There is always an ebb and flow of parenthood, but at this time of year, as the kids all start back to school, I personally feel more of the ebb of life, rather than the flow. I hate packing school lunches for my kids. Unfortunately they usually do not like hot lunches at their school, and I am not all that fond of Lunchables with all their packaging. But I struggle to think of a variety of food to include each day – healthy, well-balanced food within each child’s repertoire of acceptable.
It takes all I have to get dinner made between getting kids to soccer practice, cajoling them into completing their first homework assignments, encouraging them to practice piano, making lunches for school, coordinating information for my school district's efforts to pass a new mill levy and bond issue for funding, etc. This is one week when I wish I had a traditional academic job where I could escape from it all, and just go plan a lecture or write a paper or do an experiment or even write a grant proposal, and have someone else do my "stuff". Of course, someone has to do my stuff. Or more likely, if I had a full-time academic job, I would be cramming the full-time job and getting the kids back in the swing of school into each day. (Aside: my husband is hugely helpful with making dinner, washing the dishes, doing the laundry, taking care of the kids, almost all things domestic really – though I have never seen him pack the kids’ school lunches.)
It is not really until I start to work on the Science Fair, or examine the math curriculum, or analyze my children’s school’s data on the state standardized tests, that I start to feel like a non-traditional academic again. This week I feel like an uncoordinated stay-at-home mom.
Next week will be better: I will start a science project with my kids. We sent away for a Monarch butterfly tagging kit.  In September, these beautiful butterflies migrate south from across North America to overwinter in Mexico or California. Their migration is one of the world’s greatest natural wonders. People all over North America catch the butterflies on their way south, and place a very small ID tag on one wing, and then release the butterfly to continue with their migration. Throughout the winter months, other scientists catch monarchs in Mexico and California and look at their ID tags to determine where these butterflies may have emerged from their cocoons. All this can be tracked online. My kids and I love doing this type of joint scientific project – my kids and I both learn a lot in the process. We will also bring in a few of the butterflies we catch and tag into each of my children’s classes to teach all the kids and their teachers about the mighty Monarchs’ migration. That is what inspires me to be a non-traditional academic – weaving my passion for science with my desire to share my science with my kids and others. One year, our family will have to plan a trip to Mexico to visit the winter home of the Monarchs. Soon also, my colleagues and I will begin another collaborative writing project. Then, as the Monarchs are on their way south, my life will feel balanced again.