Friday, September 18, 2009

Mad Scientist Mommy

This week has been one filled with all the typical employments of being the daily caretaker for children. It's been distinct because it has been my parents' last week here in Texas (tomorrow! they leave to drive away to Chicago tomorrow!), but mostly it has been filled with the usual stuff-- reading books and a playdate or two and cooking and laundry and nursing and trips to the library, the grocery store, preschool. I have concluded that this life of a stay-at-home mom has turned out to be such a good match for me partly because it is like one fun science experiment after another. There are lots of other reasons that this life has made me so happy (a nearly unrivaled level of autonomy, I honestly like domestic stuff like cooking and sewing, my children have turned out to be super fun people to be around, and so forth) but I place a good chunk of the responsibility with the similarities between staying at home with small children and scientific pursuits. And not the annoying realities of science research with applying for super-competitive grants and jobs and bureaucracy and committees and all that, but the really fun part of science-- finding an interesting question or project and getting to figure out what the best answer is or how to build/make/do it. Granted, the projects I work on aren't answering fundamental questions about the physical universe, but somehow they appeal to the same part of me that loves inquiry and experimentation and learning how to do new things.

There are the decisions about what kind of parents we're going to choose to be, of course. My faith has impacted those decisions the most, but the background in science both Rob and I bring to parenthood has definitely informed the choices we've made about infant feeding and sleep training and corporal punishment. Knowing how to synthesize information or, you know, read a journal article is certainly helpful in choosing a path in parenting.

However, the parts of motherhood that are fun in the same way that doing professional science is fun have been a little less important. For example, did you know that you can make yogurt in your slow cooker? (Alton Brown uses a heating pad, but I don't have one of those and I do have a slow cooker.) Homemade yogurt is not very thick since it doesn't have added pectin or starch or whatever like store-bought, but draining it for a while in a coffee filter can get it to whatever consistency you want. And I've started making some of my cleaners for around the house, which definitely feels like CHEMISTRY IN ACTION. I didn't do any canning this summer with our CSA goodies, but gosh, that feels just like doing a lab experiment to me. For whatever reason, freezing (which I DID do) feels much less science-y. The whole cloth diaper enterprise feels like a big experiment (and I did originally approach it as totally experimental, halfway expecting it to not work at all). And now Grace is super interested in phonics and I can sort of see her starting the process of learning to read, which also feels like some kind of grand experiment. I guess I'm just a project-y kind of person, a person who gets excited about learning to do new things. It's why I had so much fun doing science professionally, and now it's why I'm having fun with this stage of my life. So I wonder what my next science experiment will be? I really want to try to make bread with wild yeast (you know, the yeast that LIVE OUTSIDE) but as I am working on getting to a happier weight for me, embarking on a bread-making extravaganza might not be the best idea. Hopefully none of my science projects will go as badly as this.


Christy@pipandsqueak said...

As always I love your blog posts. I will have to try making yogurt. We eat a lot of it as my kids are not big milk fans. It is a lot cheaper to make.

As a former science teacher I love your analogy of kids and science

amydove said...

I love the comparison between science and motherhood projects. Perhaps this is why I'm jealous when my mother friends get to do all those cool things. I think it also has to do with the teacher side of me as well. I will love to see my kids learn and make up projects for them to do!

Kimberly said...

You are a good writer. I thoroughly enjoy reading your blog! I have to read it on the computer though, and not my ipod because it doesn't come through on the reader, so I sometimes go for days without reading it here. And then I catch up all at once.

I have kids about the ages of yours and I can't find the time to write any darn thing. Am impressed with you.