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    Mothers attempting to balance parenthood and academics.

ABC's and PhDs: Second PhD needed - in parenting
April 13, 2010 - 9:06pm

I’m a mom, who has prioritized full-time parenting, and I stand in the sidelines of academia. This can be painful, I am no longer considered an expert in my field; the traditional route is pretty well closed and it’s unclear how to balance my work passions from home, blah, blah, blah; I’ve written about this before.

But more painful is when the parenting gets rough. I’m having a hard streak of it now, and finding specific problems that keep haunting me that I feel I haven’t dealt with well, and that I simply don’t know how to work on. This can make you really feel like a failure. Looking back on my parenting, I see how green I have been at so many stages of this process and I know how much I don’t know – I remember, for example telling my husband not to let our infant daughter fall asleep when she was in the middle of crying because I didn’t want her to go to sleep unhappy (what a shock when I found out about and successfully used the Ferber method of teaching my child to go to sleep on her own by crying it out!).

Sometimes parenting is more natural and intuitive than other times. Sometimes it’s hard to get the right help. Right now, for me, it is taking a lot of research and reading (and patience and self-control and outward good cheer). There are dissertations and dissertations worth of learning out there; just like learning how to become a biologist in graduate I am now working through the complex and often rather painful process of discovering and adapting parenting strategies, again, and again, and again.

I just checked out a book from the library that I’m interested in reading, called the “The Irresistible Henry House." The main character, Henry House, is brought as a newborn to a Pennsylvania college campus to become a “practice baby”. Amazingly enough, this was a common program really practiced in home economics departments on many campuses from the 1920s through the 1960’s, adopted children for about two years from local orphanages in order to teach the science of domesticity and parenting, and then put them back up for adoption. These programs boasted a scientific perspective: teaching students (all women, of course) the biology, chemistry and engineering associated with a household – subjects traditionally available almost exclusively to men. The book stars Henry, the subject of this strange attention from multiple studying potential moms-to-be. But it’s interesting also to think about what you can teach someone about parenting in this situation – I’m not sure the book covers that, but I’m curious to see. So much of parenting is diving in with the right attitude, it seems.

It becomes more and more obvious to me how helpful it is to be happy while parenting. Oh, yes it’s easy to say. Stressors of raising children can really wear you down. But being able to see cheer reflected in that being you love so much makes a big difference.


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