• Mama PhD

    Mothers attempting to balance parenthood and academics.


Has Parenthood Used Up My Patience Reserves?

A work ethic, and experience.


November 12, 2014

It is advising time again. This is the type of year when too many advisees show up to my office. While I help them register for classes, I try to squeeze in a little advice and guidance along the way.

Parenthood has changed me as an advisor. I used to be able to sit for hours while a student told me his/her troubles. They would come to our meeting with no idea of what classes to take the next semester; forget about them possessing a coherent life plan. Now, it’s almost like I have to keep a certain amount of patience and sympathy for my own children (when I eventually return home after the long advising hours), so I feel myself trying to mask my patience at their lack of preparedness.

In classes, too, I’ve noticed a shift.  I still have a lower level of patience. One time, after a particularly rough week of trying to balance my children’s various illnesses and activities, teaching, and a publishing deadline, I was aghast when a student was trying to tell me she couldn’t hand in a paper on time because of some internship she was working at (for free). I finally said, “Don’t trouble me with your problems, just like I don’t trouble you with mine. You make choices. I make choices. Just live with them, but know the consequences.” Interestingly, the student LOVED me for this spontaneous tough-love approach. She said she liked that I applied a work ethic to the class. 

Dawn Werner, a colleague of mine who specializes in building communication and professional skills among students, offers that I may have a broader “life view” approach. It’s true that I have less patience in the moment, but I also do empathize more with students’ personal struggles. In some ways, I’m more relaxed than my 14-year-younger former teaching self (a newbie), who once failed a brilliant student just on attendance alone. I think that, if that student were before me now, I’d see her larger life picture.

Some might say it isn’t parenting that has changed me, it’s simply life experience, but I do think parenting has shaped the way that I approach life. When I’m being curt to a student, I sometimes picture my own child’s face superimposed over that undergraduate. At other times, I just can’t take on students’ problems, because they are too close to the ones I need to deal with on my own. Has parenthood used up your reserves, or has it given you even more patience?



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