Cocoa Mary Poppins?

My mother is Mary Poppins. Instead of the wholesome, semi-Technicolor British version in the form of Julie Andrews, think of a five foot, shrill-voiced, 50-something East African native with more energy than the Energizer bunny, more sass than Madea, and more financial savviness than a working stiff on Wall Street. All these things are ok because my life as an estranged wife, disorganized mother, harried grad student, and disgruntled teacher needs fine-tuning and my mommy is the woman—has been the woman—who has worked wonders in getting my life in check.

In May 2008, after getting my master’s, my kids and I moved back to New Orleans, Louisiana where I was born and raised so that I could complete my graduate education. I made a conscious decision to apply to only one of two schools (the one closest to my town) that offered a PhD in English literature because I wanted my children to be with their grandmother, my mom, who still lived in the orange-shuttered home we moved into when I was 13, while I toiled the hours away teaching and researching and becoming an academic tool. My mom, who retired post-Katrina, has been a godsend not only to me but also to my children. She’s right there waiting to pick up my daughter at 2:15 when I have an afternoon seminar twice a week. She’s right there taking the clippers from my hand because I’m worried I will hurt my son’s scalp when I give him a haircut and proceeds to cut his hair with nick-free precision. She’s right there in the backyard tending to her plants while the kids are next to her blowing bubbles, and I’m peeking from behind curtains watching them as I write a 20-pager. There is no better assurance than to know that my children are in great hands. And this does not mean that their father is a complete absentee. Our divorce and child custody proceedings have made things less than amicable between us (yeah, that’s an understatement), and he travels a lot. But we are absolutely committed to working as co-parents—that’s our joint New Year’s resolution for 2010.

Going through a divorce while attending grad school and teaching, in addition to trying to be the best mother I can be, has been the most difficult thing I have ever done (and I have gone through two C-sections, ladies and gents), and there are plenty of days where I swear I cannot do it, and on these days, I think about my children, and how healthy, happy, and brilliant my rugrats are, and I push forward. And I absolutely could not do it without my best friend, my rock, and my mommy—my very own Mary Poppins—in my corner.

6 thoughts on “Cocoa Mary Poppins?

  1. Why DO we take on so much as women?
    Why DO we feel that the weight of the world is our inherent burden to bear?
    And HOW do we know, for sure, each and every day that we CAN and WILL do it? Isn’t that something?
    Thank you for sharing.


  2. The image of your children blowing bubbles near your gardening mother, while you peek through curtains and write a scholarly paper–that’s a kickoff image for 2010. Can’t wait to read more. -Alison


    1. Benee, that is answer for the books, right? 😉

      Nazie, yes, I am very lucky and grateful, and I tell her everyday!

      Alison (I like “Mz. B”!), thanks! That means a lot, my MFA gal;-)


  3. Establishing a functional support system is the key to being a Ph.D.-bound mom! I can remember picking my son and mom up from the airport after my qualifying exams. So glad to have him back, but even more grateful to have had somewhere to send him. It sounds like your mom is a superstar like many in her generation. You also sound like one yourself, so I guess you are following in great footsteps.


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