You’ll Find Me In The Bedroom

I...don't...know...why...this...is...so...difficult.

When we last left Lorna, she was struggling with the demands of her doctoral program and her maternal/domestic responsibilities…

My doctoral program required two years of course work, which supposedly absolutely prepared me to pass two 72-hour “qualifying exams” in my chosen areas of specialization: quantitative research methods and gerontology (the study of aging and its impact on the individual and society). The program allowed students who completed the requisite coursework one year to pass both exams and only one try to pass each exam. A Master’s Degree in Philosophy was the consolation prize for failing either exam–the equivalent of being “gonging” on the “Gong Show.”

By the end of my 2nd year (May 1987), I completed all of my coursework. Classes ended just before Alex’s first birthday, so I was able to give him a proper party, complete with a cake he could smash to smithereens. While I was working and in school, Alex spent most of his days in the care of “M” the Magical

Don't know if it's the sugar or the smashing, but I could use a nap.

Grandmotherly daycare provider. I dropped him off and picked him up, often mid-afternoonish.  We would grocery shop, practice words, walk Humphrey, and pretend to clean the condo until Daddy came home. Daddy took Alex and I vanished into our bedroom/study room until dinner time. Together, we ate the meal Chuck prepared; then I would disappear again until it was bath-time for Alex. Chuck never liked to bathe Alex. I enjoyed this bubbly time to splash and tell him

We had the soap, but not the box. This wasn't going to stop Alex from his goal of becoming a great orator.

silly, made-up stories. The fragrance of a freshly bathed and powdered babe was intoxicating (in the most wholesome way). Chuck entertained him before his bedtime and I often, but not always rocked him to sleep.

Wanting to get these exams over as soon as possible, I continued working part-time and prepared for my exams full-time through the summer and fall. Alex didn’t see much of Mommy; neither did Chuck, but the GWU librarians and the D.C. Metro workers and I were getting quite chummy. At home, I became like a Magician’s Assistant; disappearing into the bedroom was my special talent.

Leave it to Beaver children to snap us back on track when we’ve veered into a ditch. I knew I was shirking my maternal duties with all this studying, but Alex hit me over the head with just how much when, one evening I emerged from the bedroom/study prison room earlier in the evening than usual. I strolled in to the kitchen to make myself some tea. Alex, who was playing build-something-with-blocks-and-Daddy’s-socks, looked over at me with wide, questioning eyes. He was clearly confused. “What’s the matter, Buddy?” I asked. He responded, “Mama? Dada’s ch-chin (kitchen)?” He thought I didn’t belong in his father’s kitchen! While we laughed about his 18-month-old observation, I got the message: Mama’s a great student and sucks fails could do better at everything else.

Um, Mommy, it says here in that you should spend more time with me and Daddy. Do you want me to read it to you, or just bookmark the page? There's also a great recipe for extra cheesy mac and cheese and an article on how to make your nail polish last longer. You really should read this paper book Daddy got for you.

By Thanksgiving 1987, I passed both grueling exams, thus began Phase 2 of my program. Because there were no classes in this phase, I thought I could make up for lost time with Alex, cook gourmet meals for my family, and pay more attention to my supportive husband—show him some gratitude, if you know what I mean.

Aphrodisiac? Are you sure that’s a word? It’s not a sociology term. I’ll have to look that one up. Can you wait a minute? What’s that strange look in your eyes? 

Wrong!

I had one year to write a dissertation proposal and get it approved by my Dissertation Committee (3 faculty members I selected). If not approved in one year, I would have to take those Apocalyptic Abu Ghriabic arduous “qualifying exams” again–a wonderful incentive to write a brilliant proposal within a year. In September 1988, 200-ish page dissertation proposal was approved. My reward? I got the privilege of doing what I said I would in the proposal. The program allowed me four years to complete that task. Easy-peasy.

Not!

I got that familiar strange feeling in my core; it was either an extended case of gas or, despite my post-Alex weight gain, libido loss, and more fatigue than air-traffic controllers during the holidays, Chuck’s pre-planned family was going according to his schedule.

What happens to Lorna’s plans as Chuck’s plan ripens?

~ by Lorna's Voice on September 26, 2011.

28 Responses to “You’ll Find Me In The Bedroom”

  1. Nice to know I’ve got such a kick-butt friend rooting for me like I’m rooting for you! 🙂

  2. That’s very true. I’ve noticed countless similarities. I am glad to know that now you are “free”. I love reading your blog, it makes me laugh, and tear up, and fighting mad sometimes because I just want to knock some people in the head for you. 🙂 you’ve got a reader for life in me!!

  3. My son minored in philosophy. Just try winning an argument with that guy. I bet you have similar skills. 😉

  4. I wanted to major in philosophy! I knew it wouldn’t get me anywhere though so I settled for communications.

  5. Do tell!

  6. Me, too … and , yet there is another story in that. ~~~ : – )

  7. I sure as heck couldn’t do it today. And I don’t understand those people who go back and get multiple doctorates–once is enough for most semi-sane people!

  8. As I write about this chaotic time in my life, finding the humor is getting harder. I guess not everything has to be funny, but I really do want to keep my stories light-hearted. Thanks for your comment, Casey!

  9. This post described a part of my life. Only it had more humor!

  10. 200 page proposal! Know I really know why I stopped with a Bachelors degree. I couldn’t even manage my 18-20 paper in 3rd year…..I mean sure, I had a ‘lot going on’, but really it’s just my horrible time management skills and dread of research papers. My cousin’s husband tried to tell me that when you do your Masters you can choose your paper topic, exactly what you would love to study and write about. Except that when I choose to write about something I enjoy (in a research setting) I in turn start to *hate* it. A lot. There goes that.

    Kudos to you for managing it all! Wow. You sure are dedicated.

  11. Jeanna, both you and I (and countless other people) believe for a whole host of reasons that we aren’t worthy of or entitled to our dreams. We believe that others know better than we do when it comes to our own lives. It’s only when things really get shaken up that, maybe, we find the courage that was always inside of us and give ourselves permission to set ourselves free. People who’ve never felt the control of others can’t possibly understand this. Your story, my story–they’re the same, really. Be both make it, but the rapids had to get pretty rough before the river smoothed out…

  12. As I am writing this and thinking about it (or maybe the other way around), I’ve come to the conclusion that I had a lot to prove to Chuck and to myself because of the alcohol-thing. I had some serious character-redeeming, so earning a Ph.D., holding down a job, being the best mother I knew how to be, and being a good wife was necessary to convince all parties concerned that I was a “good” person. Making up for past “sins” is a bitch. And the story is FAR from over…

  13. I had fun looking through the baby pictures and had to resist the urge to put in more. Alex and I have fun together, just not play on the floor kind of fun…

  14. Oh, just you wait and see…;)

  15. Actually, Tots, I look younger now (20 some odd years later) than I did then! Those were rough times.

  16. Oy, I know from mensch, Izzy! 😉

  17. He was/is a precious gift. But he had his moments, too–like all children. I often said that if I had to stay home with him all day, every day, one of us wouldn’t have made it out with all of our marbles…;)

  18. And just when you think it can’t get any more dramatic…;)

  19. Yup. Hard. I didn’t realize how hard until I really got into telling the story…

  20. This is a hard one. For you Alex and Chuck. Still you got through it somehow so all’s well that ends well

  21. I take my hat off to you. What more can a gal say!

  22. Alex is too cute. Must have been hard to not spend time with him. But I do understand those education priorities. Good on you!

  23. Oy vey …. such a problem. Could you at least have put sex aside for a couple of years ???/ … no, you had to do it all. Such a mensch ….!!! ( make sure to read with a Jewish accent).
    Mazel Tov,
    Izzy

  24. It’s not easy being a student and parent, let alone a wife. It’s super tough, actually. You didn’t have your hands full, you were carrying a load on your back.

  25. Pregnant again…? How much more can one woman handle?!

  26. I honestly don’t know you managed it all. You deserve massive kudos.
    The baby pics remind me of my son when he was a baby. The maternal urge tugged at me for at least 5 seconds. Then I remember, oh yeah, I’ve got grandkids to gush over. Much, much easier.

  27. See? Full time grad school, full time mother, full time wife – it makes you wonder by comparison to your undergraduate studies how much alcohol was consumed er… time seemed so cramped back then. Must have been the alcohol lack of time management skills when you were younger.

    Good lord Lorna, you sure bite off the maximum you can chew and then some.

  28. Urgh how do we always end up feeling like we owe someone an apology when we Chase our own dreams?

Silence can be just what the doctor ordered. You know I'm a doctor, right?

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