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    Mothers attempting to balance parenthood and academics.

Mothering at Mid-Career: Juggling
May 3, 2010 - 10:39pm

It feels like it's been a while since I wrote anything about being a parent in this space. It's been a busy semester at work, and I've had a lot on my mind related to teaching and advising, I suppose. It's also the case that I'm in that delightful stage of parenting that doesn't require hands-on attention every second to keep the kids alive. My daughter sends me a facebook message periodically — or, more often, just plays another round in one of our ongoing word games online — so I know she's all right. I see my son before he leaves in the morning and after I get home every evening, but right now we're in the "what'd you do today?" "Nothing" stage of our relationship, so there's not a whole lot to report.

Today, though, was a little different. I am facilitating a workshop for sixteen of my faculty colleagues this week — a teaching workshop in preparation for the launch of our first-year seminar program next fall. Twice—twice!—during the afternoon, my cell phone rang.

My cell phone never rings. I saw that it was my daughter calling, and I made a strategic decision not to answer. I knew I had a break coming up in ten minutes, and that she could probably wait ten minutes. After all, I reasoned, she's 400 miles away — if it's an emergency, I can't get there, even on a last-minute flight, before tonight. Ten minutes won't make a big difference.

As it happens, I was right. There's no emergency other than the ongoing one that has her Boston-area campus, like so many others, boiling water and handing out hand sanitizer. She just wanted to talk during her ten-minute walk across campus. One of my colleagues teased me: "So you're the parent that we talk about, always on the phone with her college-age kid!" As it happens, I'm not — usually. But there I was today, juggling the phone and our conversations, getting the workshop back on track and wondering when I'd get a chance to call my daughter back.

As I listened to her voicemail I watched my colleagues milling about, talking about teaching, about first year students, about their expectations for the next year. Our semester has just ended; my daughter still has about ten days left. But we're all juggling something: the lack of water on one campus, the one late paper at another, the grades that need to be turned in, the conversation (even if it's just, "what's up?" "nothing") with the middle-schooler. My provost fielded a call from a trustee during one break of our workshop; the president made arrangements to speak with the commencement speaker during another one. (Both will be teaching for our program next year.) And I made my daughter leave a voicemail — and called her back when my workshop got out.


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