September 4, 2012

Lessons from the Butter-Scented Beastie

What is new for Fall Term for me? At this point, I'm typing hunt and peck with one hand because my one month old son is asleep against my chest supported by my other arm. I'm going back to school this term, and I'm not referring to the three classes that I'll be teaching. I'm referring to figuring out how to adjust to life with a baby. It is both maddening and wonderful to be reminded that you can know a lot and then realize just how little you really knew and how much more there is to learn.

As a former child and family therapist and teacher of undergraduate developmental psychology classes and perpetual reader I'm completely being schooled by my son. Prior to his birth, I watched a friend's child change day to day and week to week over the first year of his life and realized how much children are time distortion devices. Everything I knew about what a year was, what could be accomplished in a year, and what rhythm defined it (by the season or by job) would be totally derailed. I knew that. And intellectually, I knew that me and my son's father were going to have to do some pretty major lifestyle and schedule readjustments. However, I didn't really have any idea. Or maybe a better way of explaining it is that in the abstract I knew we would be splitting childcare and that babies don't abide by day/night for sleeping and need feeding around the clock, and that sleep deprivation is a killer. But I didn't get it until now.  Didn't really get it. I didn't know what it felt like.

Why am I writing about his on a blog that is mostly musings on teaching and learning? Well, the learning part should be apparent. I'm learning. Most of what I'm learning is exciting and interesting and some is frankly terrifying. [I have greater capacity for worry than I was previously aware of.] How this impacts my teaching is to be observed soon since Fall term starts tomorrow. At this point, I think of students who have had children (especially their first) or had children while going to school. These students have very diverse circumstances in terms of their age, experience, financial security, and social support, but still! When students tell me that they are due midterm or toward the end of the term, I always ask them if they are sure about maintaining their courses... maybe take this term off and return the next term? [And no, online courses won't make it easier.] As I'm one of those annoying teachers who gets on students' cases about time management and not setting yourself up from failure by over-scheduling yourself, I think again about those students who are working, going to school, and raising young children. I don't actually want to cut them more slack about their schedule or make it seem possible to make a 48 hour day out of a 24 hour one, but be more supportive of them being realistic what is possible... And then collectively raising hell about how ridiculous expectations have become for parents of very young children in this country and change some things. How about affordable, quality child care anyone? Actual maternity and/or paternity leave? Maybe even paid? Or a recognition of the time and resources it takes?  Or the importance of the task? Any sort of community or policy-level recognition of the reality and importance of families and raising young children? 

This blog post was brought to you by five of my son's naps, seven separate attempts to write it, eight cups of coffee, and as well as many household chores being neglected for now. 

Enjoy the sleep deprivation fueled typos. New and improved courtesy of the Butter-Scented Beastie.