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  • Mama PhD

    Mothers attempting to balance parenthood and academics.

The Reentry Problem
July 25, 2010 - 3:56pm

As noted here, I had an idyllic vacation last week. I felt nourished and even transformed by it—as sometimes happens with distance and a change of scene, I thought I had found the key to some difficult professional and personal issues that had been plaguing me. Perspective is all, I decided. I’d allowed myself to become stressed out and overwhelmed by things that, in the long run, were unimportant. The relaxed, cheerful, musical person who emerged in Maine was my true self, and now that she had resurfaced after being buried under mounds of trivia for a few years, I wasn’t about to let her go again.

We got back late Friday night, laughing and singing all the way. I kissed my family and dropped into bed exhausted but peaceful, and fell into a deep sleep — for a few hours, until it was time to get up and go to work.

I like my Friday/Saturday job a lot. It can be stressful — we serve some very troubled people, and often need to make difficult, high-risk decisions — but I supervise a group of first-rate clinicians, whom I like a great deal, and the work is absorbing and rewarding. But I did not want to go in on Saturday morning. I dreaded being sucked back into the ER-like atmosphere after the ease and peace of the week just ended.

I couldn’t find anything — I’d changed bags before leaving, and left my office keys, MetroCard, and other work-related paraphernalia behind, in a safe place that I now couldn’t remember. Finally, after tearing the apartment apart, I located most of the missing items and ran out, late, to find that the trains had been rerouted again, and I would have to take a different, slower train in. Normally the commute takes about an hour and 15 minutes; the change would add another 15-20 minutes. I could feel my stomach start to clench up. I took deep breaths and told myself these were minor problems. On the train, I tried to visualize the bay outside my friends’ cabin. But the announcer kept repeating the news of the rerouting, loudly, over the PA system, as a large, forceful man paced up and down the car, exhorting us to welcome Jesus into our hearts. The bay froze up and splintered.

I arrived at work late, apologetic, and frazzled, to a backlog of paperwork and some immediate, pressing client issues. Nothing unusual, but a somewhat rough re-entry, and that evening, when a miscommunication with a friend caused me to wait nearly half an hour on a hot, smelly, noisy street corner, I went off on him about inconsiderateness and poor planning with a degree of vehemence that left him speechless, not even imagining that my own spaciness could have contributed to the mess-up in plans.

I’ve apologized to my friend, straightened out my stuff, and reacclimated to my job. I’m glad to be back — my son turned sixteen yesterday, and I wouldn’t have been away that day for all the moose in Maine. But as for that cheerful, peaceful, relaxed woman who showed her face briefly—if you see her around, please direct her back this way. I miss her.


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