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    Mothers attempting to balance parenthood and academics.

Considering "Another Anon"
September 25, 2011 - 4:25pm

"Another Anon" wrote, in part, in response to Libby's latest post:

When I first saw this blog I had a sense of profound relief - I had found people like me. After a few weeks of steady reading, I gave up. Now I only read "Mama PhD" occasionally. The writers of this blog are not anything like me. I congratulate you all on your successes and am genuinely happy for each of you. But the title of the blog is inaccurate. Instead of "Mama, Ph.D.," I suggest "Mama-with-supportive-partner, Tenured-Prof."

This comment, along with Libby's sensitive response, made me recall an episode from about 15 years ago. As I left our apartment building one Saturday morning to run an errand, I noticed a small crowd gathered in front of the building across the street. A fourth-floor window was open, and two little boys in pajamas were throwing various toys and household objects out onto the street. People were talking about calling the police, calling child protective services. "Where are the parents?" they demanded indignantly.

But I knew the parents; these boys played with Ben and were never left unsupervised. I rang the family's buzzer insistently until Annie, the mom, responded, and I directed her to check out her living room. "Oh, my God," she shrieked, but faintly.

It turned out that both parents were down with a particularly debilitating strain of the flu, and had been up sick all night. They were collapsed in bed, with no inkling that their kids weren't sleeping peacefully.

Shortly afterward, Bill and I came down with the same flu. (Ben got it, too, but only for an afternoon, then he sprang right back.) Ben wasn't the throwing-stuff-out- the-window type, fortunately, because if he had been, there wouldn't have been a thing we could do about it, we were that sick. At the nadir, neither of us was able to drag out of bed to even fix a sandwich for Ben, who was going on three. When he rummaged through the fridge himself, pulled out a cake of tofu, and parked himself near my pillow to eat it, I called a neighbor and asked if she could take him for a few hours. But he was too frightened to leave my side.

I have been thinking, since reading Another Anon's comment, that this is probably the stuff of everyday, or at least once or twice yearly, life for a single parent.

Several years ago, I became too ill to work for a period of several months. I don't get paid sick leave. I did the minimum for Ben most days, but sometimes couldn't even manage that. If there had not been another healthy, responsible, employed adult in our home, Ben would have had to live with family in another state, if they had been able to take him. The thought is chilling.

Thanks for the reminder of how privileged many of us are. I echo Libby's suggestion to keep commenting, and enlightening us about your experiences. How can we help improve things for you?

 

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