Nothing inspires academic success like a rainy day in early October. This morning at 6:30am, I thought to myself what a productive day I would have; advancing my thesis and preparing for a class I was teaching the next day. My plans were soon skewed when my son decided to sprout ten teeth at once this morning, and the mail lady arrived at my door with a package for my daughter. For several months, my four year old had been dreaming up plans for Halloween. She was to parade in the community as the most beautiful Rapunzel Princess in the world. When her costume arrived in the mail today, it was described as too picky and maybe intended more for “three and a half year olds”. At her wise age of four, and towering 37 inches tall, she clearly articulated that her skin was made for plush costumes such as teddy bears and unicorns. She now wanted to be a Care Bear.
My daughter’s emotional reserve is pretty limited, so I had to gently let her know that she was wearing the costume because Mommy spent $29.00 on it. I didn’t care if she was dressed as a CareBear, but the Rapunzel dress was still going over the bear costume. She told me that “I totally did not get her”, which I somewhat agreed with in the moment. We got in the car silently and I dropped her off at pre-school. Without prompting, she proudly told all of her friends and teachers the great news that she was going to be a Princess Care Bear for Halloween. Crisis resolved. Next, my two foot child was dropped off at daycare and I drove home with guilt on my conscience, but academic success on my mind.
I had great plans on returning home, making a tea, and opening up the laptop to finish a Systematic Review I was wrapping up. The research paper had all of the promise in the world and just needed about three hours of uninterrupted time dedicated to polishing it up. Once comfortably seated and reviewing paragraph one, my son’s daycare provider called me to inform me that my son’s teeth were bothering him and he needed to be picked up right away. I drove exceedingly fast through the suburb community that we live in, for this was the first time in four years that I had been asked to pick up my child from daycare or school for health reasons. Upon arrival, I found my son gnawing on a coffee table with flaming red cheeks and enough saliva in his mouth to supply the Ghost Busters with ammunition for a year. He seemed perfectly happy, but the daycare lady thought it was just too much for her. I put him in the car, and he talked about dogs and bananas the whole way home (he is 11 months old so that is all he pretty much knows about). Doug Doug Doug……Mamamama…..da da da…..BaNana Nana Nana. This intellectual discussion we were having in the early afternoon was sure to inspire brilliance when calculating reasons for heterogeneity in my systematic review. I could just picture my future peer-reviews asking questions about the systematic review’s methodology- and my future response sounding something like “Doug Doug BaNana”.
He soon went down for a nap and I was free for two hours to work again. I managed to complete editing of paragraph two when my neighbour came over with fresh baking to congratulate me on returning to school post-baby. I thanked her and reminded her than I actually never took a mat leave, I have just been wearing professional-looking clothes lately because I was teaching two courses. She ignored this, and sat herself down and asked for coffee so we could share her treats. She praised me for pursing my PhD because being a “parent only” could get very boring. I highlight that in my four years of parenting, I have yet to experience a boring moment, and the challenge has exceeded every part of my PhD and clinical career a hundred times over. Again, this did not seem interesting to her. Despite her recognizing how busy I looked, her visit lasted two hours, and she left as I got back in the car again to pick up my daughter from school.
Her visit made me realize that this PhD experience is something only I truly understand. It is a balancing act not for the faint of heart. In the process, my children, husband, and neighbours will always come first. Each chapter in my thesis will get written and will make a contribution to the scientific community. However, my biggest contribution is the love and kindness my children currently have to offer and will share with the world later on. My role is to make them good people and understand where they belong in their greater community. If they understand this in twenty years, I will deserve a PhD.