Blog U › 
  • Mama PhD

    Mothers attempting to balance parenthood and academics.

Mothering at Mid-Career: Silence
November 21, 2011 - 5:00pm

I’ve had laryngitis since last Wednesday. Not just a little scratchy throat, a gravelly whisky voice, a sultry contralto—no, I’ve been pretty thoroughly silenced. For two days I had not even a throaty whisper—then I developed a little Kathleen Turner-esque huskiness that quickly turned back into silence when I tried to use it too much. I’ve had to cancel seven meetings, one class, and a planned trip to speak at another college. Every evening I’ve hoped I’d wake up able to speak, and every morning it’s been clear I can’t.

Some days I don’t talk all that much at all—I work in my office, occasionally saying “hi” as a colleague walks by, maybe answering a phone call. Most days, though, I am on call all day long. I meet with students about their papers, I teach class, I organize meetings. For three days I’ve been putting off an important phone conversation—today I finally broke down and made an in-person appointment instead, hoping that by the time it rolls around I’ll be able to make myself heard. I’m unable to use the phone, call out to someone a few steps away from me, even exchange a casual greeting in the hallway.

While rescheduling all the meetings, and coming up with alternative activities for the class, has been difficult, there’s something to be said for a little silence. At home, my son calls to me from another room, wanting me to answer a question right then. I sit silently, knowing that he’ll have to come find me in order to talk. It’s more civilized, this quieter tone, and I don’t mind it at all. When I have to ration my words, I think more about what I’m saying. I take a little longer to answer a question—and sometimes, as with my son calling from the other room, the asker finds the answer on his own. I’m moving at a slower pace.

Obviously, it’s good to have a voice. Hearing the Occupy protestors at UC-Davis chant “shame on you,” “you can go,” and even “join our strike” to the police in riot gear who have just pepper-sprayed and dragged away some of their number is a gripping reminder of the power of a voice. But silence, too, can speak, as when another group of students (or the same ones?) lined a sidewalk on the same campus to allow their chancellor, Linda Katehi, to leave the administrative building which they had surrounded. (Both videos can be seen in this useful round-up of the events at UC-Davis.)

As we move into Thanksgiving week, I am thankful that I usually have a voice, and thankful as well for a few days to rest it. I am thankful for peaceful protest, and for both the sounds and silence of the students and others who are making their presence felt, their voices heard.

 

 

 

Please review our commenting policy here.

Most

  • Viewed
  • Commented
  • Past:
  • Day
  • Week
  • Month
  • Year
Loading results...
Back to Top