Saturday, May 25, 2013

The Perils of Parenting and PhDing

There are plenty of benefits to having a kid while you're working on your graduate degree. I've written before about how the timing can work out in positive ways. It's not all Freudian theory sung to the peaceful tune of lullabies, though. There can be some perils.

Zoe at the computer 1

  • Do As I Say, Not As I Do- Try teaching your child not to write in books when all they ever see you do is write in books. Or try explaining how we need to limit ourselves to 30 minutes a day on the computer when there are days when you never close the screen.
  • Get Used to Shifting Standards- At the beginning of the semester, things always seem easy and manageable. Sign up for toddler dancing twice a week? Of course! Homemade organic dinners made from scratch? No problem! Walking to the farmer's market to buy the ingredients for said dinner? Easy! Then the end of the semester appears and there are two hundred papers to grade, ninety books to read, and the sinking suspicion that everything is one tiny error from imploding. Dinner becomes Pop-Tarts and orange soda. Family outings become grading papers on the front porch. 
Pop Tart
With frosting?! It's gourmet night!
  • Applying the Theory of the Moment to Your Kids' Development- When you're reading feminist theory, you become hyper-aware of the toys your child's playing with. She wants what? A toy vacuum? Not up in here! Then you switch to Freud for another paper and suddenly every block in the toy chest looks like a phallic symbol and you're sure that you're stunting her personal development on a daily basis. What's this? Deconstructionism time? It's clearly important that you explain to your toddler that the cartoon cow drawn in the book is not actually a cow, but merely a representation of a cow, and that even the word "cow" is a symbol with binary meanings wrapped up in it. To which she will respond, "moo."  
  • The Student-Child Line Gets Blurred- In intense moments in the semester, your toddler and your students may start to seem like they have similar needs. When your toddler asks you "Why?" for the 850th time in an hour, try not to scream "It's in the syllabus!" Similarly, "because I said so" is probably an insufficient answer to "Will this be on the test?" (On a side note, everyone seems to respond to gold stars with equal enthusiasm. Award away!) 
Starring role...

What are the other perils of being a graduate student and a parent at the same time? 


  1. It has to be! I mean, if my Polly Pocket collection had been an indication of my future, I'd be obsessed with a meticulously-decorated house full of tiny things, and that's not the case. I think we have to be careful not to put too much weight on any one decision or phase and try not to let too many of our own social perspectives ruin our kids chances to figure out what they really do like.

  2. Hey Michelle, this is Deb from smallhouse-bigpicture. i'm commenting from my new identity/blog Professor Never (i still write at small house too). Anyway, this post rings true in so many ways! the problem (or advantage?) of consuming kids culture while studying the theory of the day so influenced me that I first proposed to write my dissertation about Disney. I ended up writing about childhood (including reps of disney) in literature--and always had trouble turning off that critical eye to "just enjoy" something with the kids.
    and yes - everyone appreciates a gold star now and then - love that! :)