“Making the decision to have a child – it is momentous. It is to decide forever to have your heart go walking around outside your body. ” —Elizabeth Stone
I have often said that my main experience of motherhood is one of having my heart cracked open, over and over again. In the main, this is a good thing; open-heartedness is better than the alternative, and I can state with absolute conviction that motherhood has made me a more patient, compassionate, and forgiving person. I know many functioning adults who evolve these qualities all on their own; apparently I had to spawn to get them.
But sometimes having a cracked-open heart hurts. And last night was one of those times.
Eleanor, my oldest kid, is not happy about us moving south. This didn’t exactly come as a surprise; she’s almost 10, and she’s at that weird tween crossroads where your friends and school life are starting to become more important than your family. My youngest, Sylvia (almost 7) is sad to be leaving Minnesota and her friends, but she’s also excited to get a new house, and be closer to Gramma and Grampa, and try new things. But for Eleanor, there is only sadness. The first thing she did when we told them about the move was cover her face with her hands and burst into tears. And declare that she wasn’t moving.
So here’s the deal: As many of you know, my academic career kind of stalled out right around the time I had my first kid. I was one of those silly, silly people who went straight through from my BA program (in MN) to my MA program (in OH) to my PhD program (in CA) with nary a pause for rest or reflection. I’ve always known what I wanted to do (theatre), and I’ve always been good at school (nerd), so it seemed like … uh … the thing to do, you know?
And don’t get me wrong – I loved my grad programs. Loved the people, loved the classes, loved the late-night last-minute research-paper cramming sessions, loved living in new places, loved learning new things, LOVED. IT.
But it’s funny how when you’re in your early twenties and not super self-aware (I know; redundant) you can convince yourself that doing a dissertation is totes no big deal, and you can fer sher take that full-time teaching job in another state while completing your thesis, and, heck, you don’t even really need a lot of contact with your committee! You are a self-motivated power-house of academic fortitude! Sure, you suffer from medicate-able levels of anxiety and depression and wrote 90% of your term papers the night before they were due and possibly your chosen topic is a little broad but WHAT POSSIBLE EFFECT COULD THAT HAVE? No, YOU shut up.
Man, my twenty-something self was dumb. Continue reading