As we approach Labor Day this weekend, I am reminded of something that was often pointed out to me in graduate school. It seemed to be an accepted fact at the time that the sub-field of Labor Economics was heavily populated by women, leaving many to use the awkward phrase of “there are a lot of women in labor.” Despite this, I did go on to specialize in, among others, the field of labor economics. However, as an adopted mother, I never did experience the labor that accompanies giving birth. Of course, the fact that I am not a biological mother does not mean that I have had an easy time of being a parent. Alas, this is a job that continuously makes me feel dumber than I have felt since the day I walked into my first comprehensive exam.
Memories of those difficult years explain why I laughed when I saw a link to an article about a graduate student who created scenes from Lego figures about the darker sides of graduate school. Many of his scenes left me laughing, but, at the same time, reminded me of how happy I am to be done with that stage of my life.
Even as I breathed the air of a professor who has a diploma with very dry ink on it, I wondered if a similar set of pictures could be generated to describe the life of an academic who is also a parent. Since we gave away my daughter’s Lego figures, I am afraid that I don’t have pictures of these to share with my readers. However, I wanted to list a few scenes that might seem amusing to a fellow academic parent. I trust the imaginations of my readers to fill in the details of what these would look like. Of course, although these are written for an imaginary “Lego Mom,” most could equally apply to an academic father.
1. The Lego Mom does her best to make Calculus comprehensible after being up most of the night with a sick child.
2. The Lego Mom tries to help a child with homework on a subject she never learned (An English-Chinese dictionary in the scene would capture some of this frustration.)
3. As she shops for back to school clothes and supplies, the Lego Mom finds herself giving teen-age fashion advice; all while being dressed like an illustration from “The Preppy Handbook.”
4. The Lego Mom sometimes feels that her students know more about parenting than she knows about some of what she teaches.
5. The Lego Mom explains to her child why he can’t help grade exams, and why grading isn’t as much fun as it looks.
6. The Lego Mom gets technological help from a child when her college once again switches to a new Learning Management System.
7. As her child and her friends gather to go to a party, the Lego Mom finds herself explaining to a group of girls why she doesn’t mind that she was never one of the “popular” kids as a teen
8. Stopping by the playground with her child, the Lego Mom finds herself explaining to acquaintances why she works in the paid labor market.
9. The Lego Mom struggles to learn the rules of sports that she did not even see until she was in her 40s, and certainly never played.
10. The Lego Mom cleans up glass from a broken beaker after she naively takes her child with her to check on a lab experiment.
11. The Lego Mom marvels at the child with whom she shares her life, as she hugs her goodbye in the morning.
What additional scenes would you add to such a collection?
Wishing everyone a wonderful and relaxing Labor Day weekend!
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