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    Mothers attempting to balance parenthood and academics.

Mothering at Mid-Career: Now and Then
December 22, 2009 - 8:27am

A week from now, the presents will all be unwrapped, the Christmas cookies mostly eaten—and I'll be sitting in a hotel room with three of my colleagues, interviewing some fabulous job candidates. Between now and then, I'll have refamiliarized myself with my potential new colleagues' work, hosted a holiday party, given and received various gifts, read two or three books for a book award committee I'm on—

But wait! What about right now? I'm sitting in my dining room, looking out at snowy streets and Christmas lights, getting ready for a quick errand to campus and a shopping trip. Today's a fine day. But I find, both as an academic and a parent, that I spend way more time living partly in the future than I always like. The issues for the academic are obvious — we have to be reading and planning ahead for our courses and our research all the time, watching upcoming deadlines and working out, in some cases, two-year teaching schedules and multi-year research plans. As a parent perhaps the issue is less obvious — after all, aren't we told that being around children is a great way of "being in the moment"? Perhaps — but when my kids were small I was always waiting and watching for the next developmental stage, and now that they're older they, too, have deadlines to meet and plans to make for the future. Just yesterday as we tramped around in the snow I was reminding my daughter of the importance of securing a summer job for herself.

[Small digression here: yesterday, Monday, I was so good at not living in the future that I stopped writing right there, and failed to make my normal deadline for writing this blog post, which I usually write on a Monday to go up on Tuesday…]

So where was I? Living in the future and the present at the same time, and not doing either one particularly well. Winter break is especially prone to this problem, I think — it's short enough that one really does need to spend much of it thinking about spring semester (yes, my books are already ordered, but not yet re-read). The other day I called a friend at home to talk over a work issue and she was simultaneously simmering a sauce for her traditional Christmas Eve lasagne and planning her syllabus for a new course in the spring. It took a minute to get back into the present, but I knew exactly how she felt.

For at least the next week, I'll try to be more in the present—which will include taking a week off from this blog. I'll be interviewing potential future colleagues, remember? — but doing so with all kinds of attention to the present moment, I promise! In the meantime, I hope all my readers out there have a wonderful winter break and come back in January refreshed and restored.


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