This I Believe

Jennifer - Philadelphia, Pennsylvania
Entered on January 8, 2007
Age Group: 18 - 30
Themes: parenthood

Balance, it seems, should represent harmony. The yin and yang, all things in peaceful accord. Balance never met a baby…

For seven years I have been a graduate student. My life has been structured around semesters and deadlines. I was trained to think as a researcher, to put data into spreadsheets, to analyze the meaning of words. Despite a demanding program, life was orderly. Work one day, study another… When I became pregnant, my husband and I did not think much about the balance. “It will change your life,” people said, “Parenthood is difficult.”

I thought, of course it will change my life! Instead of running to the library, I will change diapers. Instead of spending hours poring over text, I will study in smaller chunks. I will play with my child while he is awake, dissertate during scheduled naps. Any parent knows how foolish I was! I was thoroughly unprepared for the seismic shift in my thoughts and passions. Parenthood, it seems, is so much more than child care.

The dissertation has become a family event. This past summer, the weeks were spent planning for weekend data collection trips. It was a dash to contact subjects, schedule interviews and pack. I felt like Mistress Best Western, calling to find the cheapest, most baby-friendly hotel that would allow dad and baby to relax while mom worked.

Data was collected between naptimes and feedings. I used my baby’s sweet grins to ply for late check outs and extra yogurt from the buffet. I met subjects at all hours, 6am until midnight. Balance, balance, balance. It was definitely not business as usual. My days could be frustrating and anxiety-ridden. My mind was constantly in two places.

One sweet day parenting and researching met in surprising confluence as I was wrapping up, stopping briefly to organize my materials before leaving the nursing home where I was collecting data. I heard some familiar squeals and looked up to see several elderly residents in their wheelchairs, taking turns tickling my son’s toes. The weather, it turns out, was too hot for walking outside. To my delight, my family decided to wait for me in the lobby, spending their time entertaining the residents.

Thinking of the smiles on all of our faces that day reminded me of how little we control in our lives. Babies do not fit into little spreadsheets. My son does not time his diapers and naps, good and cranky days according to the schedule I had planned. His predictability is far less quantitative than a regression equation. But, I believe in us and the quirky balance that we have found.

My child’s first year has brought laughter, tears and a humble gratification. He is my Muse. There is no research, no thought, no paradigm that would be as profound before the juggle and jumble of diapers and didactic, applesauce and academia. I believe that this new balance, however imperfect it may seem, is infinitely better when blessed by parenthood. This I believe.