Wednesday, January 9, 2019

Mathematical motherhood -- keeping count

     The Journal of Humanistic Mathematics, with new issues coming twice a year, late in January and July, is a wonderful resource.  Their latest issue (July 2018) was themed "Mathematics and Motherhood" and is an example of their wonderful support for expanding our images of mathematicians to recognize the vital contributions of women.
     From that issue, here are opening stanzas of  a poem by Nevada scientist and mathematician Marylesa Howard -- lines that offer a mathematical description of the constant adjustments of parenthood.   Several decades ago, when I was a math professor and parent of young children, I needed to keep details of parenting away from my profession -- a divided life.  I'm glad things are different now.

Mathematical Motherhood     by Marylesa Howard

Three a.m. and my ears hear the tiny whimper of the baby.
Seven minutes feeding on the left and she starts drifting to sleep.
One diaper change to wake her back up and
Six more minutes of feeding on the right for
Thirteen total minutes of milk.
Twenty minutes until she falls asleep, and
Two hours of sleep until we do it all over again.

The early months of parenthood operates on its own schedule, and
My exhausted and sleepless body clings to any routine it can find.
The mathematician in me is drawn to patterns in numbers, and
I unknowingly created a monster in me by fixating on the numbers
To get through each day.

A typical day includes eight diaper changes and six feedings.
She sleeps a total of fifteen hours – is that enough?
She screams after ten seconds of tummy time,
Though the doctor said she needs thirty minutes a day.
A bath three days ago.
A temperature of 103, and
The doctor says it will last five days,
Followed by one rash.
     . . .
BIG BIG thanks to JHM Editors:
          Mark Huber, Claremont McKenna College
          Gizem Karaali, Pomona College                       
who offer this this journal to us!

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