In episode 29, Sydney shares her thoughts on motherhood, brain reactivation and leaving Edinburgh.
Each episode is a snapshot, a moment, a sneak inside the minds of our graduates. Season one talks to our 2020 graduates about how things are going, or not going, for them.
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All opinions expressed are those of the individual and do not necessarily reflect those of the University of Edinburgh.
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Music: Since When by Mise Darling.
Sonia Mullineux (host) 0:07
This is a snapshot, a moment, a sneak inside the minds of our graduates. This is season one: Class of 2020.
So I'm Sydney Tooth and I did my masters and my PhD at Edinburgh in the School of Divinity. So my master's was in Biblical Studies and I finished that in 2015, and then started straight onto my PhD in New Testament, Language, Literature and Theology. So I am currently on maternity leave. So my daughter was born in April, right, like literally the day the virus peaked in the first wave. And I will be starting a new position in August. So a nice long maternity leave, which is great. Funnily enough, one of the last like normal pre-pandemic things I did was actually go to my interview for this position. And I remember it's down in London, so I remember getting on the tube and seeing a few people with masks on, it was end of February, and thinking, oh this is interesting. So I had always planned on starting August 2021 and because of maternity leave, so none of that got changed with the pandemic, it's just obviously meant a very different looking final year in Edinburgh. Like everyone, it's been a lot of time at home, and not seeing anyone. So the first I think seven weeks of my daughter's life, we were still in that you couldn't see anyone even outside. So we just were holed up in our flat and I mean, in some ways, it was nice, spending a lot of time all together. But it was really hard as well not having any of the help. No one could come, you know, cook us meals or do dishes or laundry. And so that was really tough, and just really isolating.
So my parents are in the US and so part of it, like my mom was going to come over at the beginning and help me out. And they weren't able to come till July. So that was like three months later, when things were a lot quieter with the virus. So they were able to come over but had to do the whole two week quarantine. So I'm holding my baby outside the window of the place they're quarantining, and they finally were able to hold her and everything but they haven't seen her since. And, you know, we had all these plans to go back there for Thanksgiving and have them come for Christmas. And yeah, it's been totally different from what I thought this year would look like. Getting out of the house has been really important. And I think even without a pandemic, I think most parents say that. But I think getting things in the calendar, so making actual plans to go for walks with people makes a huge difference when you're looking at a totally empty calendar, which would normally be you know, full of plans, having something to look forward to I think helps some of those harder days. I think in some ways, it's been actually really nice to be forced outside. So we've done tonnes of walks, you know, around the Hermitage, or Blackford Hill, and just really explored places that maybe I wouldn't necessarily have done in a normal year. At our church, there's quite a number of new babies, so in the past year, there's been like eight babies born. And so we've got a little WhatsApp group of all the new moms and that's been a real lifesaver. Because when you're not getting to see people regularly, you can kind of pop a question on and just be like, what am I doing here? This has been a really hard day and everyone says, yep, been there. I think across Scotland, there's-- they've kind of made an allowance for parents under, under ones to be part of a buggy club. Then that was sort of an exception where you could get together with more than one household. So we're doing that a lot. That's been a really nice community to be part of.
I've tried to sort of stay on top of things. So I've presented in a conference in August last year, which helped kind of keep my head in my research and sort of pull it-- so my daughter was four months then. And that was sort of a good time to not fully get back into work, but at least sort of reactivate my brain a bit, which was very needed at the time. And just even talk with non-parents or people who didn't have little kids I think was kind of refreshing in some ways to feel like I'm a person outside of just being a new mother. Lately, now that she's a bit older, and I try and listen to some podcasts from different academics or occasionally I can like Zoom into certain seminars that are happening. So in some ways, actually, the pandemic's really facilitated that aspect helpfully, because everything's virtual, in ways that maybe wouldn't have been accessible for me on maternity leave, in a normal year. Just trying to make a bit of space for myself as well to read new things coming out which it's hard after like a full day of chasing a baby around to then think I need to get my head back in academia. But yeah, it's just trying to make intentional space for that.
I think I'm certainly more efficient, if anything. I was thinking about, during my PhD, how many coffee breaks I used to take, which is great, like the kind of like those informal chats you have with colleagues and can spark a lot of ideas. But also, sometimes it was just like, I'm sick of work, I'm gonna go sit and have a chat for ages, but you just don't have the luxury for that right now. Like, this is the time I have, I've just got to get something done. So I guess maybe it's, it's been helpful to think about, things don't have to be perfect, necessarily. And I think sometimes academics want everything to be exactly perfect before like submitting something. But sometimes you just need to do whatever you can, and keep making forward progress, even if it's not perfect. When I was looking for jobs, my husband was kind of like, we can go anywhere, totally happy, you're an academic. So I realised, you know, it could literally be anywhere in the world. But like, if we could just not move to London, that would be great. So of course, the position I got was in London [laughs]. So yeah, a little nervous. I think because we love Edinburgh so much, it's been hard. So we've lived here six years, and my husband's Scottish, so Scotland's the only place he's ever lived. So I think even just thinking about how to balance work and family life, this year it's been quite easy, because there's not tonnes of other stuff on. So busy just trying to figure out how to balance a new job and both working and a new city, a little nervous. But I think mainly excited. It's a really great opportunity. I'm really excited to get back into my work and see other adults regularly. And for my daughter as well, like be starting nursery, and I'm actually really excited for her to get that socialisation and I think I'm sure it'll be overwhelming at first, but I think she'll really enjoy being around other kids.
Sonia Mullineux (host) 7:52
We also ask our graduates to share a place, somewhere special, somewhere we can get together when all this is finished.
One of the things that I had plans to do that we haven't been able to do is go travelling with my daughter this year. I think one of the places we'd really like to take her and that we'd love to go with friends is Malta actually. We've been a few times and I think every time we've been it's just been the most sort of magical experience. So we once went in-- around Christmas time and they had all these Christmas markets around. And they just felt so different from sort of the Edinburgh market or some of the Continental markets because it was a lot warmer in the first place. And it was just like very vibrant and fun. And then they have like these festivals all year round. So I think each parish sort of has their own festival for the saints that they're related to. So if you just see like fireworks across the island, throughout your time there and so it was just really fun and really festive and I feel like that's somewhere, something that we could all use after this past year. Somewhere fun, festive, sunny, warm.
Sonia Mullineux (host) 9:13
Thank you for listening. Join us next time for another graduate and another story.
Kirsten Roche 9:27
You're not on your own when it comes to planning for your future. Your University of Edinburgh community is here to support you. And this includes ongoing support for graduates from the Careers Service. Why not take a look at our website to find out more about how we can support you get the future you want. Go to ed.ac.uk/careers to get started.
Transcribed by https://otter.ai