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Friday, August 7, 2009

Married....with Children?

Now that Sarah and I have tied the knot, our discussions about the future seem to carry more weight. The topics are the same, but somehow the air around us seems thicker. Still enjoying our honeymoon, we have already begun discussing the pitter patter of little feet. My position on that issue has become cloudier than it used to be.

I have always wanted to become a father. Maybe it’s because divorce robbed me of a traditional relationship with my own dad, or maybe it’s just the strong pull of genetics. Regardless, I have long thought of hiking trips and bedtime stories with sons and daughters. But now that I am about to become a teacher, I wonder how I could possibly balance my passion for education with the family I intended to have.

One of my favorite things about attending school at USM is that class demographics are so non-traditional. Students range in age for 18 to 80, which makes for interesting group dynamics. As much as I love collaborating with the older students, I have noticed that they seem to be much less competitive than their younger classmates. It isn’t that they are less intelligent or less capable; it’s a matter of time. Most of them are parents who simply don’t have any time. Between force feeding recommended daily allowances of green vegetables, parent-teacher conferences, and shuttles to hockey games and dance recitals, there isn’t much time left for writing papers and studying for exams.

I know the kind of teacher I want to be. I know that I will spend as much time outside of class preparing and perfecting as I do in class with students. How can I possibly juggle fatherhood with that? How can I be the kind of teacher my students deserve while being the world’s greatest dad?


mackenab said...

I think you can do it ... with some caveats.

Someone, I think Merlin Mann of internet fame, said recently, something to the effect of, "Priorities are like arms. Anyone that tells you that they have more than two is lying." This has been my experience with fatherhood. Yes, I can be a great professional and a great dad ... provided that I am willing to sacrifice almost everything else. At this point in my life, I really don't have significant time for anything that doesn't directly impact on one of those two things. (I do conceive of "being a great dad" somewhat broadly to include being a great husband, taking care of my responsibilities around the house, and so on.) Yes, these two things do sometimes conflict, and staying on top of both of them is sometimes (often?) exhausting, but, on the whole, I think I'm managing (mostly). And I like to think that it will get a bit easier when the kids are a little older and lower maintenance. (Yes, they will still require a significant investment of time, but meeting their basic needs --- keeping them fed, clothed, diapered, asleep at night, etc. --- should get easier. I hope. We're already seeing this with Charlie, almost 3, who can now independently go to the potty (usually), get his food to his mouth (usually), stay in bed asleep at night (usually), and put his clothes on (mostly, shirts are tricky).)

That having been said, I would probably caution you a bit about scheduling. While I do think that you can do both at the same time, if you are willing to forgo other things that seem important to you, I'm not sure that I would want to *start* both at the same time. I'm not sure how much time you have left at UM, but I know that the first couple of years of teaching can be brutal, and I, personally, don't think that I would want to face those while caring for an infant if I could avoid it. After the first couple of years, you can continue to improve your teaching, maybe even dramatically, but you aren't inventing everything from zero.

So, there's two cents from a fellow traveler.

Andy said...


I would also add that if you decide ultimately not to have kids, arguably the best vocation to offset that absence in your life is teaching. Even if you don't instill your perspectives and ideas in your own offspring, you will have the opportunity to do that on a much wider scale with your students.

I see it as a win-win no matter what you choose. I also echo Allen's sentiment that you really can only do two things very well, and parenting takes up a ton of time.