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    Mothers attempting to balance parenthood and academics.


Math Geek Mom: Go Moms!

Mothers and daughters.


November 6, 2014

In math, we sometimes talk about mappings of one variable onto another, as when each product in a grocery store has only one price. I thought of this recently when I found myself listening to several stories of mothers who took it upon themselves to do what it takes to make sure the lives of their children, uniquely mapped onto their own lives, are the best they can be.

When I think of my mother and my sister, both now deceased, I recognize the closeness that was there throughout their lives. My sister dealt with serious health and learning issues throughout her short life, and my mother did everything she could to make sure she lived as typical a life as possible. I recall many nights when my mother would come home from a long day to sit down and help her with her homework, drilling facts into her brain until everyone was exhausted. My sister eventually became member of the National Honor Society in High School and later went on to do well enough to earn a Master’s degree. However, this happened only with a lot of struggling by everyone, struggles that paid off. Indeed, she went on to marry and become the mother of two beautiful children. I realize that my mother’s dedication to her younger child was infinite, and her efforts paid off in a long run that was, alas, much too short.

I recently learned that a colleague’s daughter, a “golden girl” who excels at sports and academics and went off to a competitive program in college is actually battling a chronic illness. In the conversation that led to this information, I learned of the stress such a struggle put on my colleague’s life, and we swapped stories of not sleeping due to worries. This colleague spoke of her daughter with a tone of admiration in her voice that indicated how much she loves her child, a tone that brought me to tears.

Later that same day, I ran into the mother one of my daughter’s friends. I knew that the daughter had been ill, and this was a good chance to catch up on the story on what was happening. It seems that her daughter has contracted Lime Disease, something that caused the school year to become almost completely derailed. Memories of many days and some nights that her energetic daughter spent at our home made it hard to imagine that the same child could now barely get out of bed and was going to physical therapy to learn to walk again.

Despite not being taken seriously by several doctors, this mother educated herself and brought her daughter to several different doctors until she finally found one that was able to help her. She said that she went from hoping that her daughter could go back to school soon to just hoping that her daughter would be healthy again someday. When I saw her, she was in the organic section of our local supermarket, buying produce that she hoped would support the medical approaches she had finally found to ease her daughter’s sufferings.

As the volleyball season wound down, my daughter’s coach decided that they should have a play-off between the girls on the team and the mothers (it was mostly mothers) who shuffled them to and from practice throughout the season. I immediately informed her that I would not be playing, but would be there to watch. A flurry of e-mails went back and forth as she tried to convince me to play volleyball, a game for which I have no skill. I am not sure what finally convinced her to give up the effort; it may have been my description of how I am at risk for fractures, or the image I painted of my fifty-something body in shorts, or, even worse, the traditional spandex worn in volleyball. Whatever it was, she finally gave up, and I sat on the sidelines and watched the younger mothers lose to their daughters. Somewhere in the game I found myself proclaiming “go, moms!” and then, as I remembered the conversations I had recently been part of, I caught myself as I thought,

“yes, indeed, go, moms!”


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