Putting It All in Perspective—by Jamie Levine
Recently, a young woman in my graduate school program gave birth to a baby boy. This classmate of mine is an adorable twenty-something—pretty, petite, and incredibly sweet—and our class has been mesmerized by her new entry into motherhood. Other students constantly ask to see pictures of her son, giggle when she leaves the room to pump her breast-milk, and even exclaim, “Oh, I can’t wait to be a mommy, too!” I know these young women are caught up in the cuteness of the baby in the pictures—and not the reality of him—and they’re likely continuing to use birth control when they get home, but I’m still tempted to caution them all: “Please wait!”
Being a mother is the best thing I’ve ever done, and I can’t imagine my life without Jayda. But I can’t deny that sometimes I get jealous of my young classmates for having the luxury of only worrying about themselves. While most of my fellow students work full- or part-time—as I do—and often complain about never having enough time to get class work done, they still have far less to stress about than I do. They have their Saturdays to themselves, as well as their evenings, and they never have to worry about getting to bed early enough because their kid is going to have them up by 6 a.m. like mine does. Their lives may be juggling acts—but they’re not juggling another person’s life along with everything else they need to do. And as far as I’m concerned, they have it easy. They should all have 4.0’s.
This past week was Jayda’s spring break, and I made it through an activity-filled week-and-a-half with her and somehow managed to study for (and ace) a midterm, write a paper, outline a presentation, finish a freelance project, and even get out on a couple of dates at night. I suppose it helps a bit that Jayda understands what I’m working towards now; she’s observed a speech-language pathologist who comes to her school, and is fascinated by the stories I tell her about “my kids” at the clinic. She knows I need to study and work hard so I can be successful. And she yearns to be a part of it all: This past Friday, I needed to go to school to sign some forms and Jayda begged to come with me. She visited all of my classrooms, insisted on sitting at the desks I usually occupy, peeked through the doors to every room in the building, and asked me for details about my days there. None of my professors were around, so she asked if she could come back and meet them sometime; I happily agreed.
Being a working mom and a graduate student is tough. And it’s tiring. And sometimes, I don’t know how I do it. I certainly don’t know how I’ve managed to maintain a 4.0. Maybe it’s simply because I have no choice: I need to support myself and Jayda, and I need to successfully embark on a second career. But sometimes it’s easy to lose sight of what’s most important along the way.
Yesterday morning, before my midterm, Jayda was watching a movie on my laptop while I sat at a table across the room with my nose in my text book. “Mommy! Can I sit on your lap?” Jayda yelled to me. Impulsively, I responded, “No, Jayda! I need to study…” But as she pouted, a switch flipped in my head, and I put down my book and lifted her onto my lap. For better or worse, I am a mother. And mostly, it’s for better. Times with Jayda are much more precious than the few minutes I lost preparing for my test. I do the best that I can at school—but at home, as a mom, I can always do better. And thankfully, I have Jayda around to keep reminding me of that.