• Mama PhD

    Mothers attempting to balance parenthood and academics.


Math Geek Mom: Summer!

Change of seasons.


June 4, 2015

Recently, I had students in my Statistics course create a regression explaining the determinants of the number of hours a respondent to a survey reported working in the previous week. Some of the explanatory variables my students used included age, education and sex. When the coefficient on “sex” showed that women were working less than men, we had a discussion about what it means to “work.” The General Social Survey we were using defined “work” only in terms of compensated market work (which is also true for the calculations of Gross Domestic Product.) Other work, such as caring for children or elderly parents or caring for a home, is not included. Thus, while I am sure that many of the women from the survey did not have a second to sit down as they moved from (possibly less) market work to cooking dinner to cleaning up after a family, the data showed that they worked less than the men in the survey. I found myself thinking of this, and the way we define “work” and “leisure” in our society, as I continue to respond to questions from well-meaning people who ask me “are you off for the summer yet?”

Yes, my spring semester courses are finished, but I am deep into teaching a section of summer school, which began before my grades for my spring semester were submitted. This creates a seamless move from the spring semester to my summer course.

Although I am teaching this summer, I do feel that things are more relaxed now that I am teaching only one course at a time. Therefore, while not actually on the “vacation” that many feel professors have over the summer, the pace is definitely more relaxed during these months. This is giving me a chance to begin work on some projects that I plan to complete during a sabbatical next spring, including working on input into the revision of a text book and finally writing a paper that I have been meaning to write for several years. In my free time, I hope to finally finish a piece of fiction I began long ago, a book that I can see as the first in a series of novels. Since they are projects that ask me to flex my creative muscles, I must  admit I am not always sure whether to classify them as “work” or as “leisure.”

When not teaching my one class, I find myself involved in an effort to revise the core curriculum at Ursuline as well as spending time creating a somewhat novel course on “market failure” that I hope to someday teach in our MBA program.  Such a course flows easily from my research on nonprofit organizations, as many nonprofit organizations arise as a response to the failure of market signals to accurately reflect the true value of products and services for sale, such as the true level of care at a nursing home being considered for one’s parents.

The public pool is open now, so, the other day, I had a tantalizing taste of what summer will be when I picked my daughter up after work and we headed there. The pool was almost empty, although the lifeguards, who greeted us with big smiles, seemed to remember us from previous summers. The water was just getting warm, and sparked in the evening light as we jumped into the liquid refreshment. I know I should savor these days, when my daughter is still willing to be seen with me at the pool, as they most definitely will not last forever. For now, we swam together, only pausing to try to shoot basketballs into nets hung low over the pool. Since I am short, and these baskets were much closer to me than I am used to, I found a new talent as the day faded. We were both sad when it became time to leave, but willingly exited the pool, knowing that, amidst curriculum development, research and teaching, such magic, sparkling afternoons await me in the near future.

I wish some of the same for all of my readers.


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