Tuesday, August 15, 2006


Sunday night, my kid fell asleep around 8, but was back up around 11. He couldn't sleep because he was worried.

About third grade. What if he didn't do well? What if he didn't know anyone? What if no one liked him? What if...

At first I responded all kindly and mom like. You'll do fine. You'll know people--it's the same school you've attended since kindergarten. People already like you. Etc. Etc.

After 5 or 6 rounds of this, concerned mom was replaced by stern, "take your butt to sleep" mama.

The next morning, as we were walking into the school, my nephew tells me, "The Kid says he scared."

I grab my son's shoulder, turn him around, and say quite firmly, "I do not want to hear another negative word. There is nothing to be scared of!"

And I thought to myself, God, where does he get all that negativity from?

Lo and behold, a lightbulb has popped on! He gets it from me! And not just because I bitch at him about doing substandard work and have probably given him a complex, but because he hears similar sentiments spewing forth from my mouth like geysers of doom. (I don't know what the hell possessed me to write that sentence, but it's descriptive, huh?)

Like two hours ago, I was whining to my sister, in front of the kids, that I'm never going to get this degree. Oh, and not for reassurance and ego-stroking. I really, at this moment, am unsure. I cannot bring this current chapter to a close, I don't have all the stuff I need to write my resistance chapter, and my chapter on gender issues (the first one I started then stalled out of this summer) seems so repetitive of parts of my chapter on working conditions. I feel like I'm on a downhill spiral: my chapters are getting progressively shorter (and they weren't all that long to begin with) and less-inspired (to put it nicely). I am scared. Terrified.

And I can't go to my advisor because 1) she's probably tired of my melodrama and 2) there is no reason that I can't do this. I love my topic, I have strong writing skills, and God knows I'm not the only grad student with a kid and mental health issues.

What I lack is motivation and models. My intrinsic motivation burns itself out quickly when it does surface and, not having to be on campus the last 2 school years means my extrinsic motivation went waaaay down (you tend to write more when you see your advisor every other day, I believe). And models--Lord, I'm the trailblazer in my family when it comes to education on this level. I don't know how to adequately balance all parts of my life and I think the academic part gets short-changed.

In the end, I can only do what advisor says: get in front of the computer and write. But what will it take to get me there consistently?

And how do I make myself into a non-negative model for my child?


Billie said...

Elle-- You've taken the first step. :-) By being able to recognize your own insecurities and doubts, your son is able to recognize his own (and that is something!). You (and he) can now learn to be strong in spite of them. Just look at the wonderful model you are to him. You are strong-- yet still have doubts-- and continue to be strong. He will do the same. If he is hearing your doubt, he'll also hear your strength. Hang in there! You are a great mom.

Elle said...

thanks, billie. i always fear i'm going to screw him up royally.

thank you, too evanne...

Gwyneth Bolton said...


I have been exactly were you are and I know how it feels. I wish I could tell you that it will come to an end and you'll never have these feelings again. But alas, I can't. I managed to write the dissertation in spite of myself and got the tenure-track job and even got tenure. And I still have those moments when I think I can't do this. I have nothing to say of importance. I say all this not to be the gloom and doom woe-is-me despair person, but rather to highlight that anytime you are taking on large projects with life-altering implications there is going to be a little bit of fear and unease. That's human. Passing along our insecurities to our children happens too. Even when we don't realize that we're doing it. But you are also modeling hardwork, dedication, following through, all of this wonderful stuff that a kid needs to see. His mommy is getting her Ph.D. That's big and that's scary. But you are doing it. And when it's all said and done I think all of that positive is going to outshine the negative. So breathe and sit your butt in front of the computer each day and write. Show him that even though you are a little scared, you aren't afraid. At the end of the day the only difference between a Ph.D and an ABD is that one of them sat there and wrote the damn dissertation. Okay, I'm off my soapbox now.


Revelations and ruminations from one southern sistorian...