Monday, September 04, 2006

e-support group for new parents

I got this email yesterday via Facebook:

Hi Mike, you don't know me...I was clicking on some of my more random music choices to see if other people liked them, and when I clicked on Gomez, you showed up. Then I saw your picture of your little girl (so cute!) and I thought I'd ask you how you do it, that is, both grad school and family. I have a 3 month old daughter and am starting grad school and wondered if you could lend any advice. Adèle, fellow student/parent

Dear, Adèle,

Wow, I haven’t really been asked for parental advice yet. I wish I had some magic word solution for you, but I’ve yet to find it. Honestly, school doesn’t start for me until tomorrow, so I’m sure if you ask me again in a week, my answer will be much more haggard. And probably written in the blood of the first person to steal a parking spot from me. (That’s inside UB grad student humor.)

Yesterday, though, I cracked open my evidence book for the first time, getting ready for class this week. From my office, I can see into the living room where Maeve (my daughter) looked at me from her swing as if to ask why I wasn’t playing with her. It broke my heart.

Moments like this happen a lot, I notice. Why on earth would I, at 29 years of age, go out into the cold when I could stay home and mush with my daughter? I have plenty of instant oatmeal. We could survive forever. No advanced degree needed, thank you very much.

Then I think of my father, and the stories I heard about how tough it was for him to get through med school with me and the sibs at home. No, I’m not saying “if he could do it, I can do it” – just that it seems to have paid off for him. In the end, I know I’m going to miss a lot of my daughter’s early life, but it also means I’ll be able to take her and her family to Hawaii some day, like my dad is doing with my older sister this fall.

In the meantime, here’s my survival plan for fellow student/parents:
1. Pictures. Your daughter is gorgeous. You need to show her off, yes, but you also need to remind yourself of what you have waiting at home. Bring lots. If you have a computer or pda, nerd it up and throw a slideshow in there.
2. Other students. I would bet we’re the norm these days. Most of us have taken some time off and a lot of us have one or more rugrats at home. Misery loves company, and new parents love to talk about poop (some of us even like Gomez), so find your support system early.
3. Call your mom. She’s a wealth of information and a good shoulder to lean on. If your mom isn’t around anymore, I’ll lend you mine. She’ll make you a meatloaf to die for.
4. The list. A friend told me when she got her MBA, she made a list of all the things she had to pass up each day (going out drinking, dating, traveling, etc.) so she could study. In the end, it made her degree that much more important because she could see exactly what she sacrificed to get it. Someday, this education is going to mean a better life for us, and subsequently for our sons and daughters. When you start to hit your head against a wall in frustration, just remember what it’s all for.

And try not to think about how unappreciative she’ll be when she’s a teenager...

All the best,


R said...

As you know I am not Adele, but you helped me see a new light on my situation too, and I've been juggling school, work and a baby for 18 months! The only hurtle I have is to spend a little more time with him during the week. I do agree that a wallpaper of that cute little face at your desk helps you get through the day!!!

Esther said...

WOO HOO! I'M GOING TO HAWAII!!! Did you say something else?

Leah said...

There is no magic pill, technique or brainwashing to make you not miss your baby. Hang tough. She's going to love you with abandon forever. I am honored that I dispensed some advice that made a difference to someone.

xoxo - The Listmaker and mommy

Anonymous said...

I'm so proud of all of you! You all get a meatloaf!! love, Mom

Scott said...

Rest assured, Leah didn't miss out on dating during grad school. She wouldn't let me break up with her.