Fifth Anniversary Update: Judith Sanders

January 15th, 2014

Recently I stopped being a Mama, PhD. Sort of. I was immersed in mothering a teen–the orthodontist appointments, the sorting of rapidly-outgrown winter clothes, the appetizing balanced dinner to nourish the growing bones, the transport to a distant friend’s house, the mental planning of Talks about Life which my child would never tolerate–when suddenly my child was off on a plane to a distant college and I was rattling around a house that seemed much too big. And, in a sense, a life. The empty nest phase–You know it’s coming, but when you are in the thick of day-to-day mothering, you are too absorbed to look up; you haven’t the energy to imagine that it will ever end. But, with luck, it does. You fold back into yourself–you stop having so much of your being located externally in the child–and that reactivated the ache, for me, of the amputated academic career. Temporarily. I’d found a niche teaching prep school–and was eventually fortunate enough to find a half-time position in a warm and supportive school, where I felt respected and had autonomy to teach as I thought best. So while I’m not exactly using all the training that went into getting a PhD, I’m immersed in the subject that still thrills me. Without the consuming activities of daily mothering, I again have some time to read and write, though the rewards are purely personal, not institutional, and certainly not monetary. I have no desire at this point to move to some uncongenial new locale for an academic job or put up with departmental politics or meet the standard but crushing demands of teaching 4/4 to big classes of under-prepared students while publishing and administering. So the Mama, PhD, contradictions, the split between mothering and professing, are receding. Both passions shaped my life, and the current situation mingles the legacy of the enrichment both brought and the sacrifices the duality entailed. But by now it’s a comfortable place to be. I count my blessings and am satisfied with the tally.