Tuesday, January 24, 2012

Life does not wait for anyone by Crissy McMartin-Miller

[Here is another narrative about grad school! Ah, I hope you enjoy reading them as much as I do. When I asked Crissy for her reflections on grad school she kindly accepted to write a piece for my blog on top of all the tasks she is juggling and I'm truly grateful. One of the reasons why I asked Crissy was because I admire her commitment to her family and the fact that she finds a balance between graduate school and her son. I don't know how she manages to do that and look great and put on a smile too. It's amazing to me! I guess my ulterior motive was to figure out how she did all this. I really think the real heroes of grad school are academics with kids, graduate students like Crissy and Kyle. I personally did not have the right courage, time, money combination to have kids yet, not to mention that I am away from my husband for the time being. I still have hope though thanks to these heroes like Crissy.
PS. By the way, the second group of heroes of grad school are people in long distance relationships, well in my case a long distance marriage. How arrogant of me, sorry I simply could not resist the temptation ^_^ --Beril]  

Life does not wait for anyone by Crissy McMartin-Miller

When I look back on my pursuit of a PhD, the following scene is what I’ll recall:

On the eve of a new semester, I retreated to my home office to put the finishing touches on my course website. My husband was in the kitchen, cleaning up with our three-year-old son.

Kyu had been told by husband to leave me alone, so he was silent when he slipped away. First, he sat outside the door, gently scratching the wood. Then, he started whispering “Mama” through the crack at the bottom. Next, he picked up his accordion. When I continued to (try to) ignore him, he moved on to a slide whistle.

At that point, my husband had heard him, and I realized there was no way I was going to get any work done as long as Kyu was awake. I abandoned my work and emerged from the office. It was going to be another late night for me, but who can resist a family jam session?

My memories of graduate study at Purdue will always be colored by parenthood. For me, the first two years of coursework weren’t just a time for learning about ESL theory and practice, meeting new friends, and churning out papers; it was the period we spent completing our adoption home study and how I kept my mind off waiting for a baby. I still have no idea how I wrote that qualitative paper two days after we got a referral for the most beautiful child I have ever seen…

The last three years have been spent attempting to balance school and family. When our son was finally home, I read articles and graded student essays while he slept at my side. Prelim papers were similarly completed during naps and after nine, when Kyu was in bed, and my mind was less than sharp. My prospectus, which I will kindly call “long simmering,” had little progress until we enrolled him in school for three hours each morning.

So, yes, it’s been hard at times. But it’s good, too. I’m even more proud of my accomplishments knowing that I share them with my husband and son… and that I did it in conditions that sometimes include being smashed over the head with a toy bus as I attempt to write an email to a professor. Mostly, though, being obsessed with my hilarious and loving son means I can’t get too caught up in grad school.

Am I saying every grad student should now go off and have a kid? Let me just polish off this glass of wine and say, uh, no.  Not unless you really want to. But I do think it’s important to schedule in something non-scholarly every day and still have some FUN. Hang out with your friends. Read a book. Come make chalk drawings with Kyu and me. Your work will always be waiting, but life doesn’t wait for anyone.


  1. Kyu is so lucky to have such level-headed parents. I have never met a more loved kid!

    1. I could not agree more. By the way, Crissy would you consider adopting me? Kyu might enjoy having a big sister. What do you say? ^_^