was that I gained clarity about what was really important to move my career forward and what was not.

What super-demanding-baby made me do was hone focus. And using that focus helped me develop the set of skills that I needed to be successful as an academic (and as a mom).

Focus will help you develop the skills you need to be successful as an academic (and as a mom).Click To Tweet

I’m not talking about time-saving tricks and hacks. I’m not talking about a bullet journal or the perfect planner. I’m talking about taking control, driving your career, and learning how to say “no” to the unimportant things that will try to stand in your way.

I’m making it sound a little easier than it really was. I took me trial and (lots of) error to figure this out. My passion is to teach you what I had to teach myself, so that you don’t have to have a super-demanding-baby in order to figure out how to have the career (and life) you want.

Clearing my publication pipeline

So back to the semester after baby number three. It looked like I had written my tail off during maternity leave and then was seeing the fruits of my writing labors. But of course, what I actually did was plan out a publication pipeline.

Here’s how publishing after maternity leave was possible:

  • I had already planned out my publication pipeline so that I had stopped collecting new data about a year before I got pregnant.
  • I used the pre-pregnancy year to get projects from the idea stage all the way through to draft and submission.
  • I worked with co-editors and co-authors on all the projects. Whenever I could, I contributed more than necessary so that when I was dealing with morning sickness and exhaustion I could ask them to step up (which they did).
  • I hired out copyediting because I knew that that wasn’t a job for late-stage pregnancy or early motherhood. 🙂

In sum, I used my pre-pregnancy year to clear my pipeline, and I enlisted help for the late-stage parts of publication (indexing, copyediting, reference-checking) that I knew would spill over into my actual maternity leave. The most awesome thing about this is that I actually took a leave. A real break. I hardly answered emails (or even checked). I was able to concentrate on recovering from birth and caring for baby.

Learn how to manage your publication pipeline–and your career

What I’ve learned from academic motherhood is that writing and publishing more is not about time. Time management is one piece, but focus, planning, and mindset are equally important. If you’re going through the semester feeling like you’re on a run-away train, what you need is focus, vision, and drive, not more time.

What you may not know is that the skills necessary to take control of your career so that you have time to write and publish and feel less stressed are LEARNABLE. I didn’t start out my career with those skills in place. I learned them through trial and (lots of) error. But I truly don’t think YOU should have to learn them that way.

I created this 7-day email course to give you a bite-sized version of some of what I’ve learned, so that you can start implementing the career-driving practices that will put you in control of you time and allow you to write and publish more. You can sign up to get it here:


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