Archive for Women

Storying Your Education through an Artifact

“What object would you use to tell the story of your education?”

This ques­tion was posed to me by Jenn Fish­man, an Assis­tant Pro­fes­sor at Mar­quette Uni­ver­sity, who is today’s speaker at the Sum­mer Sem­i­nar in Rhetoric and Com­po­si­tion that I am attend­ing. Jenn asked us before­hand to bring with us an arti­fact that would help us tell the story of our education.

I thought about this prompt for at least a few weeks before com­ing to the con­fer­ence (Isn’t it such a provoca­tive thing to con­sider?). I even posed this ques­tion to my friends on Face­book, who responded with cre­ative and inter­est­ing arti­facts, includ­ing a flute, library, teach­ers, a spread­sheet, a human skull, and a lap­top. Notice that these items were not lim­ited to school­ing; instead, these (smart) peo­ple looked at edu­ca­tion from many dif­fer­ent van­tage points, includ­ing school­ing, of course, but also extracur­ric­u­lar activ­i­ties, hob­bies, places, peo­ple, and extra­or­di­nary objects.

When I began think­ing about how I would answer Jenn’s ques­tion, the object that first popped to my mind was a Bible. But this was not the story I wanted to tell about myself. I didn’t want to be one of those peo­ple who, at least in acad­e­mia, are often viewed as narrow-minded, pre­dictable, igno­rant, judg­men­tal, and hate­ful. I didn’t want to be char­ac­ter­ized, stereo­typed, or judged because of this arti­fact that I might bring.

So I began to pon­der other artifacts.

I looked around my office. I noticed the three diplo­mas hang­ing on the wall. I con­sid­ered bring­ing one of those. I even took a pic­ture of my Ph.D. diploma–just in case I chose to use it. This diploma holds great mean­ing to me, and not just in ways you might think (but that’s another story).

I con­sid­ered telling the story about how I over­came a speech imped­i­ment when I was young. I couldn’t pro­nounce my els, rs, or esses. I couldn’t even say my own name cor­rectly. This story has defined me in ways that I can­not fully artic­u­late, that no one else quite under­stands even when I try to explain. It is con­nected to why I try so hard at things, why being a vale­dic­to­rian and get­ting a Ph.D. mean so much to me. But I couldn’t think of an object to bring. I thought of My Fair Lady but decided against it. I thought of bring­ing a pic­ture of my speech teacher whose name I can’t remem­ber but who, in the sec­ond grade, showed me how, though six months preg­nant, mater­nity pants worked. I couldn’t find a picture.

I also thought about bring­ing a bas­ket­ball. Bas­ket­ball was not the first sport I ever played or the first sport I was good at, but it was the sport to teach me about dis­ci­pline, team­work, ded­i­ca­tion, and hard work. It was also the sport I loved the most, the sport I excelled at most, a sport I now play today with my own chil­dren. I learned about my strengths, my weak­nesses. I noticed that some of my strengths and weak­nesses were innate (I had a log­i­cal mind and could pre­dict where a player would throw the ball and inter­cept it; I was short and could not block a shot); oth­ers were devel­oped in life (I could nail three point­ers from all over the arc; I could throw a ball poorly to a team­mate and get it intercepted).

I learned so much about myself through play­ing basketball.

I learned about life and peo­ple and love.
I learned about good teach­ing through both good and bad coaches.
I learned about pas­sion and prac­tice and per­for­mance.
I learned how to have a good atti­tude, not be self­ish, how to lose, how to win, how to be a good team­mate, how to be a leader, how to for­give other’s mis­takes.
Bas­ket­ball taught me how to expe­ri­ence and live life.

I also thought about bring­ing one of my all-time favorite nov­els, The Grapes of Wrath (To Kill a Mock­ing­bird is another favorite of mine.). I read this book my senior year of col­lege. It was in “The Amer­i­can Novel,” the first upper-level Eng­lish course I took after switch­ing majors my junior year. This book changed me. It changed how I viewed the world. It changed the way I approached peo­ple and story. It expanded my under­stand­ing of lis­ten­ing, emphathiz­ing, under­stand­ing. I iden­ti­fied with the Joads and Tom and the pain and suf­fer­ing and loss this fam­ily expe­ri­enced. The sto­ries within this book broke my heart. I quickly bought and read as many John Stein­beck books as I could, includ­ing Of Mice and Men, Can­nery Row, East of Eden, and Trav­els with Charley.

John Stein­beck, I might argue, made me more socially aware.

More aware of injus­tice.
More aware of the ter­ri­ble ways peo­ple treat each other.
More aware that the idea of pulling one­self up by the boot­straps is a myth.
More aware of sys­temic poverty, racism, clas­sism, and sex­ism.
More aware of priv­i­lege.
More aware of my own sub­ject posi­tion.

The Grapes of Wrath gave me rea­son to be angry. To be rav­ing mad. But it also allowed me to under­stand the dig­nity of wrath. It led me to want to fight injus­tice. It changed me.

Even­tu­ally this book led me back to the first book I con­sid­ered as my arti­fact: the Bible. And, in the end, the Bible is the arti­fact I chose. I thought the risk was worth it.

Holy Bible Pink Cover


Bad Moms and Being Mom Enough: A Reflection

By now, you have most likely read or heard about the recent arti­cle in Time mag­a­zine titled, “Are you Mom enough?”. The blo­gos­phere (and the media) has been abuzz over this article.

I'm not a bad girl; You're a bad mommy!

Image cour­tesy of http://themotherlode.wordpress.com

Some authors have addressed the title of the arti­cle and all that it implies (com­pe­ti­tion, self-hatred, guilt, mommy wars, sex­ism, iden­tity issues, etc.). Oth­ers have com­mented on the cover image in which a three-year-old boy is suck­ing on his mother’s bare breast while look­ing at the cam­era (how it is going to scar him for­ever, how pub­lic breast­feed­ing is fine, how this goes on in all areas of the world, how this mother is a heli­copter par­ent, etc., etc.). Most dis­cus­sions have addressed the topic of the arti­cle, attach­ment par­ent­ing.

I’ve read many com­men­taries on and responses to this arti­cle. (I par­tic­u­larly liked what my col­lege room­mate had to say about it, as well as another blogger’s provoca­tive post, “Where Is the Mommy War for the Moth­er­less Child?”.

I have my own opin­ions on all of these mat­ters. I obvi­ously do not choose to do attach­ment par­ent­ing. I stopped nurs­ing my chil­dren when they were between 8–10 months old. I do not carry my baby around on me like a papoose; he weighs too much and I would break my back. I do not, under any cir­cum­stance, allow my chil­dren to sleep with me and my hus­band in our bed. I also work out­side the home, which Dr. Sears, the founder of the move­ment, dis­cour­ages women who want to incor­po­rate attach­ment par­ent­ing philoso­phies from doing.

I don’t love my chil­dren any less. I love them a lot, actu­ally. I believe it’s impor­tant help my chil­dren feel loved, safe, con­fi­dent, self-assured, and inde­pen­dent. I let my chil­dren play for long peri­ods of time with­out get­ting involved or inter­ject­ing my own agenda. I let them work out prob­lems. I tell them, “No.” I ask them to be cre­ative. I chal­lenge them.

Most moth­ers do.

What I have learned from being a mother for almost seven years is that there are many dif­fer­ent ways to mother. There are dif­fer­ent ways to be a mother. And there are dif­fer­ent def­i­n­i­tions of moth­ers and moth­er­hood and mothering.

As moms, we have images in our head about the kind of mother we want to be. If you’re like me, you often feel guilty about ways you do not live up to your own expec­ta­tions. Our cul­ture and the media (and some­times reli­gious orga­ni­za­tions and peo­ple) send the mes­sage that we are not good enough, that we are not “Mom enough.” My recent post about Pin­ter­est images attests to the per­va­sive­ness of soci­etal expec­ta­tions and norms.

But who are we to judge other moth­ers? Aren’t we all just try­ing our best to do good our their children?

We are all “Mom enough” to the chil­dren in our lives.

They love us. They know we love them.

We must know that who we are is enough.

 


Motherhood as Materialism: The Myth They’re Selling

I am a mom to three viva­cious, spunky, inde­pen­dent kids. I like being a mom. It’s dif­fi­cult to define and artic­u­late what moth­er­hood means to me and how much of my iden­tity is wrapped up in my role as a mom. So much of it is a feel­ing, an emo­tion, and words are often not enough to explain my feel­ings about motherhood.

That being said, as I men­tioned in my last post, I don’t like Mother’s Day. I’m extremely uncom­fort­able with this hol­i­day. So many women (and men) expe­ri­ence pain on Mother’s Day.

  • Some­one is think­ing about their own mom (per­haps she has died, she gave him/her up for adop­tion, she was not the mother they had hoped for, or some­thing else that brings them pain).
  • Some­one is think­ing about the loss of a child–through a mis­car­riage, an abor­tion, an adop­tion, a death, a kid­nap­ping, the loss of a young child who has grown up.
  • Some­one is think­ing about not being able to con­ceive or still being sin­gle and not hav­ing a child.
  • Some­one is think­ing about how they do not mea­sure up to the “ideal mother” (see my recent post about guilt for some com­ments on this issue).
  • Some­one who is griev­ing the choices their chil­dren have made.

Mother’s Day is not a happy day for every­one, con­trary to the pre­dom­i­nant nar­ra­tive greet­ing card com­pa­nies, retail stores, busi­nesses, and cor­po­ra­tions are sell­ing us. Many peo­ple have great big holes in their hearts.

Mother’s Day became a fed­eral hol­i­day in 1914 when Pres­i­dent Woodrow Wil­son insti­tuted it. I do not know the his­tory of this hol­i­day, but what I do know is that, at some point, Mother’s Day became syn­ony­mous with mate­ri­al­ism, with giv­ing and receiv­ing gifts (just like Christ­mas). This hol­i­day equates love to gift-giving.

It pro­motes moth­er­hood as materialism.

Stores tell us we should buy gifts for our moth­ers. Our moth­ers deserve as much. If we love them, we would buy them something.

I saw this image today while I stopped in to drop off some clothes at my favorite con­sign­ment store.

Selling Mother's Day

Make Mom’s Day! Buy Her an iPad (the new one!)!

This image screams consumerism.

Mate­ri­al­ism.

But it belit­tles moth­ers.

This image, and most other mar­ket­ing that sur­rounds Mother’s Day, equates lov­ing your mom to giv­ing her expen­sive gifts, or, at worse, not giv­ing her expen­sive gifts and thus not lov­ing her.

The con­sumerism of Mother’s Day defines how we are sup­posed to expe­ri­ence Mother’s Day–as one who gives or receives gifts. It’s not about love; it’s about buy­ing and giv­ing and get­ting more stuff. Even if show­ing love through gifts isn’t a bad thing in and of itself, the mar­ket­ing of this hol­i­day takes the focus off hon­or­ing your own mother or (being hon­ored your­self as a mother) to focus­ing on the buy­ing and sell­ing of prod­ucts. It equates love with giv­ing expen­sive gifts.

Cor­po­ra­tions have decided that they can manip­u­late dads and chil­dren and spouses and moth­ers into mak­ing this event–motherhood–all about mate­ri­al­ism. They send the mes­sage that the only thing moth­ers really want is “stuff.”

They dimin­ish moth­er­hood when they equate it to materialism.

If they knew moth­ers at all–sitting from where they are mak­ing a profit off of us, off of OUR role, as moth­ers (or sons or daugh­ters or fathers or husbands)–then they would under­stand that we do not want this. No, moth­er­hood is more than mate­ri­al­ism. Much more. And if these cor­po­rate pow­ers tried to under­stand moth­ers at all, they would real­ize this truth. Instead, they belit­tle and degrade us and treat us like chil­dren in a candy store.

No, moms do not want more “stuff.” We are more com­plex than that. We are deeper than that. We have other val­ues besides gifts. Our hearts are with our chil­dren, not with what they do or not give us.

If cor­po­ra­tions really wanted to show us honor, they wouldn’t mar­ket to our chil­dren on this day. There would be no signs and images and ads and com­mer­cials about “the per­fect gift for mother’s day”.

There would be no profit, no cap­i­tal­iz­ing on mothers.

Honor us by refus­ing to coerce and manip­u­late our hus­bands and sons and daugh­ters and moth­ers and grand­chil­dren. Honor us by leav­ing our fam­i­lies alone, by leav­ing us alone.

Moth­er­hood is much more than their min­i­mal­iza­tion of it.

Dear read­ers: I hope these posts about moth­er­hood and Mother’s Day have not offended you, but I do hope you see my per­spec­tive as hon­est and real, and a lit­tle mad, too.


Why I’m Uncomfortable with Mother’s Day

When I was in high school, I became really close to one of my boyfriend’s aunts. She was close to her twin nephews because she was very devoted to her sis­ter, their mom. But this woman was also close to her sister’s kids because she didn’t have any chil­dren of her own. She couldn’t have chil­dren. She and her hus­band had tried for years to con­ceive, but they never did. I don’t know any of the details except that she wanted kids and couldn’t have them.

I was sad for her. She had a deep desire for chil­dren but couldn’t have any.

She was sweet, lov­ing, kind, gra­cious, and hon­est. She was a dot­ing aunt, a con­fi­dante, a friend. She would have been a great mom.

As the years went on, we kept in touch (even though her nephew and I had long bro­ken up). I con­tin­ued to think of her. I empathized with her because she couldn’t have children.

One year in col­lege, Mother’s Day rolled around and I had an idea to send her a Mother’s Day card.

Happy Mother's Day Card

Image cour­tesy of http://stacy.typepad.com/stacys_paper_crafts/2009/04/happy-mothers-day.html

This card came from me, but I wrote about all the people—all the kids, like me—that she had touched. Even though she didn’t have a child of her own, she influ­enced so many chil­dren. I expressed to her my appre­ci­a­tion for the influ­ence she had on my life, prob­a­bly one that she never even knew about.

She was touched by my ges­ture. She told me that she cried read­ing the card. She had never received a Mother’s Day card before, and this card was so unex­pected. I think what affected her the most was that she felt nobody cared about her on this day.

She was left out of the cel­e­bra­tion because she wasn’t a mother. Yes, she had a mother (a great one), but she also desired to be a mother and she wasn’t one.

While most peo­ple cel­e­brated moth­er­hood, she mourned it.

While (male) church pas­tors and lead­ers spoke about how God insti­tuted moth­er­hood and how won­der­ful it is and on and on and on, she grieved.

When Hall­mark com­mer­cials came on, (I imag­ine) she changed the chan­nel, or watched it with sad­ness, lone­li­ness, and pain.

I love my own mother, my mother-in-law, and my grand­moth­ers. They are spe­cial women. But I’m extremely uncom­fort­able with Mother’s Day.

I’m always think­ing about the peo­ple left out of the “moth­er­hood celebration”.

Women who have suf­fered a mis­car­riage.
Teenage girls or young adults who have given their chil­dren up for adop­tion.
Women who have had abor­tions.
Women who can­not bear chil­dren.
Children—young and old—who have lost their moth­ers to death.  
Chil­dren who do not have the “type” of mother pro­moted through greet­ing cards, retail stores, and even the church.
Moth­ers who do not feel they meet up to soci­etal or Chris­t­ian stan­dards about what makes a “good mother.”

I’m uncom­fort­able with Mother’s Day.

My hus­band does not preach a Mother’s Day ser­mon for many of these same rea­sons (How­ever, he is giv­ing a 4-part trib­ute to the moth­ers he loves in his life, includ­ing my mom).

This Mother’s Day, think of women:

Who are not in the mood to cel­e­brate this hol­i­day, a national one, mind you, not a Chris­t­ian one.

Who do not have the emo­tional energy to come to church on that day because of the pain they will feel.

Who grieve every day but on this day, in par­tic­u­lar, the grief hurts even more.

Who feel alone and lonely.

Who want to be a mother but can’t.

Who were moth­ers at one time but decided not to be.

Think of these women when you go to church, when you call your mom, when you talk to friends, when you buy gifts.

Pray for them.

Do some­thing spe­cial for them.

Lis­ten to their sto­ries, and let them know you care.


Letting Go of Superwoman: Beginning the Process

Superwoman graphicI was at one of my rou­tine doc­tor appoint­ments last year, preg­nant with Levi. After hear­ing the baby’s heart­beat and fin­ish­ing the exam, my doc­tor, who was now see­ing me through my third (and final) preg­nancy, asked me how I was doing, how I was feel­ing about life and moth­er­hood and work and all the other com­mit­ments I have.

She has known me for sev­eral years, since the time before I took a tenure-track job, when I was just writ­ing my dis­ser­ta­tion. She is in her late 50s/early 60s and is the best doc­tor I’ve ever had (Shane even told her that he wishes she could be his doc­tor!).

I guess I looked stressed out or overwhelmed—I don’t know. But before I knew it, words and tears and emo­tions came gush­ing out, like water from an unmanned fire hydrant.

I feel guilty, this is what I told her.

Guilt in regards to my chil­dren: about being a work­ing mom; about not being there at some of their school events; about not tak­ing them to or pick­ing them up from school because I have an hour com­mute each day; about being so tired when I’m home; about being on my com­puter too much; about work­ing too much from home; about not being present when I’m with them; about yelling or scream­ing or being unforgiving.

Guilt.

Guilt in regards to my job: about hav­ing a fam­ily; about hav­ing chil­dren that pre­vent me from being as pro­duc­tive as some other of my col­leagues; about liv­ing so far away.

Guilt.

Guilt in regards to my hus­band: about him hav­ing to fill so many of the typ­i­cal “moth­er­hood” roles, such as doing the laun­dry, doing the dishes, putting the kids to bed, or cart­ing the kids to and from school each day, par­tic­u­larly when he did not ask for that or expect it (he is won­der­ful!); about every con­ver­sa­tion we have being about tenure; about being so exhausted in the evening that I fall asleep dur­ing a movie we’re watch­ing together; about him being the go-to par­ent so much of the time; about not hav­ing time to go out on dates (which we love to do); about being stressed, mean, rude, and selfish.

Guilt.

Guilt in regards to my sis­ters, fam­ily, and friends: about not keep­ing in touch bet­ter; about not being there more when I want to be; about tak­ing for­ever to send thank-you cards, or not even send­ing them at all; about not see­ing them as often as I like; about not notic­ing when they are strug­gling or going through a hard time; about not call­ing to say hi.

Guilt.

Guilt in regards to my house: about its messy state; about the clutter.

Guilt.

Guilt in regards to my role as a preacher’s wife: about not being able to teach Bible class because I have no time to prep; about not cook­ing a home­made meal each week for potluck; about not sign­ing up for nurs­ery duty because my hus­band needs me to be in there lis­ten­ing and sup­port­ing him as he preaches; about not fit­ting the typ­i­cal preacher’s wife role (what­ever that is); about being shy.

Guilt.

Guilt in regards to my body: about being over­weight; about using food to sti­fle my emo­tions; about not hav­ing time to exer­cise; about my body chang­ing through 3 preg­nan­cies and 2 c-sections.

Guilt.

Guilt in regards to my rela­tion­ship with God: about not pray­ing or read­ing the Bible as often as I desire; about going for weeks with­out even talk­ing to God; about won­der­ing who God is; about doubt, doubt­ing cer­tain things I grew up believ­ing but that I now question.

Guilt.

About every­thing.

Think­ing and talk­ing through many of the ways I was feel­ing guilty didn’t take too long (she is a busy doc­tor after all). When I was done, she said she under­stood. But she also told me to stop. Stop feel­ing so guilty about things. Just stop, she said. Stop feel­ing guilty about not liv­ing up to my own or society’s  expec­ta­tions of what makes a good mom, wife, employee, or friend. She pointed out that I wasn’t Super­woman; no woman is. And, yet, we all think we need to be her in order to be loved, admired, respected, or valued.

Her words res­onated with me. I went home from the doc­tor feel­ing bet­ter. I resolved not to feel guilty. My chil­dren love me, my hus­band loves me, my par­ents love me, my friends and fam­ily love me.

I can give up my per­fec­tion­ist ten­den­cies. I can­not do it all; I am not Super­woman. I can just be myself—that’s all I can be. But I don’t have to feel guilty anymore.


Why It’s Important to Mentor Female Graduate Students and Young Professors

Academic Mentor Cartoon

In acad­e­mia, talk abounds about grad­u­ate edu­ca­tion, tenure, get­ting a job, low wages and poor work­ing con­di­tions, and bal­anc­ing per­sonal and pro­fes­sional lives. One recent arti­cle in The Chron­i­cle of Higher Edu­ca­tion by Berke­ley Pro­fes­sor Mary Ann Mason is par­tic­u­larly sober­ing. Mason’s arti­cle, “The Future of the Ph.D,” addresses sev­eral inter­est­ing points about the over­abun­dance of PhDs and the lack of tenure-track jobs. She also points out how dif­fi­cult it is to have a fam­ily and a tenure-track job. Here are a few quotes I found provoca­tive (if you are inter­ested, you should also read through the com­ments sec­tion of her arti­cle; so many heart­felt, reveal­ing and per­sonal responses that pro­vide their own form of mentoring):

In a sur­vey we con­ducted of all doc­toral stu­dents at the Uni­ver­sity of Cal­i­for­nia, more than 70 per­cent of women and over half of all men said they con­sid­ered a career at a research uni­ver­sity to be too hard-driving and unfriendly to fam­ily life.

A male Ph.D. stu­dent in the sur­vey char­ac­ter­ized the com­mon sen­ti­ment when he wrote that he was ‘fed up with the narrow-mindedness of sup­pos­edly intel­li­gent peo­ple who are largely worka­holic and expect oth­ers to be so as well’.”

A female stu­dent wrote, ‘Since begin­ning my doc­toral work, I have become con­vinced that very few, if any, female pro­fes­sors are able to have sta­ble, ful­fill­ing fam­ily lives of the sort that I wish for (a sta­ble mar­riage and children)’.”

Female grad­u­ate stu­dents who do become moth­ers dur­ing their doctoral-study years are very likely to give up on their dreams.”

“Too few uni­ver­si­ties are pay­ing atten­tion to the needs of graduate-student par­ents, or pro­vid­ing men­tor­ing on how to bal­ance fam­ily and career in a stress­ful pro­fes­sion in which, arguably, the most seri­ous stress—obtaining tenure—also occurs dur­ing the years when women will have children.”

These find­ings do not come as a shock to me as a pro­fes­sor. I have now expe­ri­enced what it’s like to be on the tenure track, which is dif­fi­cult in and of itself. But I also know what it’s like to be a woman, a mother, and a wife in this highly stress­ful job.

But as a grad­u­ate stu­dent work­ing on my master’s and then Ph.D., I never would have guessed it was this way–so dif­fi­cult to “have it all” and find bal­ance between work and home.  I even had won­der­ful men­tors through­out grad­u­ate school, but we never really talked about mar­riage and chil­dren or what it would be like to have a fam­ily and work in academia.

With results and out­comes like these–where women are leav­ing the pro­fes­sion because they have babies, or where they leave because they are denied tenure at such high rates (moth­ers even higher)–we are not left with many options. Even though more than half of grad­u­ate stu­dents are women, if we do not deal with the inter­sec­tion of a woman’s per­sonal life with her career, then we are not going to have a range of women in acad­e­mia. We might still have unmar­ried women or women with­out chil­dren, but we may lose a large per­cent­age of women who can teach and men­tor oth­ers about what it means to have a fam­ily and a career in academia.

In short, we need men­tors. We need moth­ers who are will­ing to share their experiences–the good and the bad; the sac­ri­fices they have/had to make; the joys that have come along the way; and why being a mother in acad­e­mia might still be worth it. We need moth­ers who talk frankly about hav­ing chil­dren in grad­u­ate school, about hav­ing chil­dren on the tenure-track, about not hav­ing chil­dren at all. We need moth­ers to share their sto­ries, for it is their stories–our stories–that will edu­cate oth­ers and bet­ter inform female grad­u­ate stu­dents about the real­i­ties of being a mother in academia.

I hope you will share your story; it may make all the difference.


My Popular Posts: Two Weeks in Review

My web­site has been active for two weeks now, so I decided to take a moment to list and exam­ine my top three posts. Here, they are, my most pop­u­lar posts.

1. “Run­ning Around Like a Crazy Woman: Why Less Is More.”

This post is my most pop­u­lar, most likely because a few peo­ple tweeted or posted the link to Face­book or their blog, which led to many more peo­ple click­ing on it and view­ing it. I am amazed at the inter­con­nected nature of the web, and I have enjoyed con­nect­ing with peo­ple I would not oth­er­wise know (thanks for read­ing, you people!).

This post is also my first book review on the blog. I actu­ally plan to do many reviews in the future. Per­haps my read­ers like book reviews. We shall see. I was actu­ally sur­prised how many peo­ple clicked on the book’s link from my site to read about the book for them­selves (over 35 of you!). I won­der how many of you will read it. I’d love to hear what you think about it and how you have tried to imple­ment the mantra, “Less is more,” into your life.

2. “Up in the Clouds or Down on the Ground: When Mar­riage Is Dif­fi­cult.”

I only posted this piece yes­ter­day, but it’s already close to becom­ing my most pop­u­lar post. I guess when you speak about mar­riage, peo­ple are interested.

I have been so hum­bled and encour­aged by the many mes­sages, texts, and emails I have received from you about this post. Many of you wrote to me about dif­fi­cul­ties you are (or were) hav­ing in your mar­riage, and how this post came “at just the right time.” I’m hum­bled that my words were able to touch and encour­age you in this way. Thanks so much for let­ting me know!

3. “I Am a Mother; I Am an Aca­d­e­mic.”

This post was one of my firsts, and it still remains a pop­u­lar one. Almost every day a few peo­ple still read it.

I like this post because it hints at the daily strug­gle I have to be both mother and aca­d­e­mic. And to do each well. It’s not as easy as it seems. I will con­tinue to exam­ine and write about moth­er­hood and acad­e­mia and explore the ten­sion I con­stantly feel nego­ti­at­ing the demands of both.

Thanks so much for read­ing my blog. Remem­ber, you can sub­scribe to my blog by click­ing on the RSS feed but­ton at the top (the orange but­ton at the top).

Which blog post has been your favorite?


Crazy Woman, Part II

In my last post about run­ning around like a crazy woman, I dis­cussed how par­ents tend to over-schedule and over-extend their kids. Between sports, music, dance, and all sorts of other lessons, our chil­dren are not allowed enough time for unstruc­tured play, or free play time. Accord­ing to the author of Sim­plic­ity Par­ent­ing such lack of free time is harm­ful to our kids.

Why? Many rea­sons, but one that res­onated with me had to do with sports. I played team sports as a young child. In sports, rules are already cre­ated. Chil­dren play­ing struc­tured sports (whether team or indi­vid­ual) must adapt to the rules. In unstruc­tured play, how­ever, chil­dren make up their own rules. They use their imag­i­na­tion. They are cre­ative. They work with oth­ers to problem-solve how they can play a pick up game of bas­ket­ball. What will the rules be? What is accept­able behav­ior and play?

Today, I give a brief anec­dote. Sat­ur­day, my old­est two chil­dren had t-ball games. They had team pic­tures hours before their games. My hus­band is coach­ing both teams so he had to be there early for both pic­tures. They came home after the pic­tures to pick me and the baby up.

I woke up around 6:30 that morn­ing. I packed a bag for my baby Levi (food for lunch, 2 bot­tles, dia­pers, wipes, and all the other stuff babies need–except sun­screen, I for­got that). I packed a lunch for both kids to eat before or after their game, depend­ing on which kid it was. I packed drinks and snacks for them and me dur­ing the games. I found my chair and a kid’s chair and set it out to be loaded in the car, along with the stroller for Levi. It was my turn to bring snacks for the girls’ game, so I also packed snacks and drinks for the team. I got the cam­era and the video cam­era and the base­ball and soft­ball bags and on and on and on.

I was busy load­ing and pack­ing and get­ting myself ready for over 2 hours (yes, it didn’t take this long). What I haven’t yet mentioned–and the main point of this story–is that while the kids were tak­ing team pic­tures at the fields with their daddy and I was pack­ing and prepar­ing for the games, 8-month-old Levi–poor Levi– sat on the floor cry­ing uncon­trol­lably. Not just cry­ing, but scream­ing. With his head bent over on the floor. From 6:30–9:15 am, except when he was drink­ing his bot­tle, the lit­tle guy was crying.

You see, what my words up there did not express in the telling of the details of my morn­ing were the emo­tions going on–the feel­ing of my home at that moment. I was tense. I was stressed. I was try­ing hard not to for­get any­thing.

I was run­ning around the house like a crazy woman. I was not set­ting a good tone or rhythm or pace to my life.

And lit­tle Levi was the one telling me how much my schedule–our schedule–was impact­ing his lit­tle life.You see, even though I was hav­ing to do a lot of prepa­ra­tion for the games, Levi was the one most impacted by his sib­lings’ sched­ules. He was the one miss­ing out on mommy-and-me time. Right when he wanted it the most. Levi wanted me to stop what I was doing–to pause for a moment. He was beg­ging me to STOP. To sit on the floor with him. To make faces. To play peek-a-book. To tickle him. To do all those things I love to do but didn’t have the time for that day because of our plan.

Levi wanted his mom, and I was not there.

He also wanted a peace­ful home. A home free of anx­i­ety and ten­sion. A home full of spon­ta­neous moments.

When Eliz­a­beth was 8-months-old, we didn’t have t-ball games. There were no older sib­lings. The same is true for Pey­ton. But Levi, he just wanted some time to play on his own or with me and expe­ri­ence a care­free day, but instead his whole day–even long before the game started–was spent cry­ing because no one was pay­ing atten­tion to him. Because the house he lived in was full of one busy queen bee run­ning around and sting­ing all those who stood in her path.

My mommy heart ached see­ing this child so upset. I wanted more than any­thing to hold him and soothe him (I tried, of course, but he could read my motives, which said, “Please stop cry­ing so that I can fin­ish what I need to get done.”). But I needed to fin­ish my tasks (due to a com­pli­cated sched­ule we cre­ated). So, Levi’s needs were not met. The sched­ules of his older sib­lings deter­mined his day and set the tone for him. And he did not like it.

As they age, younger chil­dren must get more used to being carted around to prac­tices and per­for­mances and games because they do not throw the same type of fit that Levi threw on Sat­ur­day. But Levi’s 8-month-old self was speak­ing to the very depths of my soul when he told me, “Slow down. Hold me. Pay atten­tion to me. The other stuff is not as important.”

I am learn­ing lessons from my babes. What les­son have you learned lately?