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    Mothers attempting to balance parenthood and academics.

Math Geek Mom: Business Cards
June 16, 2011 - 8:40pm

In looking at the integers, we note that even and odd integers alternate, with each even integer being followed by an odd integer. In many ways, in our department, this is how the duties are distributed between the two full time faculty members. For several years, I will serve as chair, until I get to pass it back to my one full-time colleague in what seems like an academic version of the game “hot potato.” I thought of this recently when Ursuline College ordered a new pattern for our business cards, and I ordered two boxes of them.

Yes, I ordered two boxes of business cards. It is not that I plan on attending a lot of conferences, at least not at the moment. Getting to a conference is a luxury that I don’t often get to experience with a daughter in tow, but one that I plan on resuming as she becomes more independent. I ordered them, instead, so that I would always have an appropriate business card. In ordering the new cards, I realized that my future career will alternate, like even and odd numbers, between blocks of years when I am department chair and other sets of years when I am not chairing the department. I therefore had one set of cards made with the title “Professor and Chair” and another with the title of simply “Professor.” Unless I change departments, start a different department, or if the college changes its logo again, these cards should last me until I retire. This relates directly to an experience I had this past weekend.

Last weekend, my parish had a carnival that I attended with my family and the family of one of my daughter’s friends. Part fundraiser, part festival, part chance to celebrate the beginning of summer, it was a great chance to relax and enjoy ourselves with our parish community and the general public. As my husband and I ran from ride to ride in an effort to keep up with my daughter, I noticed one of my former students in the crowd. What a wonderful surprise to see her and to get to introduce her to my daughter and husband.

This student was one of the Ursuline stories that make me appreciate teaching here. Pregnant as a young teenager, she bore her daughter and has raised her as a single parent (with, thankfully, the assistance of her parents.) Despite being a mother at such a young age, she excelled in high school and went to a community college before transferring to Ursuline College with plans to attend medical school and become an obstetrician. She eventually decided to pursue a different specialty that is more family-friendly (no 3AM deliveries) and is less subject to litigation (a huge issue for O.B.s in Ohio), and did so after graduation a few years ago. When we chatted for a few minutes last weekend, she told me that she is working at one of the world-class hospitals in the area, where she will begin a fellowship in the fall. I always knew that she was smart and driven, but I am even more impressed with what she has crafted from her life.

I am very aware that I was lucky to find my future at Ursline College, as many colleges would never have been so encouraging to a teenage mother who wanted to become a doctor. But that is what she did, and I am grateful that I had a role in helping her realize her dreams.

I recently overheard parts of a conversation with someone who has a high-pressured job that comes with lots of prestige and high pay. This person, who is probably paid a multiple of what I am paid, said “but I don’t want to do this for the rest of my life.” As an economist, I recalled the difference between maximizing “utility” and maximizing “income.”

As I looked at the new business cards that just arrived, and recalled running into my student who has a wonderful life ahead of her, I realized that I can honestly say that I DO want to do this for the rest of my life.

To all those embarking on new academic endevors in the next few weeks: Best of luck!

May the future bring with it great adventures!


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