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  • Mama PhD

    Mothers attempting to balance parenthood and academics.

Mothering at Mid-Career:A Sort of Homecoming
August 31, 2009 - 9:21pm

There's a crispness to the air today, a snap that makes me think fall is on the way. New England falls are glorious, and I'm sorry I won't see most of this one; we're only here for a few days, making what I've been calling a “royal progress” to take our daughter to college.

When I realized she'd need to be here during my second week of classes, I briefly considered not coming. To get her to her Boston-area campus by early on a Wednesday morning would mean at least one overnight in New England, which would mean I'd miss my Tuesday classes. Could I really take a day away so early in the term? Then I remembered that my students need an orientation to their community-based learning options — so I arranged for them to do that while I made the trek. (Insert standard disclaimer here about my gratitude for the flexible schedule of the tenured faculty member; how do other parents manage this?)

Since I have a Tuesday-Thursday teaching schedule, I then started to wonder about an extra day or two on the road: a visit to my parents, a stop with friends. This isn't a vacation, but a few days in New England — a place I still think of as home, though I haven't lived here for twenty-five years — as fall approaches seemed like it could be a pleasant break from the routine. So we loaded up the car on Sunday and headed north.

It seems fitting that we're here at my parents' home just before we take our daughter to college. This isn't the home from which I left for college, 31 (can it be that long?) years ago, but my parents are the same people who dropped me off, and I'm feeling a bit nostalgic. Such possibilities are opening up for my daughter! She'll have a few days, or maybe longer, of disorientation before she gets settled in a new routine — but before long, she'll refer to college as “home” in a conversation with me and I'll know she's on her way. I remember doing it myself — referring to school as “home” and then catching myself, but also realizing that in some true sense that now was my home, another home besides my parents'. Their house is still, in some fundamental sense, my home, though it's not one I've ever lived in and it's over 450 miles away from the place I now call home. Leaving for college will start to teach my daughter, as it taught me, that there can be more than one “home.”

I'll have a few days of disorientation, too, when we return. I'll be right back at work on Thursday, back in the classroom and in the office, meeting with colleagues and checking off the next thing on the to-do list. It will be warmer there — I haven't yet felt the crispness that signals fall is on the way — but that means there are still several weeks of local peaches and tomatoes: food I'll share with one fewer person in the house. Soon enough I'll be baking care-package cookies or fielding a homesick phone call; for another day, though, I'm the daughter in the house as well as the mother, remembering what it's like to be the one leaving as I learn what it is to be the one left behind.


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