• Mama PhD

    Mothers attempting to balance parenthood and academics.


Math Geek Mom: Sounds of Summer

Decisions and consequences.



August 6, 2015

The interest rate paid to savers by banks and by borrowers to lenders is sometimes called the “time value of money.” This interest rate can be seen as the price that people will pay to use money today, rather than wait a while and use the money later, when it is immediately available or has been accumulated through savings. I found myself thinking of this issue of the costs and benefits of delayed gratification and decisions made considering long run consequences recently as my daughter played with the buttons on the radio in my car, as I drove her from place to place.

With summer upon us, I often find myself assuming the job of “mom’s taxi” as I bring my daughter to and from activities as well as to and from meetings with friends. Lately, this has given me an unusual perspective on the world inhabited by people her age. Most often, as she seats herself in my car, she will immediately reach over and change the station on the radio. No more “adult contemporary” or “classic rock” stations chosen by me or my husband, as she turns the station of the rock stations that are popular among people her age. This has given me a (literally) a front row seat view of what it is that people her age are listening to. While I know that it makes me sound incredibly old, I have to say that I am disturbed by some of what I am hearing.

My difficulty with some of the music is not that it often deals with topics from which I wish to protect her. After all, I vividly recall dancing to songs from my own youth that would have made my own parents cringe, including “Cocaine” and “Paradise by the Dashboard Light.” Rather, it is something else that disturbs me about the music I am hearing. For, this summer, I have heard at least three songs played that include in them a line that is some variation of “we don’t know if we have tomorrow, so let’s just do what we want tonight.”

As someone who stood by as I watched my younger sister hang onto every second of life with her children, even as she wrote them a letter saying goodbye, I am disturbed that such an attitude is marketed to teenagers who have no reason not to be encouraged to make long-run plans for their life. If any group needs to be encouraged to make decisions today that will lead to good outcomes tomorrow, it is these young people who are listening to this music.

When I think of all that I want for my child and my students, I realize that decisions will need to be made that take into account the long run. As many of my fellow Mama, Ph.Ds. know, graduate school was very much an experience in delayed gratification, as we lived simply, on very little money, in hopes of someday acquiring a job that would satisfy our souls. At an even more basic level, students need to learn how to make decisions about their study habits and their use of time that will allow them to draw the best outcomes from their educational experiences. I sometimes find myself, however, at quite a loss as to how to teach such skills to my child and students, especially when the costs of some mistakes have become so high, much higher than they were when I was growing up.

Of course, there were some songs that I found myself liking; while not terribly polite, the song “Shut Up and Dance With Me” made me want to dance, and the (new) song “I’m Still Growing Up” had me in tears. Still, I am left with the struggle of how to combat the “live for today without worrying about the consequences” attitude in some of the music I now know she listens to.

And so, I ask my readers, how do you encourage your children and your students to make decisions that account for outcomes that seem, to them, very far into the future?


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