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  • Mama PhD

    Mothers attempting to balance parenthood and academics.

ABCs and PhD's: Stress
January 27, 2010 - 12:02pm

I snow-balled a meltdown as I hurrumphed around this evening, distressed at the resistance of my family to help out with dinner and other immediate chores. In fact, for the last several days, maybe a week, our household has been edgy and uncomfortable; tonight things fell apart very easily. My husband glued himself to his computer shortly after walking in the door. The kids, despite all my best efforts to engage with them individually, together, while practicing, doing homework, the rest of the normal weekly activities and even through the act of making dessert together, picked at each other and exploded and dissolved into tears time after time after time. Finally I took my book and dived into bed, giving hubby his turn: to supervise bedtime alone.

When the kids were abed and it was safe to come down, I exchanged more than six words in a row to my husband and finally put together the problem: beginning of semester stress. How did I miss all the indicators? Not until I realized the huge number of exponentially blossoming tasks that he needs to complete in a too-short amount of time, administrative duties, summer research applications, teaching, grading (already!), last-minute advising (and the list goes on), did I understand our family upheaval.

In this context, I realize it’s a weird limbo time for my kids, too, who are also starting a new quarter at school. After-school activities are undetermined, new classes haven’t yet started, but are looming large. Monday (the first day of the new university semester) was a teacher-grading day, and my kids had the day off, twisting their routine. A long round of standardized testing completed the last grading block, precluding PE. There’s been a rush of worry about making sure all work has been handed in so that they can attend “movie day”, the school-wide reward for completed work. Report cards are due soon, and, I’m sure, are topics of discussion at school.

For me, the beginning of the semester came crashing in from out of the blue. Oh, I knew it had started, I just had not tuned into its impact. Somehow, despite the fact that I’ve lived a life defined by the academic calendar forever, this semester snuck up and built up in epic proportions. Semesters come and go, and beginning of semesters come and go (some more smoothly than others) and this too shall pass. The diagnosis is a relief. With the knowledge that this is temporary, my crankiness at dealing with too many wonky issues has transformed into more understanding sympathy; I can calm down my insecurities that flared up as family life has grown increasingly difficult and I seem to always do the wrong things.

I had another blog topic planned out to write about for this week, but my family stress ball took over my thoughts this time. I hope your semesters have started more smoothly!


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