While sitting at the bus stop this morning, I was struck by how good — how skillful — I feel in my life down here in Uppsala. I get on the right buses, go to the right places, say mostly the right sorts of things in my seminars, and generally get the right kind of feedback. I rather enjoy my life at home as well, but I can’t claim that a terrific amount of skill goes into my work there, and as any parent will tell you, the feedback there is definitely of the mixed-bag variety.
I always hesitate a little to say this, but I’m sure most of my readers will understand what I mean in saying that probably my favorite thing about being here is that it’s all about me. For the first time in a very long time, I am evaluated and appreciated — not least by myself — for things that have nothing to do with my identities as mother and wife. Along with that enjoyment comes a sizable helping of guilt, you can be assured, but I’m hardly ever away from home for a very long stretch and when I am at home, my full attention is nearly always on my family.
I’d like to claim that I’m a better mother for “doing my own thing” apart from child-rearing, but I’m not convinced that’s the case. I’ve never been a big believer in the idea of “quality time,” as it’s always seemed to me that time, period, is what’s important. So much of what matters, I think, is just in actually, physically being at hand. That’s probably why what makes this bearable for me and the kids is that when I’m not at home, Olof is, pretty much every minute. He and I went into this family-building enterprise both committed to the idea of hands-on parenting, and we’ve worked hard at making it work.
Of course, all of this makes me think about what comes next, after I complete my master’s program in the spring. I don’t want to stop studying — a big part of me feels like I can’t stop — but a doctoral program would require an even bigger time and energy commitment from all of us. The kids are getting older, sure, but they’re still pretty little and I’m not sure I could bear to spend much more time away from them than I’m already doing.
Life, it’s full of hard choices, huh?