Sunday, December 6, 2009

Parent brain

This is a funny essay about the brain-draining result of being a stay-at-home parent.

It is because of the results he describes that I just can't do it. Even from River's earliest days, I needed to be out, on my own, as an adult, for at least an hour or two per day. I admit though, that Jim Lehrer (who, by the way, is my favorite), definitely fell off the radar screen for a while. Whenever I see trailers for Desperate Housewives, I get an almost traumatic remembrance of the late, late night four-hour breastfeeds, during which I watched (or at least stared at) episode after mind-numbing episode. When things settled down a bit, I got my daily dose of NPR in, at least until our radio broke. Then I lived a while in almost complete isolation from intelligent information.

I sought out information where I could get it. For a while, I was a regular on the local lecture circuit. Whatever I could learn about, that fit my schedule and was free - I was there. I went to Whole Foods to learn about teas. I'd go to university lectures on random subjects. I went to see Naomi Wolf at a bookstore. I listened to artists speak at the library, as well as neurological specialists and even a medieval music troupe. I learned things from these talks, but always as a spectator. I sat, usually near the back, listening or taking notes. But without dialogue. Without being able to contribute to the conversation.

This contact with ideas, with people with ideas, and with people with whom I can talk about things other than kids (though the other parents and I definitely exchange parenting info too) is one of the things I like best about my office job. I did "work" during the time I was home. I even finished a book. But I wasn't in regular and direct dialogues with people. I had to seek them out, and that's hard to do.

One of my office mates recently told me about his passion of mushroom collecting. Another about his life in the Czech Republic during Soviet times. Others about the countries they travel to and what the situation is like in Madagascar post-coup. I listen to NPR's Morning Edition almost every day. I attend brown bags to learn about various random topcis. And even through the most tedious tasks, I sometimes pick up new information.

Of course, I immediately jump to apply any new information I learn to parenting, when it's relevant. Cuz, hey, I want to do the best job I can. But I also want to be an involved citizen of the wider world. I know that River won't want to be the focus of my world forever and that I need other things to care about as well. I used to be committed to particular issues that I thought I could help solve. Now, I'm less assured of my ability to make a big difference, and perhaps that's where the lure of parenting comes in - the ability to feel like one really is impacting or changing a life, which can be so hard to do. But for now, I think one worthy goal is to attempt to avoid becoming stupid.

No comments: