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    Mothers attempting to balance parenthood and academics.

Math Geek Mom: Making the Grade (Sort Of)
April 29, 2010 - 7:38pm

I remember my comprehensive exams in graduate school as the low point of that experience. Classes were fun, and I did relatively well, and writing my dissertation was actually a joy most of the time. But in the one week dedicated to my comprehensive exams that turned into months as I ended up re-taking some of them, I was expected to know everything from my years there and to prove it on paper to what seemed like merciless graders. I don’t know if I had felt so vulnerable at any point in my life up until then, and have only felt so vulnerable a few times since then. I must admit, however, that the most vulnerable I have ever felt has been in the midst of trying to take on the job of being a parent. I like to say that no one should try to be a parent who has not raised a child already!

Like many modern day parents, I look to not only books but also the internet for ideas and suggestions on how to be a better parent. Some of this information is good, and some of it is not. I have learned that anyone can post anything on the web that they want, and that some of the advice and thoughts that are posted there are suspect at best. How does one sift through the piles of books on parenting and the multitude of web sources? Again, we are left feeling vulnerable.

I thought of those feelings last week when the editor for Inside Higher Education sent those of us who write for this space a link to the web page for a group of Nurse Practitioners. It is a list of sites that discuss parenting issues, and lists one hundred blogs that deal with parenting. In the midst of this list can be found none other than “Mama, Ph.D”! I was thrilled to see us listed there, but also felt a little like an imposter. After all, I am certainly not pretending to be an expert who can pass along advice to other parents. In fact, if anything, I am just a struggling parent who shares my stories with the wider world. I certainly hope that none of the patients that these nurse practitioners send to this site are looking for any real wisdom from me, although I suspect that they can find it from my colleagues here (I was particularly impressed with my colleague’s recent column on taking five minutes a day with her child).

A friend who spent several years in the Peace Corps told me that their motto is “The Toughest Job You’ll Ever Love.” I think that the same can be said of parenting. However, last week my angst was calmed a bit as my daughter gave me a hug on the way off to school. As she gave me a hug goodbye she said “You’re the best mom ever.” And, as much as I wondered what she was after from me (I never did find that out), I must admit, I cried. I felt like I did on the day I passed my last graduate school comprehensive exam.


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