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  • Mama PhD

    Mothers attempting to balance parenthood and academics.

Change of focus
February 12, 2013 - 8:41pm

Another morning all home together.  As I begin this blog, it’s a holiday here in BC, the very first celebration of the newly created Family Day.  With this holiday, plus two professional development days for teachers, the short month of February is a very short month indeed for school children.  For many families the extra days off mean scrambles for childcare and fewer hours for those who depend on the time their children are in school to get work done.

I’m in the midst of prepping to teach new course, and because my office is the nook next to the dining room table, I depend on the quiet hours my kids are in school to get things done.  When my kids are around, it’s tricky to partition my time to focus on my own work in our small house.  And just when I really needed some time to concentrate, both children came down with a nasty virus.  It was the kind of knocks-you-flat bug where there was no second-guessing whether they were really sick.  Although I tried to work, the kids were a priority and needed comforting, feeding, or just help relieving boredom.  When my husband and I both succumbed to the virus, we quarantined the family and took turns napping, caring for kids, and cooking quick canned soup and toast meals.  Coughs, body aches, fevers, and fatigue kept us cooped up together for most of three days, until I was well enough to get out of the house, forage for more interesting food, and bring home school work for the kids.  The funny part was that in a weird way we enjoyed being together so much.  We felt rotten, but the intense family time was kind of fun, with lots of reading, videos, and cuddling. It was a focus on family to the extreme. 

Spending such intense time with my husband and children, and then returning my thoughts to course planning requires more than just time management; there’s a mental and emotional juggle as well.  The course I’m working on these days is a field course I’ll be teaching this summer. Except for a week on campus, my co-instructor and I will spend six weeks abroad teaching, living, and traveling with students.  It’s been a while since my last teaching contract, and I’m excited but nervous.  The on-site teaching is right up my alley and something I loved before I had kids.  However, leaving my family for six weeks is not something I know anything about.  I think all the time about what it will be like to say good-bye, to turn over all kid-related duties to my husband (We’ve already begun the slow transition to a full take-over, including reminding the kids about what they’ll have to oversee to keep my husband on track.).  He can handle the important parts and is in fact looking forward to being the full-time, on-call parent.  The little details, which seem ridiculously important some days, such as keeping track of who likes what in their school lunches, will just have to sort themselves out.  My daughter’s ballet teacher has already told me not to worry, that she’ll take care of the stuff I’d usually do, such as coaxing my daughter’s hair into a bun and putting on stage make-up for the ballet recital I’m going to miss.

Teaching this class means sacrificing family time for six weeks.  But it’s an opportunity I don’t want to pass up, plus a chance to reconnect with my pre-mommy self and with my roots in biology.  In a way I’ve celebrated Family Day every day since my son was born, almost 12 years ago, and it’s meant redirecting my attention and priorities.  Coming up, though, I’ll spend six weeks where teaching and course logistics will be front and center every day (except for a couple of much needed scheduled breaks for R & R).  It will be a challenge, but one I look forward to, despite a bit of apprehension about letting go for a little while and changing my focus. 


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