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    Mothers attempting to balance parenthood and academics.

Mothering at Mid-Career: Academic, Interrupted
October 18, 2011 - 3:36am

This was supposed to be a post about service. I was struck that last week’s post didn’t receive many comments — and my post about soccer parents and cross-country parents did — and I was going to write about that.

But when I was supposed to be writing the post I was actually in a meeting. And then in the meeting, I was interrupted by a text from my son — but maybe let’s start at the beginning.

It was a day full of interruptions, as semi-scheduled days in the office so often are. One student conference was interrupted by a phone call — then, when I returned the call, I had to end it quickly to begin another conference. Several e-mails were interrupted by either conversations with colleagues or my own need to track down a little more information before hitting “send” — then I was late to my midday yoga class because I was finishing up some plans for a speaker who’s coming in tomorrow for a two-day visit.

The yoga class was a terrific break, one that I “paid for” by coming in over the weekend to make a start on a project that has to be completed this week for one of the committees I’m on this year. That work was then interrupted by my own desire for a weekend, so I can hardly complain that it remains undone. Nor can I complain, of course, about a job that offers me the luxury of midday yoga classes and — occasionally, at least — the time to get to them.

Refreshed and restored, I returned to the office to eat lunch at my desk — a lunch that was interrupted by a couple of quick errands and then another student conferences. I did make it through both my afternoon conferences without interruption, and even managed to plan for and then hold a quick meeting with the student honorary society. (I also put the second half of my lunch in the fridge for tomorrow, as I couldn’t quite find either the time or the appetite for it today.)

Then came the late afternoon faculty meeting and the aforementioned text message. My son was looking for a ride home as his practice had ended early, and he couldn’t reach his dad. I slipped out of the meeting — reluctant to disrupt it further by responding to yet another text — but before I got in my car he had found a ride. Still, I was already halfway out of the office and I had another appointment this evening, so I decided not to interrupt the meeting again by returning, and headed home.

I can’t blame the technology — some of these interruptions were in-person, and I welcomed them. Others were technological — the emails, the texts, the information gathering that went on too long—and I blame myself for those. My son could have waited; some of the emails probably could have as well. But even as I write this post (interrupted more than once by family conversations) I have a calendar reminder notice hovering in the upper right quadrant of my screen, reminding me of yet another overdue task that was interrupted the last time I began it.

So no wonder no one wants to talk about service. We can barely get through our own responsibilities, some days, and stopping to think about them feels like a luxury even more rare than that midday yoga class. Not every day is quite as interrupted as this one was, but many are—and the ones that aren’t are full in their own way, less interrupted (perhaps) because I keep my door closed during class prep, or when I try to get back to my own research. Those days can feel more productive, but in fact I plowed through large chunks of my to-do list today, and had some great interactions with students and colleagues. So I welcome the interruptions even as I lament them — and that seems as good a place as any to end this multiply interrupted (not to mention late!) post. I hope you can read it uninterrupted, but I’ll understand if you can’t.

 

 

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