Reflections on a being an academic mama

This post is really just me processing life at the moment.

This semester I promised myself I would write a new blog post at least once a month, and yet here it is December 2017 and I’ve two drafted partial posts. The last one was in September. I remain baffled at how quickly time passes and how startlingly unaware I am about this time. In my mind and memory I had drafted a post about a month ago. When I logged in to my website this morning I assumed I had lost or deleted something. Surely it cannot have been since September that I last even thought to blog.

Turns out, it has been that long. I began to reflect more on this semester and what caused me to forget about doing something I both enjoy and had determined I would do. And this led me to think in greater depth about being an academic mama.

At the beginning of the semester I knew this Fall 2017 would be a doozy. I would be in my third trimester, with baby #2 due in November. My baby #1, no longer a baby but a feisty toddler, would be ever closer to turning two years old. I was teaching one class of 235 students plus a smaller art history + digital humanities class. My husband was working more. I had to finish and copyedit an edited volume, which includes an essay I wrote. I had to finish up several articles. I knew I had several articles that were being returned to me before being published. I started a SoTL project. I planned to apply for several grants. I agreed to serve on several national committees. And I wanted to draft a few new essays for Smarthistory. Somewhere in there I was planning to get a few hours of shut eye.

Looking back at what I expected myself to do, I began to laugh. How in the world did I ever believe I would be able to complete all this, particularly with the impending arrival of a new baby? Even with the rambunctious (and amazing) toddler, I can barely remember to drink water, let alone craft a cohesive sentence.

It strikes me now that I was/am still trying to be an academic like I was prior to children. I had so much free time to read, think, write, revise, pause, and so forth. I still try to function like I have all this time to develop new ideas, follow up on leads, travel to archives, rewrite, and even discard pages of written text. But I don’t, and I don’t know when or if I will again.

I also try to be present as much as I can with my daughter (well, now two daughters). When I am with them, I don’t answer email or think about work. I try to leave my phone in my purse. I want to enjoy as much time with them as possible. They will only be this small for what seems like an eternity but is really just flying by in a heartbeat. Instead of thinking about articles I’ve just read, I think about nursery rhymes or feeding ducks. I want to be the A+ mom when I am around because I have serious mama guilt when I am at work too long.

I guess what I am getting at is the reminder that I can’t do it all nor should I try to do it all. There is no possible way for me–some of you out there are rock stars and can, and you are amazing!

I need to focus on letting go of the desire to do it all. It’s my goal for this next year. Finding a few things to focus on, and trying to do them as well as I can. But allowing myself to just be OK with them as good/great rather than excellent. And who am I kidding? Even before kids, I never felt anything I did was excellent. So here is to a new year and my attempt at accepting me as I am: an academic mama who is doing her best to find fulfillment in the chaos of raising two small children (and not set the house on fire accidentally). Three cheers to all the academic mamas out there!

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