7 months ... 7 weeks

Just about seven months ago, the Statons arrived in Edinburgh. Thanks to the generosity of Rotarians and a lot of hard work on my part, I had the opportunity to embark on the beginning of a dream I've had for a long time: to begin PhD work at the University of Edinburgh. Jonathan and I tried to prepare ourselves for the year ahead: moving across the ocean, parenting for the first year of Julian's life away from our support network, balancing 2 full time jobs (we count my work as a job) and various part time jobs plus parenting, living in an apartment for the first time, living in a city for the first time, etc. When I look back all I can say is: wow. We did our best to prepare ourselves with the information we had at hand; and once we got here we've done our best with what we had to work with. There was just no way for us to imagine what the year would be like. It has been a good year, but both of us agree it has been our toughest year.

But this "toughest year" has not been without benefits, by any stretch of the imagination. We're much more comfortable with travel-- yes, even with a young child!!-- than ever before. Planes, trains, buses, autos, even boats! We know that we can make it without a dishwasher or clothes dryer or even a bath tub. We can survive Chinese karaoke in the wee hours of the morning. Each of us can make change without holding up the entire queue. We can talk about a queue, the boot, a trolley, wellies, a cot, a nappy, a dummy, differentiate pants from trousers (important), and differentiate a pushchair from a pram. We can faff around and tell when something is in a faff. We can suss out a situation and know when we are completely knackered. We know it's significant to have a chip in your card, or else you have to swipe. We know how to work a boiler and radiators.

We have a new-found appreciation for our family and the importance of connection with them. We know that Julian loves to be outside and is fascinated by birds. We can recognize the difference between an "I am hurt" cry and an "I am mad" cry, and countless others. We continue to renegotiate parenting and all the gender junk associated with parental roles. We are really good at spotting (and dodging) dog poop and vomit with the pushchair. I've learned that I am capable of taking Julian on an outing-- involving a bus, a taxi, a train, and even stairs-- all by myself.

Jonathan and I have discerned more clearly the conditions in which we work best. I've learned that the PhD is something I want to do for myself, not just something I did because people expected me to do it. My public speaking skills have improved. Each of us has a renewed appreciation for the importance of creative endeavors in our lives.

Yet, I consider the greatest benefit of this year to be the friendship we have cultivated with Mike and Maureen Altman and their kids Katie and Josh. Of course that wasn't on the official radar screen for this year at all. Our relationship with them is not school-related or Rotary-related. We laugh now that we met for the first time out of a mutual obligation! Yet in so many ways they have been our lifeline-- through a phone call, a supper, a day trip, a weekend away. I'm looking forward to see how our relationship with them develops in years to come.

I've not yet made this public -- so here goes-- but after this academic year I will be stepping out of the PhD process for a while. I recognize that there are families in which folks work two full time jobs for the sake of survival. Add to this the full time job of parenting. But what Jonathan and I have come to realize is that we aren't just interested in bare survival. You can only exist in a survival situation for so long before you start to wear down. So something had to go. Anybody who knows me knows that I've worked very hard and for a long time to get here. So you can only guess how difficult this decision has been. If you had told me a year ago that I was going to step away, I would not have believed you. This decision has been heart-wrenching, yet astonishingly simple. On New Year's, I said that the biggest surprise of 2007 for me was not how radically Julian had reoriented my life, but how okay I am with that reorientation. The constant drumbeat for me has been this: universities have been awarding PhDs for hundreds of years and they are not going to stop... yet Julian will be small only once. I don't want to spend his young years in beg-borrow-steal mode with my time and energy. It's like cooking dinner: do I want the stir-fry or the spaghetti? Each is good, but the ingredients for the stir-fry are more time sensitive. So we'll do the stir-fry tonight.

What does it mean to be on the "mommy track"? Who knows. The whole idea of the mommy track is that there is no track! As I mentioned above, I have a new-found appreciation for how much I want to do a PhD. I hope that I will return to it, but it won't be for a while. There is other work to do, and this can wait. Before we go I want to make sure to have a photograph taken of me holding Julian, standing in front of the Divinity School. Somehow I want that image to mark a time and a place and a choice.

And in seven weeks we'll get on a plane to come back to the US. We'll embark on that journey with a new sense of home and family and abilities and work and connection. I believe we'll come back richer and with a renewed sense of what we want our life and work to be about. And now that Julian has lived in Scotland longer than he lived in the US, we've got some catching up to do.

With love,