As a grad student and a mommy, I often feel that my days and nights are split between my dual responsibilities: raising a person, and tidying up my dissertation. It’s hard to switch back and forth sometimes (ok, most of the time) because I feel like the same person in each role, but my functions are so different as to be laughable. Ever tried to turn in edits to your advisor with a baby screaming in the background? I don’t recommend it.
That said, there are many pleasurable overlaps, such as introducing my daughter to my favorite books. We collect the BabyLit books, which I love for the beautiful illustrations and playful language, if not for the narrative accuracy. I also enjoy reading classic children’s stories that lingered in the back of my memory but that I thought I had forgotten: Beatrix Potter is much wittier than I gave her credit for as a young person, and I’m finally reading Winnie the Pooh instead of simply watching the Disney cartoons.
Some of my favorite afternoons, though, haven’t been spent reading in a comfy rocker. The simple act of taking L on a tour of the backyard or introducing her to the ducks in the nearby pond has rekindled in me a love for the pastoral. On the first morning we came home from the hospital, as I held her close in my arms, a bird chirped outside and L’s eyes drifted in its direction. “That’s a bird,” I said, and my eyes filled with tears. Before L was born, it had been a long time since I had felt the joy of discovery. Now, I’m reminded every day that learning is a lifelong process, and I’m so grateful I get to do it with L.