"You will be a better mom because you are a theologian, and a better theologian because you are a mom."

Is it true? In this blog, I explore the interplay and intersection of motherhood and theologianhood.

Saturday, January 31, 2009

Stay-at-Home Theologian Mom?

I've considered myself a "full-time mom" ever since Maia was born. Even as a full-time doctoral student taking three classes and working for a professor or teaching a class, I was with my daughter a lot. Jeff even sat outside my classes so I could breastfeed during breaks. It wasn't easy, and sometimes when I look back, I think I was just crazy. What were we thinking, having a child when we were both students? (No, Maia was no accident; we knew what we were doing.)

But while I've always been a full-time mom, Jeff has always been a full-time dad, and I've never really been a "stay-at-home mom." Maia often accompanied me to school in the first year of doctoral classes, and in the second year, my teaching and taking classes assured me trips out of the house on a regular basis. I remained connected to the academic world, and, sleep-deprivation and constant stress notwithstanding, I always appreciated that I wasn't "just" a stay at home mom.

Even last semester, with Jeff teaching a 4-4 load, I sat in on a class and had regular work times at the library. This semster, however, Jeff's teaching schedule requires him to be gone from 8:00 a.m. to 6:00 p.m. on Mondays and Wednesdays. This means that I'm basically with the girls for ten hours a day. (I say "basically" because on Wednesdays we have the child-care co-op in the morning from 9:30 until 12:00, so on three out of four Wednesday mornings I only have Eva with me.) Mondays and Wednesdays are LONG days. I try to capitalize on Maia's 1.5 hour naptime, and, usually - so far - Eva's snoozing overlaps. But 1.5 hours just isn't all that much worktime for someone who is technically still a full-time doctoral student. And, (surprise, surprise!) when the evening rolls around, I'm usually pretty tired and not too motivated to work on my dissertation proposal or qualifying exam questions. Not to mention Jeff is always trying to rope me in to doing something else - like editing his latest journal article submission, or looking over a conference presentation proposal. Alas!

In theory I have work time set aside on Tuesdays, Thursdays, Fridays and Saturdays (Eva always goes with me). But this past Friday, Jeff had a schoolwide faculty meeting. So there I was, with another marathon day ahead of me. A friend of mine who was on maternity leave once asked me what I do all day. Mind you, she was on maternity leave with her newborn while her toddler was in daycare.

Hmmm? What DO I do all day? I'll admit, I was slightly insulted when she asked. I answered by telling her what I had done on that particular day: went to 7:00 a.m. Mass, ran to the park with Maia, watched her all morning, ran home, showered, had lunch with Jeff at home, went to spiritual direction, met with the prof for whom I was working, and then spent a few hours in the library reading before rushing home to make dinner. But you'll notice that I seemed to throw the emphasis on my time away from Maia and away from home. Because that's what matters, right? That's what provides me with a sense of self-worth and accomplishment, right? It's what puts me on equal terms with my friend who works all day, right?

Yes, I am one of those people who thinks that taking care of one's kids is perhaps the most meaningful thing a person can do. But for some reason, it just doesn't always feel that way. Friday was one of those days that it didn't feel particularly meaningful. We were in the basement. I was doing loads of laundry (Eva in the sling) inbetween watching Maia jump on her trampoline and dancing to Philadelpia Chickens. In my spare time, I was petitioning St. Anthony about finding that file of mine filled with book summaries for a class I took. (From Visual and Material Culture, Tony, if you're reading this...)

Then I thought to myself: What am I doing with my life? Why am I sequestered in a basement singing aloud about remarkable cows and a dino with a low, low voice? How many more times will I play hide and seek today with Maia hiding in the exact same closet? How many more poopy diapers will I change? How many more times will I have to interrupt nursing Eva to empty Maia's potty? Will I ever take my qualifying exam? And what was I thinking when I said as a youth that I should like to be a stay-at-home-mom just like my mom was for many years?

I comforted myself with the thought that I could offer up my not doing any "work" as a penance, since it was Friday, and not doing "work" was definitely feeling like a HUGE sacrifice.

And then I remembered the pie chart in my pregnancy, childbirth, and the newborn book. The graph represents an average person's life, emphasizing that a person is only an infant for one year. Eva will only be an infant for this one year of her life. Maia will only be a two-year old for this one year of her life. I don't want to miss this, and not missing this is not a penance but a gift.

One conclusion I came to is that life is hard without the park. When I spend my morning at a park, surrounded by other parents taking care of their kids, I feel affirmed in my attempt to be a full-time mom. And I think Maia feels affirmed in her attempt to be a kid. But nine hours as a stay-at-home mom and a stay-at-home kid is enough for us both to lose it. So in the afternoon on Friday, we went swimming. That is, Eva stayed in her carseat-stroller until she woke up, and then I attempted to watch both girls (one in, one out of the water). In the end, I'm not sure it was really worth all the work (but at least I got to do my laps afterward, since I had Jeff pick up the girls from the pool).

Monday of the same week I began my marathon day with a trip to the mall. That's right, the mall. Since the town I was raised in was a good hour from the nearest mall, I never had much opportunity to hang out at the mall. And I'd say it's a close race for which is worse for the full-time mom self-esteem: a morning at the mall play area or a morning in the basement. Now, I was at the mall because two friends of mine were also bringing their kids to the play area. So at least I had companionship that prevented me from dwelling on questions like, "Why the heck am I at a mall on a Monday morning?" But, after an hour of watching kids jump over what is simply an elaborate advertisement for the Dayton Daily News, followed by the obligatory walk down to the pet store, the purchase of a conditional Icee ("since you were good..."), and retrieving Maia from a random shoe store she'd run into, I admit I was relieved to walk out of there and drive 25 mintues home.

So this is the constant tension in my life: theologian or mom? Is it even possible?

And, of course, the answer (for now) is: theologian and mom. It just doesn't always feel like it. But I guess I'm not ready to give up on the former, even if right now the emphasis is on the latter more than ever.

"Maia, how did I get the two prettiest girls in the whole world?"

I asked, while holding the two of them in my arms.

"I think it was from God," she answered.

"Good answer," I said.

"No, wait, it was because you got married."

Tuesday, January 27, 2009

Our Lives in Philadelphia Chickens Songs

You know how sometimes songs just really seem to reflect your life? Well, recently we rediscovered our Sandra Boynton Philadelphia Chickens album. And so I'd like to share the songs that best represent our lives.

Eva: "Snoozers" (Only Part I)

We like to snooze in the morning.
We like to snooze all day.
We like to snooze whenever we choose,
snoozing our cares away.
We like to snooze in the summer.
We like to snooze in the spring.
With the wintertime blues,
we snooze and snooze,
snoozing like anything.
Snooze in the sun.
Snooze in the rain.
Snooze in the fog and snow.
It can be amusing to see us snoozing,
Snoozing wherever we go.
Yes, Eva sleeps more than I ever knew a baby could. She snoozes anywhere, anytime, in virtually any position. And despite sleeping most of the day away, she still sleeps all night (aside from nursing). If all babies slept as much as she does and cried as little as she does, people would be more eager to have babies.

Maia: "I Like to Fuss"

Mostly I am pleasant. Mostly I am good.

I answer you politely, just as you say I should.

Yes, mostly I am perfect. You don't hear me complain.

But after so much sunshine, we need a little rain.

I like to fuss. I like to moan. I like to stand on my chair and say,
"LEAVE ME ALONE!" Don't bother me.

I like to grump. I like to brood. I like to stomp all around in a truly terrible mood.

When everybody, more or less, tells me to stop, I go.

When everybody says the answer is yes, I find myself saying, no, no, no!

I like to gripe. I like to whine. And I refuse to share whatever is mine. I won't share.

Not nice. Not fair. And if you don't like it, I say I don't care. I DON'T CARE. (Etc.)

Yes, Maia's still adjusting to having a little sister. Or rather, she's adjusting to NOT being the center of the universe. Add that to being cooped up in the house during winter, and the normal difficulties of being a two (almost three) year old, and she finds herself singing these lyrics almost every day. In the above picture, Maia refused to put on her winter coat or wear any gloves. Her playing in the snow lasted about two minutes. This trend of not wanting to wear her winter coat is nothing new. I think relatives and friends alike were a little surprised (shocked? apalled?) at Eva's baptism that we took Maia to Church with no coat on (it was in the car). Well, we just can't fight over everything. If she wants to be cold, she can be cold.

Jeff: "BusyBusyBusy"

We're very very busy and we've got a lot to do and we haven't got a minute to explain it all to you for on SundayMondayTuesday there are people we must see and on WednesdayThursdayFriday we're as busy as can be with our most important meetings and our most important calls and we have to do so many things and post them on the walls.

THEN we have to hurry to the south and then we urry north and we're talking every minute as we hurry back and forth and w ehave to hurry to the east and then we hurry west and ewe're talking every minute and we don't have time to rest and we have to do it faster or it never will be done and we have no time for listening or anything that's fun.

FOR we're very very busy and we've got a lot to do and we haven't got a minute to explain it all to you...

AND we have to hurry to the left, and then we hurry right, and we're talking every minute as we hurry day and night and we have to have our lunches though we don't have time to chew and we have to order many things in grya and navy blue but we think supplies are limited so we'll call the operators who are surely standing by.

NOW we have to hurry far away and then we hurry near and we have to hurry everywhere and be both there and here and we have to send out messages by e-mail phone and fax and we're tlaking every minute and we really can't relax and we think there is a reason to be running neck-and-neck and it must be quite important but we don't have time to check. (Etc.)

Last year, this song really applied to me. But this year (although I still have to try to combine exercise with the kids (yes, we went for a walk in 25 degree weather, photo above)), the song applies to Jeff. He's teaching a 4-4 load, applying for jobs, going to on-campus interviews, teaching RCIA some weekends, writing rec letters, etc.

Monday, January 12, 2009

Happy Baptism...

of the Lord and of Eva Marcella!

And welcome to Ordinary Time!

A Glimpse into Maia's thoughts...

While eating ice cream:

Auntie Tricia: "That's a very serious look on your face, Maia."
Mom: "Yes, it is. What are you thinking about, Maia?"
Maia: "About St. Thomas More."
Mom: "What about him?"
Maia: "About the king cutting off his head."

Thursday, January 1, 2009

Eva at Two Weeks

There may have been no room at the inn...

...but there's plenty of room for the Holy Family in Maia's new four-story doll house!!