Science Under The Influence (Of Motherhood)

This week, my husband and I are attending the Science Online conference in North Carolina. It’s a great opportunity to network and to learn about trends in science education (my day job). Because W is still nursing (and because, truth be told, there’s no part of me that’s ready to be away from her at night yet), she came with us. The plan was that my husband and I would take turns attending sessions and watching W, which is perfect…in theory. In reality, I am finding it hard to present myself as a SCIENTIST (…and mother) when I feel more like a MOTHER (…and scientist).

Granted, I wear both hats comfortably at home, and after some initial bumps, I’m now quite good at doing my science writing in 2-minute increments between verses of “Old McDonald.” Those times when I have to interact with others in a professional manner and for a period longer than W’s attention span, I’m at school and W is at home. I think about her, but I can compartmentalize. Having her here, in the conference building, makes things different. I’m fine during sessions while she’s with her father, but when we meet up in the halls between sessions (which is when the most interesting conversations take place and the most networking opportunities present themselves), my attention is definitely pulled in her direction. There’s no doubt I’m doing science under the influence of motherhood.

The complete realization of how “under the influence” I am has come upon me slowly, probably because I’m so used to multitasking (a word that once meant doing several things well at once, and now means desperately trying to accomplish a task one-handed while juggling a diaper bag, a baby, and a cup of Cheerios). Still, the evidence is mounting. In the break room today, I sought out another woman holding a baby, and the conversation was more along the lines of how old is she and is she walking yet than what are your preferred modalities in the undergraduate classroom? Furthermore, I may have sniffed W’s bottom (you know, poop check) mid-sentence while networking with another conference attendee. I say “may have” because the recollection is vague; I’m so used to this commonplace and now-unremarkable action that I didn’t fully register having (allegedly) performed it until afterward.

While being “under the influence” may have come to the forefront of my attention at the conference, I think the truth is that I’m always at least partly influenced by motherhood, because it has changed me so much in such pervasive ways. I’m still me, but compared to the old me, I’m running a little later, look a little less put-together, and need a little more coffee in the morning. In the end, though, I think that doing science under the influence of motherhood is a good thing. I think it makes me, if nothing else, better at my job. Motherhood has taught me the importance of repeating myself over and over again (and in different ways) to promote comprehension. It’s softened my approach and deepened my empathy. Most of all, it’s given me a concrete understanding of and appreciation for the fact that everyone is under the influence of something, be it motherhood, or a job, or simply life itself. We’re all (mothers or not) doing our own version of juggling Cheerios one-handed, and I really get that now.


What are you doing under the influence of motherhood, and how’s that working for you?




1 Comment (+add yours?)

  1. Megyn @Minimalist Mommi
    Jan 20, 2012 @ 17:47:54

    My heart goes out to you! It’s so, so hard to separate the two when needed. I was managing a large volunteer project and had to take our oldest with me (he was the only at the time). It was such a hard task to keep him occupied while trying to give orders and manage a gaggle of volunteers. It’s funny because before motherhood, I would give mother’s scornful looks when they brought their children to anything important and serious. Now being a mother, I beg for empathy from anyone to be able to participate in the world outside motherhood. I’m so glad I have gained that understanding and new perspective!


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