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  • Mama PhD

    Mothers attempting to balance parenthood and academics.

Mothering at Mid-Career: Starting Fresh?
May 11, 2009 - 9:59pm

It’s been just over a year since I started writing this blog. Last May I was just coming off sabbatical, and we had just made significant decisions about our children’s next steps. I spent the summer writing, traveling, and planning for the fall, while my daughter graduated from high school and made her first forays into political organizing and retail sales and my son enjoyed his last summer before middle school.

It’s been a busy year. In the fall I taught my “heavy” load (three courses, all filled to capacity), my son accommodated himself to middle school, and my daughter worked on the Obama campaign and made her plans for the spring. Our campus continued to look into childcare optionsas a result of a work-life balance survey (we’re now going on 25 years of studying the possibility of on-campus childcare) and we approved a new strategic plan.

In the spring, as a result of that strategic plan, I found myself chairing a committee to look into our first-year academic experience. My daughter moved to San Francisco; our bathroom broke. Again.That link is actually to an August blog post; it took until the late winter for us to assess the damage fully and realize just how serious the breakage was. My husband is even now measuring tile for the newly repaired floor.

I live in an old house, and when something breaks it can’t really just be replaced. There are layers of repairs evident everywhere in the house, just as there are layers of paint. Each new owner has done his or her best to make the repairs that make sense for that family, that budget, that time — and we live with their decisions. Sometimes — often, to tell the truth — we wish we could just rip everything out and start again, but that’s just not in our budget, nor would it work in a house this old, this crotchety.

This morning our faculty gathered together for the last faculty meeting of the year and voted on a new first-year curriculum. The first-year curriculum that we voted in today will make a radical change from what we’ve been doing for the past 18 years; it will take us time to adjust, and we will no doubt hit snags along the way. Already we’re starting to ask ourselves what we have done, and what it means for the way we teach, and the way we think about teaching. We have an exciting new opportunity in front of us, a chance to do something from scratch — and that’s something we rarely do in the academy. More often we do as the previous owners of our house — and we — have done: we patch, we repair, we build up a new layer on top of an old one.

Of course the first-year curriculum will fit into the context of the rest of our curriculum, a wondrous patchwork affair as all open and flexible curricula are. So the new will still fit in with the old, still require some jiggling here, a shim there, to make it work. But right now, as it still shimmers out there in its ideal state, not yet implemented or even fully designed, it is as shiny and full of promise as –well, as the new tile floor I’m not getting.


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