Time: The Missing Ingredient


Sometimes the muffins don’t rise, and sometimes it’s your own fault.

If there is one thing to be said of college students, it is this: they stay hungry. During my undergraduate years, I remember, with a weak stomach, subsisting off a diet of highly processed foods. I believe rock bottom was the morning I ate microwaveable mac and cheese at 7:30 a.m. before a final exam.

Of course, I see this same struggle in my students, which inspires me to bake a homemade treat for each of my classes during the semester.  Two weeks ago, I gathered the necessary supplies for double chocolate chip muffins and committed myself to the task, which happened to be at 10 p.m.

After nearly an hour of preparation and baking, I peered into the oven with the kind of devastation that always finds teachers who try too hard. The muffins were dense and flat, and I immediately recalled my missing ingredient: baking soda.

I went to bed that night with a heavy heart and a full trash can.

Some lessons feel easier to learn than others, but there is always a cost involved.

Over the last couple of weeks I have become painfully aware of how a career in academics can set you at odds with building familial relationships. A series of meetings, work sessions, and university events (on top of a full teaching load) have physically distanced me from my little ones in recent days.

I gave into the pressures of work. My fuse grew shorter. And I really began to ponder my own worth as a mother. Suddenly, it was as if reading a book to my children required more mental fortitude than I could muster. The cloudy forecasts seemed to only mirror my inner guilt and sadness.

My parenting mac and cheese moment came most unexpectedly. As I prepared myself for a return to the office one afternoon, my son began to cry: “You not go back to work, Mommy.”

I think time is a conviction, and we only learn its value when it has been lost. While I was trying to keep my work life in order, my kids just needed to know that they were worth my hours, my days.

Time may be fleeting, but it is up to us to snatch the rich moments. Sometimes this means buying your students donuts when your muffins fail, and sometimes this means seeking forgiveness from your own children when you let them down.

The work will always be there, but only time spent with your children will make the love you share grow.

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