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    Mothers attempting to balance parenthood and academics.

Mothering at Mid-Career: Training Day
September 1, 2008 - 8:22pm

Only two weeks ago I confidently announced that "it's not a race," that I'd be able to keep my head above water, my feet on the ground, my mind in the game . . . OK, I didn't really employ all those cliches, but I watched a lot of Olympic coverage and they snuck in there. In any event, all the pre-semester planning made it seem as if I'd get right back into the swing of the semester, and still have time for myself.

Yeah, right. Although I'm making it to class on time, and prepared, it's already feeling a bit like a struggle some days--and as I look ahead, I wonder what I was thinking, assigning three papers and two exams, all those books, all that reading. The idea of October is already filling me with a tiny bit of dread, and it's only the first of September.

So what's wrong with me? If Sarah Palin can go back to work three days after giving birth, shouldn't I be able to manage a return to the classroom after a year away? (And, I might add, so far post-partum that it really, really doesn't count?) Of course she's got a staff, whereas I have -- well, not-fully-trained children, who aren't yet quite up to the task of making dinner, or keeping on top of the bills. (Slackers!)

It's not really that bad, yet. My students still seem eager and motivated, and our class discussions have been a pleasure so far. I still don't know everyone's name, but I've got about half of them down, and the rest will come in time. I've got the first batch of response papers to grade -- but at least everyone remembered to write one. And I'm teaching classes I've taught before, so the preparation time is a bit reduced, giving me time to focus on teaching strategies instead of just mastering the material (though I've never been able to coast off old notes, alas!).

Really, though, I think I was wrong before. It is a race, of sorts, a race for which one trains and prepares while it's ongoing. We're all supposed to reach the finish line together, though, and if I don't do my part the students can't do theirs (and, though they may not realize it, vice versa). Every day, then, as my stamina improves, it will get easier to preserve my voice through the long teaching day; every day I'll find another five minutes here or there to get back to my own work. And every day I'll wonder what I was thinking when I thought, only two weeks ago, that I was ready.


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