Life as a working mum: Dr Lili Pâquet gets real with students
Students rarely get to know their lecturers on a personal level, and so it can be surprising to learn how much they have in common.
Dr Lili Pâquet is a lecturer in Writing at UNE. Students who have studied any WRIT codes such as WRIT309/509 Writing Creative Non-fiction and WRIT329/529 Publishing Practice will have come across Dr. Pâquet.
But what some students might not know is that Lili is all too familiar with the complexity of balancing family life with work.
We caught up with Lili to find out more about her life behind lecture recordings, and what advice and experiences she can offer up to mature-aged students who are in the same boat.
Can you tell us a little bit about yourself for those who haven’t been taught by you?
I just recently moved to a 2-acre property on the edge of Armidale with my husband and two daughters (Sylvie and Beatrix), and our two free-range budgies (Wallace and Leo). I was on maternity leave after having Beatrix until recently and had a lovely group of other Armidale mothers whom I’d meet up with every week at the Armidale Bowling Club. My family does a lot of bushwalking around the area – our favourite walks are Gara Gorge and Cathedral Rock.
How long have you been teaching?
What do you enjoy the most about teaching?
It’s great to introduce students to the areas of Writing that I’m passionate about and to see them catch my enthusiasm! I also really enjoy having students pop up in different units over their degrees and seeing how much they’ve improved as writers.
The past 18+ months have been disruptive to everyone’s routines. Do you have any tips for finding some stability or a routine in your day-to-day?
One thing (other than caffeine) that has helped me a lot is going for a walk after lunch every day. Sometimes I go with my husband if he isn’t in a meeting, sometimes with my kids if they’re home, sometimes alone. Sometimes it is freezing or rainy or windy. I feel much clearer-headed afterward. Particularly with working from home, the monotony of always being in the same space and having loose boundaries between work and free time can be difficult, so I find it helpful to step out of that space. Another big thing for me is staying away from the alarmist news cycle and social media.
What’s one of the biggest challenges of working from home whilst caring for small children?
I have two girls: Sylvie (4) and Beatrix (just turned 1). They’re both in daycare, but Beatrix has been home on and off with every minor illness you could imagine (colds, stomach bugs, conjunctivitis, etc.) and it’s been very difficult to look after her and meet the demands of work. If I can, I take personal leave, but otherwise, I try to work when she’s asleep and share the parenting duties with my husband. If she’s home, I’m often snatching moments to work from sunrise to bedtime. I’ve learned to brutally prioritise.
Working and living from home can be hard. How are you balancing your working parent lifestyle?
I can’t spend huge quantities of time with my kids if they’re home during my workday, so instead, I try to take a proper break from work and spend quality time with them. I take them into the backyard and we play on the swings or in the sandpit, or I take them to the library if the weather is unpleasant. I set strict boundaries around weekends and spend that time with my family.
They grow so quickly and I don’t think I’ll look back and regret emailing people back late, but I will look back and regret not spending more time with the girls!
Many of our students are in a similar situation, balancing young families, work, and study from home. What advice do you have for students who might be in a similar situation right now?
I’m not sure I have it figured out well enough myself to be handing down advice! Everyone has different situations and different families and should do whatever works for them to get through. For me, spending time with other people with kids and letting the adults have a break while the kids play together is nice. I also find life much easier when my husband and I work as a team. We can commiserate over the difficulties and be kind to each other, which helps both of us. The other big thing for me is sleep! I have a set bedtime so that I can get 8 hours of sleep. Then the nights the kids are restless are a blip in the long-term because I’m generally well-rested, which makes the whole thing less stressful.
What support is there at UNE for students who are struggling with their workload and commitments?
If you need extensions on assignments, reach out to your unit coordinators. I’m always happy to grant extensions to parents or carers struggling through difficult circumstances. If you’ve got deeper struggles and need to talk to someone, you can make a free and confidential appointment with CAPS (Counselling and Psychological Services) and I would highly recommend that you make that time for your mental health!
What’s the best piece of advice you’ve ever been given?
Rather than obsessing over negative things, focus on the things you are grateful for every day!
Thank you so much Dr. Pâquet, for taking the time to speak with us! When life is disrupted, it’s always nice to know that you aren’t the only one going through it!
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