An educator making sense of herself and her world

A new report suggests that children’s savings accounts are correlated with enrolling in and graduating from college. The researchers found the association even when holding factors such as parents’ expectations and school involvement, family income, and children’s academic achievement were controlled for. It was true for low- to moderate-income children as well as children of racial minorities. What does this mean?

The authors suggest a few things. First, children who have savings accounts have fewer doubts about whether their families will be able to afford college and may experience higher expectations for college-going. That just gets students into college, but how do they stay enrolled and graduate? The authors also found that children with savings accounts had significantly higher math scores than their peers, but acknowledge that much of the difference may be accounted for by family net worth because children in higher-income families experienced greater math gains. Interestingly, savings accounts were more significantly related with higher math scores for white children and higher reading scores for black children.

So what do we do with this information? Should the government step in and create a savings account for all children as proposed in the ASPIRE Act? I think they present a good argument that savings accounts for children that are designated for educational purposes will have a great impact on reducing government financial aid later, but I fear the bureaucracy this plan would bring. I think saving for college should be the responsibility of the family.

My impression after reading this report was that there must be some quality that sets certain families apart that, regardless of family income and academic achievement, encourages savings and college-going. What comes to mind is delayed gratification. Parents who create savings accounts for their children are thinking about the future and setting expectations that the child will be able to use that money for their education someday. That means these parents are not using this money now. Children see their parents modeling this delayed gratification and will hopefully internalize it themselves. Not only is there a greater sense of expectation on the child to attend college, which may encourage the child to do better in school, but the child may be more likely to put off playing video games and study. If the child is learning about delayed gratification when it comes to money, he might put the dollar in his piggy bank rather than spend it on candy or stickers. As the child grows up, she might be better able to delay gratification when it comes to her social life and academics, spending more time studying than “hanging out” with friends because she knows the reward is greater in the end. She might delay gratification and put off sex or practice safer sex, which means she won’t get pregnant, have a baby, and potentially drop out of school, hindering her college success.

Can the government teach delayed gratification or intrinsic motivation? I see these programs that pay students to do well on tests or reward students for simply showing up to school and think the government is failing these students in the long run with extrinsic motivation and instant rewards.

Thursday, December 15th was Rutgers University’s Student Affairs 2011 Conference. This year’s theme was Lead. Follow. Pave the Way. When thinking about leadership in the field of student affairs, one must immediately think of Dr. Susan Komives, a professor at the University of Maryland, College Park, who is known for her research in student leadership development. We were so fortunate to have her as our keynote speaker. Dr. Komives also honored the graduate students with her presence during lunch for some Q&A.

I took some notes during Dr. Komives’s keynote address, and I’d like to share a few highlights with you. One part that stood out to me was the idea of living life in the key of D versus living life in the key of C. Dr. Komives noted that today, too many people are living life in the key of D. This means they are driven by “d” words such as despair, depression, danger, disgust, disaster, and defeat. Instead, we should be living in the key of C. This means embracing collaboration, caring, creativity, compassion, congruence, commitment, and community.

Another point to consider is whether you are excited, existing, or exhausted. When I first heard these three options, I thought that I was a little bit of each. After hearing Dr. Komives explain the differences, I think I can say that I am excited. So what are the differences? Excited people are passionate about what they do and are constantly learning. People who are existing have plateaued. They are going through the motions, but lack the motivation and drive they once had. They aren’t seeking out new information or opportunities. Exhausted people are drained of all motivation and need to seriously reconsider their life plans. Excited people can be tired. They are so active, they often do get tired. But that doesn’t make them exhausted. I’m happy to be excited. I am optimistic about my future and passionate about the work I am doing. I am always looking to learn new things and improve my skills. I think I have found the right field, and I hope to find other excited people to accelerate my own growth!

Dr. Komives’s advice for us was to work collectively smarter, reflectively smarter, and spiritually smarter. In a work place known for its silos, we must cross boundaries and form communities. We must observe, keep perspective, and have foresight. We must follow our moral voice and consider our beliefs, values, and principles.

She concluded with some questions to reflect on, including:
-What is my attitude towards life right now?
-What brings me joy in my work?
-Am I getting recognition? I am giving recognition?
-What have I learned this year?

I attended two educational sessions. The first was “At the Crossroads of Adolescence and Adulthood: Navigating Rutgers and Beyond” by Michal Nina Sarah, Associate Director for Clinical Services at CAPS and Nicole Isaacson, Clinical Social Worker. This session focused on the developmental tasks of college students and some challenges they face. Some of the developmental tasks include dependence/independence, sense of belonging, sexuality, critical thinking, and developing conscience and values. Challenges include separating from one’s family system, establishing meaningful peer relationships, connecting to meaningful activities and interest groups, experiencing normal emotions (failing, losing, etc.), social anxiety, poor interpersonal skills, shame, stigma, poor communication skills, lack of initiative/motivation, poor problem solving, poor decision-making, and a sense of entitlement. As a group, we brainstormed ways to help students who are facing these challenges. Some of these solutions include helping students think through their options, coaching problem solving techniques, identifying strengths and interests, asking questions, helping students to reflect on their strengths and successes, and reminding students that college is about more than academics.

The second educational session was Patrick Love’s “Preparing for a Mid-Level or Senior-Level Position in Student Affairs.” He emphasized reflective preparation, which included understanding where you are right now and where you want to go. Ask yourself, Where are you in your life? Do you want a family? Do you want an advanced degree? Are you looking for a promotion or a change of scenery? Consider institutional fit, including type of institution, geographic location, culture, and degree of student contact. Ask yourself, what flaws can I live with? What are my passions? What makes me grin? What makes me excited? What don’t I like? What are my strengths? How have I been building them? How do I mitigate my weaknesses? What distinguishes me from others? Now how to market yourself. Report your accomplishments to your supervisor. Prove that you are valuable. Acknowledge the work of others. Write thank you notes. Network. Interview others. Join professional organizations. Take field trips to other units or institutions.

Overall, I had a great time at the conference.

This month has been a busy one. Academically, I had three papers due (not counting journals) and two presentations. I was also busy developing two workshops for Student Support Services (one on multiple intelligences and another on searching for internships). Normally not too bad, but I spent most of the month sick with a chest cold that doesn’t seem to want to leave. Due to the illness, I’ve felt more than ever that I need to prioritize my time and effort. I focused on my school assignments, the workshops, my appointments with students, and sleep.

I bring up sleep because I recently read an article in the Chronicle of Higher Education on sleep by sleep expert Mary A. Carskadon, professor of psychiatry at my alma mater, Brown University. Carskadon emphasizes college students’ need for sleep in order to forge neural connections and develop the brain. Adequate sleep can also improve safety (a Texas study found 16 percent of college students have fallen asleep at the wheel), grades, and physical and psychological health.

While it doesn’t come up in every conversation, sleep is an issue I will often raise with my students. The majority I have talked with are definitely not getting enough sleep. When working on time management, I might help them create a weekly calendar with times blocked off for class, studying, working, activities, eating, and sleeping. While my own weekly calendar would never need to go past midnight, I found that some students felt that the calendar template I made (which ends at 2am) does not go late enough to accommodate the time they are still awake. Many are going to bed at 3 or 4am.

I can relate to a certain extent. During my freshman year, I had one semester with no classes before noon. I would sometimes go to bed at 3 or 4am and wake up at 11am, having gotten almost enough sleep. But for my students who are getting up for 8 or 9am classes after going to bed only four or five hours earlier, I am very concerned.

Why are students staying up so late? There are a number of reasons. Some of my students report staying up to socialize, watch movies, use social media (such as Facebook), or attend late-night events. Others use that time to study as classes, on-campus or off-campus jobs, extracurricular activities, Greek life, athletics, or family responsibilities have kept them busy well into the night.

I am aware of campaigns at many different colleges to raise awareness of about the dangers of binge drinking, but I haven’t seen more than a handful of brochures in a health center that address the issue of inadequate sleep. Carskadon mentioned an advertising campaign at the University of Arizona, Orzech that helped improve the sleep of 10 percent of students who saw it. I think every college could use a sleep awareness campaign. And it’s not just the undergraduate students who would benefit. I see graduate students who appear to be bragging about pulling “all-nighters” and I have even heard staff members reporting getting as little as four hours of sleep per night. We can all use a reminder about the benefits of sleep and the risks of not getting enough sleep.

I recently watched a TED talk presented by Arianna Huffington. Filmed in December 2010, Huffington’s recommendation that we get more sleep was met with laughter and applause by the audience. She described how she rediscovered the importance of sleep after fainting and injuring herself due to exhaustion. In many fields, lack of sleep is used in a game of one-upmanship. While sleeping less may lead to more hours in the day awake, it does not necessarily lead to more productive or efficient hours. Huffington argues that getting eight hours of sleep can lead to increased productivity and happiness and smarter decision-making.

I value sleep. I am vocal about the fact that I do not pull “all-nighters.” Like Carskadon, I look forward to the day when I hear students referring to an “all-nighter” as a way to describe the full 8-9 hours of sleep they enjoyed the night before.

Sometimes life sends you a reminder about why you do what you do at exactly the moment you need it. Today was one of those days. I’ve got that tickle in my throat that’s telling me I might be coming down with something, and getting out of bed took a little extra effort this morning. Luckily for me, the universe sent me a student who completely energized me and I feel like we did some really great soul searching.

Let’s call her Mona. Mona is someone who wants to do everything, which I can definitely relate to. Her life goals include pursuing her education to earn an MD and a PhD. Ambition! But is this a realistic goal? After talking for a while, it became clear that Mona is not ready to choose one particular path, so I encouraged her to put herself in situations where she can do what she loves, and the path will become clear.

I feel like we had this breakthrough moment when she realized that music is extremely important to her and it’s been something missing in her life recently. Music was something that energized her and provided her with structure. I encouraged her to bring her instrument to campus and play once in a while. I believe that everyone has a gift that provides them with energy and balance. Personally, I love art. I have a box full of paints, crayons, colored pencils, and charcoal that I break out once in a while. My husband plays his guitar every day. I believe everyone needs to know what that thing is that makes them feel whole and refreshed and not let that passion go dormant.

Another breakthrough that I think we had was the idea of being afraid of failure as well as success. As I already mentioned, Mona has a lot of ambition, but she has choices to make. Whenever we make a choice, we are choosing not to pursue something else. This really resonated with her and it’s something I think about in my own life. Do we sometimes sabotage ourselves in order to feel like we aren’t consciously choosing not to do something?

In the New York Times article “The Evolution of Higher Education,” Tamar Lewin interviews Richard A. DeMillo, director of the Center for 21st Century Universities at Georgia Institute of Technology. I was particularly interested in the first half of the interview, during which Lewin asks DeMillo about how colleges and universities are preparing for the future of higher education, particularly in response to changes in technology.

Lewin mentions iTunesU and M.I.T.’s OpenCourseWare as examples of online innovations that are changing the way education can be accessed. I am a huge fan of these resources. I am often listening to podcasts and lectures on subjects ranging from business to psychology to art to education thanks to iTunesU and my iPod. If I’m walking to class, riding the bus, cooking, folding laundry, or just decompressing from my day, I am probably listening to a podcast or a TED Talk. So as long as you have an internet connection, access to breakthrough scholarship is not really the issue it once was. So where does that leave higher education?

DeMillo wisely responds that by putting lectures online for free, M.I.T. was showing that the value of an M.I.T. degree comes not from the lectures, exams, and homework, but from the “experience of passing through the network of M.I.T. scholars.” I agree.

Once upon a time, people went to schools in order to gain access to information. This was necessary because schools were the repository of information; the only way to access the shared knowledge of a community was through its teachers, especially in the days before the printing press. Now, we live in a time in which access to information is readily available. Memorization of facts is not as important as it once was. We still send our youth to schools to gain an education, but the methods of instruction and aims of that education should be quite different today. Because access to information is not longer our main concern for sending our children to school, we should now be focusing on the communities into which we are sending them.

DeMillo notes that in this current technological climate in which excellent lectures can be accessed through iTunesU, the professor’s value is not so much in explaining the material but in facilitating the learning process that takes place. He states, “The discussion is what takes place afterward, maybe not in the classroom, but in the learning community. That’s where professors can add value.”

This article also makes me think of a student in the course I am currently teaching (which is designed as a seminar) who has absolutely no interest in the learning process. He is only interested in gaining the necessary content (which only includes facts, no opinions please!) and then regurgitating the content in tests (no papers please!). I so badly want him to see that the value in going to college is to be a part of a learning community that allows you to discuss, debate, criticize, and engage in what you are learning. While I don’t think I can change his mind in a 10-week course, I wonder if I have been at all successful in planting little seeds in his mind about the value of group learning.

This has been an interesting week for guest lecturers on Rutgers’ campus. Last night I attended at talk by Dr. Travis Gosa of Cornell University, who was brought to campus by the Council of Black Graduates. I love CBG meetings. No where else on campus have I experienced such passionate discussion on race and education. This event was no exception.

Dr. Gosa began by describing hip-hop as a means of expression for marginalized people. It has been, and always will be, a party culture. It rose in the 1970s as a reaction to the destruction of poor and brown communities.

One thing I found particularly interesting was the idea of control. Hip-hop as music often included sampling of works by other artists, and music was often obtained illegally (stealing from the store, recording off the radio, etc). Break dancing,  another part of hip-hop culture, was a form of controlling one’s body, which is a reaction to feeling like one has lost control. B-boying is all about taking back control. Graffiti is about reclaiming public spaces. Those people who tag walls, trains, etc, are identifying themselves to the people who may wish to forget that a segment of society even exists. Hip-hop is often about trying to make something out of nothing.

Dr. Gosa began a brief history of hip-hop by explaining that hip-hop was established with the belief that it should be educational and political. Artists such as Afrika Bambaataa and the Zulu Nation wanted to use music to create spaces for political movement and to teach about African tradition. They wanted to link the movement to positive images of Black culture. Dr. Gosa used the word “edutainment” to describe a connection between having a good time and teaching the youth.

Recently, there has been an attempt by K-12 schools to incorporate hip-hop into the curriculum. This might be used as an attempt to reengage Black and Latino students. Dr. Gosa noted that hip-hop culture is a cultural mismatch of traditional classroom norms, but teachers and administrators could begin by respecting the way that students look, dress, and sound. To be effective, hip-hop pedagogy should emphasize cultural relevancy and cultural criticalness. Hip-hop can be used to empower students and promote social justice. It can be used to help students and communities be more self-reflective of their experiences.

However, modern hip-hop music does not always send positive political, social, or educational messages. Dr. Gosa spoke of pop culture propaganda, which can be seen in the music and image of many current rappers and hip-hop artists. Hip-hop today often sends a message of symbolic violence towards women and the poor. Capitalism and consumerism are emphasized. Oh wait, how different are these messages from every other message we receive in American media today? Dr. Gosa spoke about secret societies which may or may not exist in the hip-hop world. There have even been talks of a Luciferian conspiracy, in which modern hip-hop music is attacking the intellectual and spiritual capabilities of today’s youth. While I might not consider it a Luciferian conspiracy, per se, I do agree that much of today’s hip-hop music and culture (at least what I have seen) does not promote intellectual or spiritual growth… but then again, what music does?)

So how do we use popular music to foster critical thinking in schools?

Dr. Gosa mentioned four ways that hip-hop is used in schools today. The first is through supplemental programs. This may include after-school programs that engage students in the creative processes of hip-hop, perhaps with the aid of local artists. While this is a good start, it is not always feasible with the community’s resources. Where will supplemental programs take place? What resources are needed? Will the students be safe? Will equipment be stolen? Another way to bring hip-hop into schools is through national hip-hop education campaigns. Often this involves having recognized rappers and other hip-hop artists speak to the public (sometimes in schools) to send positive messages to students. Next, we have educational products, which may include course packets, study guides, curricula, SAT hip-hop prep guides, etc. This can be a lucrative business, but can all students and schools afford these products? Like having speakers come to the schools, these products may not be affordable to the schools and students who would benefit from them the most. Finally, there are nonprofit organizations that send speakers to schools, hold workshops, and train teachers in hip-hop pedagogy. Again, cost is a big issue. Often, only the wealthy schools can afford to bring speakers and trainers to their students and teachers.

Dr. Gosa ended with seven points to think about. Roughly, they are:

  1. expertise and authority – Do teachers feel qualified to incorporate hip-hop into their students’ education. Why? What skills to they have?
  2. cultural theft and misappropriation – Are the connections being made using hip-hop sincere or exploited? Are students being indoctrinated into the curriculum through hip-hop?
  3. value – How is this useful? How can it help students learn? Is it improving student-teacher relationships? Or are teachers ghetto-izing the students?
  4. focus – What aspects of hip-hop should we focus on? Music? Visual culture? Break dancing?
  5. limits – Are we helping students or pigeonholing them?
  6. celebrities – What place do celebrities have in this? Are the celebrities tied up with corporate sponsors? Are they using this as a marketing opportunity?
  7. realistic – How can we be realistic about bringing hip-hop into school curricula? Are we going to reimagine how schools work? Or are we hoping to boost test scores? Can there be a hip-hop revolution in schools?

When thinking about all of this, I do think there is a place for hip-hop in schools, but like multiculturalism, it should not be used in a superficial way. Most teachers do not have the expertise to incorporate hip-hop into lesson plans, but they should allow for students to express themselves in ways that help students discover their own identities and understand their communities. This type of pedagogy should be more useful in certain communities (I don’t see much hip-hop in upper-class private schools, for example, but schools that serve many students that come from marginalized background could definitely benefit). I believe in interactive, dynamic education. Have students use the content of the curriculum and write a rap utilizing vocabulary words or important historical events. Have students create a documentary about their lives and communities that might incorporate some of hip-hop culture. Acknowledge that hip-hop does have a culture and recognize that by denying any relevancy of hip-hop culture, you may be denying a student of an important piece of his or her identity. How comfortable will that student be in the classroom then?

Language. Identity. Multicultural Schools. These are three topics that I like individually, but put them together and I’m hooked.

While not aimed at the world of student affairs, this talk by Dr. Lori Langer de Ramirez definitely sparked my interest. The Graduate School of Education Student Affairs Committee brought her to Rutgers yesterday (November 2nd) to talk about the role of language and identity in multicultural schools. Overall, it was a great presentation. Dr. de Ramirez was an excellent speaker and the approach she took to covering the topics was insightful and inclusive.

One of the first parts of the presentation involved a pair-share activity. We were asked to look at a photograph and try to figure out what was going on in the scene. The photograph is shown below. My partner and I commented that this was a group of men, the time is somewhat modern based on the camera-looking device on one man’s belt. They appear to be in a desert-like place (my partner suggested Northern Africa). They are wearing similar clothing and head coverings.

We were certainly surprised to find out that these were astronauts from the Mercury 6 program, also shown below.

One of my favorite parts of the presentation was another pair-share activity. These sometimes leave me feeling uncomfortable, especially when I’m in a room of strangers like this one, but I actually enjoyed sharing my story and listening to the stories of the people around me. The task was to share the stories surrounding our names, and then tell the other person an interesting fact. We never got to the interesting fact part of the task because the two other educators with whom I spoke had such interesting things to say about their names and their beliefs around their names. One educator was a woman from Peru who talked about how people are confused by the fact that she has two last names and no middle name. I spoke about having my mother’s maiden name as my middle name, and my ambivalence about changing my last name now that I am married. The other educator was a man who admitted that he does not identify with his middle or last name, and if he marries he would like to create a new last name for them both.

Dr. de Ramirez talked about the four multicultural approaches (Banks & Banks, 2003). The first is the contributions approach, which is probably the most common in schools. This is when there are celebrations of culture, which might include popular heroes, holidays, foods, and performances, and there is a definite start and end time to this multicultural immersion. This makes me think of one event I remember attending as a child during which people brought foods from different cultures to school and we sampled a bit of everything. The next day, our multiculturalism was forgotten. The second approach is the additive approach. Now, more information is added to the curriculum (such as women in science or black poetry), but the overall curriculum is not changed (just expanded). This is a difficult approach because there is already so little time to cover any given curriculum, to simply add diverse perspectives once in a while without restructuring the entire curriculum is going to either burn out the students and teachers or not leave enough time for everything to be covered. The third approach is the transformation approach, in which the structure of the curriculum is changed to allow for a variety of viewpoints. Getting better, but we’re still not quite there. Finally, we have the social action approach, in which students are encouraged to give opinions, make decisions, and take action. This is, of course, my favorite, because I believe that the point of education is to encourage students to think about what they are learning and then take action. Perhaps by transforming the curriculum to represent diverse viewpoints and giving students an opportunity to reflect and react, students will actually want to engage with what they are learning and not just memorize until the next test.

Because Dr. de Ramirez has spent most of her career as a Spanish language (and culture!) teacher, she also spoke at length about teaching language (both foreign languages and English to English Language Learners). She emphasized the need for culture and context in teaching. Gone are the days when we memorize dialogues verbatim to recite whenever prompted. Now we need to connect language to relevant topics in the real world so that students can actually engage with speakers of different languages and communicate, not just recite.

Now the stuff I love the most is the multicultural. Dr. de Ramirez introduced the concept of the cultural iceberg, in which only about 10% of culture is observable and about 90% is not observable. The observable are things like behaviors and practices that are apparent to an observer. The non-observable are things like attitudes and values. To solidify this idea, our next activity was to write a paragraph about ourselves to an imaginary pen pal (or key pal, since apparently we don’t write letters anymore). In my paragraph, I mentioned a lot of things that I do as well as a bit about geography. Basically… I study at Rutgers University. I work in a cultural center and in Student Support Services. I teach a course for transfer students. I enjoy watching documentaries and TV comedies. I like to read and play computer games. I live in NJ but I am originally from RI. When we finished, I spoke to the group about my observation that I wrote mostly about actions (studying, working, hobbies) and not much about who I am as a person. Other people volunteered that they shared things that were a little deeper, such as ethnicity or religion. Finally, we did an activity in which we listed our race, ethnicity, gender, age, physical abilities, socioeconomic status, religion, sexual orientation, language, and learning abilities/styles and then talked about how our experience responding to these categories was different from the free-form response we had just done. The group seemed pretty divided. Some preferred the free-form, others thought the list was easier. Personally, I could answer most of these questions without really thinking, but some categories had me wondering what the audience might think of me. For example, if I write that my sexual orientation is heterosexual, my audience would probably be more at ease but they wouldn’t know how nuanced I believe sexual orientation is and how much of an ally I am to the queer community. Similarly, some categories have much more salience and weight to me than others. I certainly empatheized with one woman in the group who talked about how her multi-ethnic background makes her feel unable to accurately answer the question, and how she never feels completely accepted by either ethnic group.

There’s more that I could say, but I think this is the meat of the presentation for me. I would love to use some of the approaches she presented in my own classroom. I really liked the photograph as a way of showing people how first impressions can be quite different than the actual situation. Also, the “What’s in a Name?” activity was really interesting for me, and I think it would be a great way for me to learn more about my students. The different multicultural approaches will have me thinking about whether I am including and celebrating a diverse variety of perspectives when teaching.

Especially in the first few weeks of being a mother, it seemed like everyone was asking how motherhood has changed me. I didn’t know what to say. I mean, I strongly felt like I was the same person. It’s not like my values, attitudes, or IQ magically changed overnight. Sure, my body felt wrecked. I was chronically sleep-deprived at the beginning. But how had I changed?

I would say that I feel like the same person, but my center of gravity has changed. For a while, my new center of gravity was just a few inches in front of me, which didn’t result in much change except for a really sore back and ribs and a bit of forgetfulness at the end. Now my center of gravity is in an entirely separate person. I’m still me, but I’m tethered in a different way to someone who is about 2 ½ feet tall.

Becoming a mother was a surreal experience. I experienced a mix of disbelief (“Wait, this is labor? But I can’t be in labor! Labor is for real moms or reality TV!”), calm (“If I stay calm, hopefully baby and daddy will be calm. I can do this. We can do this. Women have been giving birth and mothering for as long as there have been women!”), and exhaustion (“Seriously, I just stayed up all night in labor and then pushed a baby out of me and all I want to do is sleep but I can’t because there are hospital sounds and nurses checking on me every 15 minutes!?!”). I was excited to meet her, but it took time to fall deeply in love with her.

My body has changed. I felt used and destroyed, but recovered. Sure there are some stretch marks on my hips, but I can’t be entirely sure they aren’t the same ones from when I suddenly got hips overnight about 10 years ago. My linea negra hasn’t completely faded. I’m a little softer, my skin hangs a little differently; sometimes that bothers me, and other times I’m in awe of my body’s power.

My daily routine has changed. Wait, what routine? There were the rough first few months of trying to sleep and get things done during her short bursts of sleep. Then she started sleeping through the night. Then she wasn’t. Now she is (mostly). We’ve had all sorts of sleeping times and arrangements: sleeping with her in the bassinet next to the bed, sleeping in the guest room alone for the occasional bit of extra sleep, sleeping with my husband while she slept in her crib, sleeping with her in the guest room because she seems to have forgotten how to sleep without me, and sometimes combinations of the above in a single night (three of those apply last night). I have to be strategic about showering in ways I never was before motherhood. These days, I find it’s best to do it before she wakes up or else it might not happen (that’s if I can get myself out of bed before she wakes). I can’t wait two weeks to do laundry anymore. I can’t just get up and go run errands whenever I want. Thinking about getting us both appropriately dressed, having a fully-supplied diaper bag, getting her in and out of the car seat, choosing an appropriate manner of transporting her during the errand (babywearing usually wins), making sure the trip will not interfere with nap time… eh, it’s enough to keep me home for another day of no fresh produce. (That’s what all the frozen vegetables in the freezer are for, right?)

My work has changed. Without a baby, I’d probably still be working full time. I would not have experienced being forced out of a job after announcing my pregnancy. I would not have had two great part-time jobs that allow(ed) me to balance work and pregnancy/motherhood. I better understand the motherhood penalty and feel closer to the feminist cause.

My parenting ideals/philosophy have not really changed. Sure, they’ve evolved with experience, but I think I’ve stuck to what I was hoping for going into this. I didn’t want to be like that first-time mom who only allows someone else to hold the baby after they have rubbed hand sanitizer up to their elbows or is obsessed with milestones. I give her space to roam around the (minimally baby-proofed) house. I let her make a mess. I surround her with books and blocks and plastic containers that she can bang together. I dress her in all colors and don’t shy away from shopping the “boys” section for blues or cute animals. I want to minimize worry, toys, and gendering and maximize love, learning, and creativity. I want to nurture a human being who is both independent and interdependent. I want her to understand that it is completely possible for her to be the center of my universe but also not at the same time.

So how has motherhood changed me? I don’t really feel that different as a person. My day-to-day life has certainly changed. Most of my day revolves around a baby, which is certainly a change. I spend much less time working for pay and much more time trying to keep the house from looking like total chaos. But those little things don’t really matter. The biggest change is I have a life fuller of love and meaning.