We have a couple of neighbors who spent some years overseas studying towards their PhDs. At the time, their now grown kids were children.

On the day the father finally gave in the final version of his thesis to the teachers who were going to evaluate it, the son approached him in his den and said:

“Dad, can I ask you for something?”

Of course, on that day his mood couldn’t be better, so he promptly answered:

“Today you can ask me for anything, son!”

He obviously thought his son would want an expensive toy or the like, but instead he said:

“I want that pile of papers over there.”

The “pile of papers” was a waist-high stack of older versions of his thesis, which had gone back and forth to his advisor (in an era when the Internet wasn’t so present!) over the past months until he was finally satisfied. The father was a bit surprised by the request, but since the son had some classmates over, he thought it had something to do with the recycling program the school promoted.

“It’s all yours, son!” exclaimed the father, happy he wouldn’t have to spend the extra money on the latest toy. He never would have imagined the scene he was about to witness.

“Come on in, everybody!” shouted the son, beckoning to his sister and classmates, who were waiting outside the door.

The kids all rushed in and started tearing up and stomping on the old theses and screaming:

“Thesis nevermore! Thesis nevermore!”

The father rushed to get out his camcorder and film everything. Today it is the first thing he shows his own graduate students when they start studying towards their own doctorate degrees:

“See what awaits you?” he jokes.

Now that I finally defended my own thesis (last week – hurray!), I can’t help but wonder if the stress it generated had any kind of lasting effect on my own kids. The week before my public defense my 9-month daughter was feverish and irritable, and on the evening before the big day my 7-year old son couldn’t sleep.

“Don’t worry,” I joked, “Your own thesis presentation will only be in 20 years.”

“I never want to write a thesis,” he said sternly. He then jumped on my lap as I went through the slides of my presentation one last time. My subject was related to international policies to conserve biodiversity, so I had inserted several pictures of children interacting with nature to lighten things up a bit.

“It’s not fair,” my son complained, “there are all these photos of children and none of my sister and I!” I let him choose some photos of him and the baby and placed them in the presentation. He was satisfied and finally went to sleep.

And you? Have you ever had to reconcile studies and kids? How was your experience?

This is an original post to World Moms Blog by Eco Ziva of Brazil. 

Photo credit to Isaac Mao. This photo has a creative commons attribution license. 

Ecoziva (Brazil)

Eco, from the greek oikos means home; Ziva has many meanings and roots, including Hebrew (brilliance, light), Slovenian (goddess of life) and Sanskrit (blessing). In Brazil, where EcoZiva has lived for most of her life, giving birth is often termed “giving the light”; thus, she thought, a mother is “home to light” during the nine months of pregnancy, and so the penname EcoZiva came to be for World Moms Blog. Born in the USA in a multi-ethnic extended family, EcoZiva is married and the mother of two boys (aged 12 and three) and a five-year-old girl and a three yearboy. She is trained as a biologist and presently an university researcher/professor, but also a volunteer at the local environmental movement.

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