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    Mothers attempting to balance parenthood and academics.

Mothering at Mid-Career: One Busy Week
March 23, 2009 - 9:43pm

I’m not sure I’ve ever had a week like this as an academic. My week started with a meeting, and it will continue with meetings and teaching and conferences and travel — and, maybe, a trip to the Grand Ole Opry? No, I know I’ve never had a week like this.

It’s wonderful to have a flexible teaching schedule. This semester I teach two classes, and one only meets weekly. That means that I can have days like today, that begin with a meeting at 9 am and go until, well, now (it’s just past 5 pm as I type) with meetings and meeting prep and meeting follow-up. (I know I have non-academic friends who are laughing at me right now; this is what their days always look like.) I’m feeling a bit stressed because I haven’t yet looked at the papers I received last week, which I should be returning with feedback tomorrow; I also still have some prep to do for tomorrow’s class. I’ll get to that this evening after dinner.

Because tomorrow I’m also participating in my first-ever reading, a reading organized by the Women’s Studies Colloquium at St. Mary’s College Maryland. Fellow Mama, PhD contributors Della Fenster and Jennifer Cognard-Black and I will be reading from our essays and talking about the issues that we deal with every day in our lives, and I write about here every week. I’ll leave Richmond right after class to go to St. Mary’s College for the reading, and when I get back Wednesday I have another day of meetings, much like today. But first, a wonderful opportunity to gather in a room with some folks I’ve known only virtually — and some not even that way — to discuss our writing and our thinking.

But the meetings are important, too. I’m currently chairing a committee that’s looking into our first-year academic experience, and it’s heady stuff, thinking about curricula and talking with other committed faculty about their ideas and experiences. Teaching first-year students may not get much glory (though if my committee can change that, it will!), but it’s vital to the mission of the university, and it’s a pleasure and an honor to be working with others who are taking it as seriously as I am. Between that and my work with community-based learning I’ve been going to terrific meetings lately — but, sigh, all at once, somehow.

And then, the Opry! In fact that’s just a possible side trip — I’m headed to Nashville Thursday morning for a children’s literature conference, and my main goal for the conference is to deliver my paper on the Twilight series and listen to other talks by folks who care as much about children’s and young adult literature as I do. I always come back from conferences like this one excited about my research, and more than ever committed to keeping it an integral part of my life.

And what about my family? My daughter in San Francisco is starting to plan for a couple weeks visit with us at Easter time (two weeks away), and my son just realized that he has after-school commitments every day this week. Good thing his father is available for homework help and lunchbox prep.

It’s a rich life these days, and I’m grateful that I can experience it all. But I usually don’t have all my interests quite so packed into one busy week. Writing, teaching, planning, grading, conferencing — I may actually just go crash in my hotel room rather than making it to the Opry, don’t you think?


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