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  • Mama PhD

    Mothers attempting to balance parenthood and academics.

Mothering at Mid-Career: Counting Down toward the end of the semester
November 15, 2010 - 9:08pm


Four. Sixteen. Eight. Thirty-two. Five. Nineteen. Six.


Lately everything I do seems to have a number on it. I have paper proposals to respond to, course proposals to read, a review to write. I watch the time as I grade and wonder if it’s worth stopping for a few minutes to gauge my progress. I decide not to — I don’t need to know how slowly I work, or for that matter how quickly. The work takes as long as it takes, and then there’s more work when that’s done. It’s good work — I’m not complaining — but it does add up. It doesn’t ever seem to diminish.


I spent a few days last week in “grading jail” — remote locations where I could grade without fear of interruption, without distraction. Well, there was that knitting circle that settled in near me in the coffee shop — I was intrigued by the construction of one woman’s vest, and spent a few minutes googling rather fruitlessly for it when I should have been grading. But I was quickly discouraged and turned back to my work. Still, I’ve forgotten the details of some of the papers and still remember the vest. Is that a problem, or self-protection?


When I’m not counting the papers I have left, it’s days until some future event: my daughter’s arrival for Thanksgiving, the end of semester, my mother’s birthday, Christmas. How many shopping days? I don’t want to know — though, the more knitting days, the better. Maybe I can figure out how to knit and shop at the same time. Doesn’t everyone want a hand-knitted gift this year? I cannot, however, knit and grade at the same time. Not that I’ve tried.


I sit on committees that review and oversee budgets. We look at numbers and my eyes glaze over, then snap back to attention. The numbers are big — but they seem to add up. The numbers matter — they represent student financial aid, faculty salaries, computer replacements, administrative support, light and heat and water. I have to turn them into words to make sense of them, then they take on weight and heft. I can’t count that high, but I can imagine those offices filled, those students in my classes.

The end of the semester approaches and I start to feel fragmented. One half; three quarters; seven eighths. How much of the semester remains? How much of me will there be when the end arrives?


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