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Academic Life and Motherhood: A Skillful Balancing Act

Delprete, Donna

When I began my doctoral studies in the fall of 2002, I found myself engaged in a difficult balancing act. If two children under the age of six, a husband, a part-time job, and aging parents were not enough to manage, adding serious graduate work to this already heavy load seemed impossible to handle. Initially, I was unsteady – losing my footing and balance on the thin beam upon which I walked each day. Around the same time, I also came across an aphorism that encouraged slow but steady work towards the realization of a goal. It read something like this: Plant one flower a year and in ten years you shall have a beautiful garden. I decided to make this one of my mantras. And so, I began to work slowly but consistently towards my doctorate, taking two or three courses per academic year (or planting a couple of flowers at a time). Over the years, my decision to limit my course load has kept me from falling off the balance beam of life and has thus enabled me to juggle my family and academic demands with a good degree of dexterity. In retrospect, any other route to my doctorate may have yielded either sloppy work or neglect in many aspects of my life.

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Working Papers in Applied Linguistics & TESOL

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