Tuesday, January 30, 2007


I continue to feel frustrated over work. C asked me last night why I was blogging rather than using the 45 minutes I had to myself to work. I wanted to strangle him, although I suppose it is a valid question. My answer: in 45 minutes I can compose a blog post that relieves some frustration and releases some creative and intellectual energy; in short, I can finish a blog post in 45 minutes. 45 minutes, however, is just enough time for me to get into a writing groove, at which time I am generally interrupted by S. C's academic work is taking precedence in our family right now because he graduates in May and has several interviews lined up for next month. I know that this is a necessary shift; I have enough time to get the work done I need to for my online class, but not much time to read or write for my dissertation. I'm finding that very, very frustrating. Yesterday I found myself trying to explain the complex mind of Doreen Masey to S while he nursed; he didn't find it at all amusing, especially as he has an ear infection and a bad cold.

Breastfeeding divide

Whenever I find an article like this one "Food or lewd? Breast-feeding opens divide," I always want to rail at the media. Would their really be a divide between breastfeeding moms and bottle-feeding moms if the media didn't report on or, dare I say it, create such divides? I've read a lot about the so-called "Mommy Wars" between working moms and stay-at-home moms, but I've often wondered if these "wars" would exist if some idiot at Newsweek didn't think it would make a great article to interview working moms and stay-at-home moms and ask them why and how they resent each other. Do mothers really have time to think about waging a war with other mothers? I don't mean to diminish the very real tensions that exist among mothers, but I do wonder if these tensions exist partly because the media continues to report on them.

Friday, January 26, 2007

Writing and guilt

I am longing to write, and I want to write more than just a blog entry, more than just a lengthy email to a friend, more than just an announcement to my students, more than just a travel request to my department. I want to begin drafting a chapter of my dissertation. I know what I want to write and how I want to write it, but I need several uninterrupted hours to sit down and do it. I spent an hour and a half formulating an entire section in my head last night at 3 am while S nursed. Once he fell back asleep (after 25 minutes or so) I even contemplated getting up and working, something I never, never thought about before he was born. But, as usual, my mind wandered to something else, and although it took me over an hour to fall back to sleep, I didn't think about writing again. I've resigned myself to the reality that I won't likely get any real writing done until he starts daycare in a few weeks, and I'm feeling a tremendous sense of guilt over that. I am so conflicted about daycare. I have learned in the past three months that I am not stay at home mom material. In the past three months that I've been a SAHM, I have developed the highest esteem for SAHMs; I want to want to be one, but I can't even manage to take care of S all day long and throw dinner in the crock pot most days. I don't have it in me to be a SAHM because I don't think I'd be a good one. I'm a perfectionist, and in the past three months I haven't found time to dust my house while taking care of my infant let alone do all the other stuff my mom did as a SAHM. There hasn't been any homemade bread for C or fancy dinners. And I feel like I should be doing all things domestic now that I'm home most of the time, but I end up sitting at my desk, nursing S, staring longingly at a huge pile of books while the dust continues to accumulate on my bookshelves. If I were working more, I feel like I'd have an excuse for not doing all those things, not that C expects or wants them. I have this image of a SAHM in my head, and I haven't lived up to it.

So I look forward to writing when he starts daycare, and then I feel guilty for that. I don't want S to go to daycare, not even part-time. I never expected to feel so conflicted about daycare; it was always understood that our children would go to daycare for some period. I've found one I like, and I've talk to the teachers at length. I know he'll be happy there, and he'll even benefit from the interaction with other kids. But I feel like a horrible mother for sending him. I feel like I should be able to be take care of S, write a brilliant dissertation, and make homemade bread for C (who has never once expressed an interest in or a desire for homemade bread). As with every part of my life, I know my expectations of myself are too high. I want to be able to do it all and to do it all really well. So right now the closest I can come to writing is this blog. When S starts daycare, I know I'll spend the first few days crying, and then maybe I can get past my guilt and start writing again.

Monday, January 22, 2007

Can you explain this to me?

For the past month or so, we've been trying to get into a routine. During the last 2 weeks of our winter break, I mandated that we all (C, S, and me) be up, out of bed, dressed, fed, and ready to go--even if we were hanging out at home that day--by 9:00. Every morning that both C & I were home, we failed miserably. I repeatedly found myself still in my pajamas at 10:30 or later. With 2 adults home, we couldn't manage to get S ready for the day let alone ourselves. Last week, C's semester started; he is gone 2 days a week from 6:30 until 3:00 or so and one afternoon from 1:00 until around 7:00. Every day he has left the house at 6:30, I have managed to fulfill the mission I gave both of us: S & I are up, fed, dressed, and ready for the day by 9:00. I told C this and he looked at me as though I were Superwoman. He asked if S & I hung out in bed like the three of us do on the mornings that C is home. I told him we did all the normal things--we did S's "baby exercises" in bed, he nursed for 30 minutes after that (I manage to make myself a quick breakfast before he nurses, so I can eat while he nurses), and then he played in his bouncy seat while I took a short shower and got dressed. This morning, I've even managed to make the bed, wash a load of clothes, and run the vacuum cleaner upstairs--all before my online office hours begin at 10:30. Granted, C did feed the cats, make coffee, and unload the dishwasher before he left this morning. But why is it that I can get all of that done on my own while caring for S, but the two of us can't?

My explanation: I'm much more productive when I know I don't have anyone else to rely on. I don't spend half of my morning asking C for help or waiting for C to do something for me. I just do it myself. So why don't I just do it all myself when he's home? I've been asking myself that, and I have two explanations that I am happy with.

1. He needs to feel needed.
2. I don't want to do it all myself! I want us to work out a morning routine together that gets us all up and ready for the day by 9:00! I think we'll have to keep working on that one . . .

Thursday, January 18, 2007

Are you ever to old to have a baby?

I ran across this article, which was published on MSNBC a few months ago. Like the LAF website, this falls into the category of "I don't know what to make of this." While on some level I agree with the author that 66 may be too old to have a child, I don't agree with the way he has gendered his reasoning. His reasoning is simple: the parent may die before the child reaches adulthood. In the beginning, he cites the numerous well-known men who have had children over the age of 55--Tony Randall, Donald Trump, Larry King, Luciano Pavarotti, and others--along side well known women who have had women past the age of 45--Cheryl Tiegs and Geena Davis are the two he cites. I immediately noticed the age differences. I also immediately noticed that Tiegs and Davis have been open about the fertility treatments they went through to become pregnant while all of the men were able to conceive naturally. The author goes on to state "My proposal is that anyone over sixty-five who is single should not use reproductive technology to have a child. If you have a partner, then your total ages should not be more than 130. And if you are female and at or near fifty-five years of age and going to carry a pregnancy, then you can use reproductive technology only if you can pass a tough physical examination. Sixty-six—forget it." This sounds like a reasonable proposal (although a bit intrusive and I'd also like to know who made him the fertility police), but what is implicit in his argument is the assumption that he will only "police" those who need fertility treatment. Seventy-plus- year-old men can (and do) impregnate women without fertility treatment, so the author is seemingly arguing that post-menopausal women are those who should not have children. Further, his pronouns after the above quoted paragraph are almost exclusively feminine. Women, then, cannot have children past the age of 45, but men can continue to have children as long as they can get a prescription for Viagra. There seems to be a flaw in his argument. Is age really so important when it comes to parenting? Perhaps we should judge parents by their parenting skills rather than by their ability to become pregnant or to impregnate someone else.

Wednesday, January 17, 2007

Not sure what to make of this one. . .

Since I'm trapped inside once again due to inclement weather, I don't really feel like working today; knowing that the university is closed somehow gives me license to slack off, as if I needed that. I was clicking on various links on blogs I visit often, and I found one called Mom & Much More that really interesting. On her blog, I found a link to Ladies Against Feminism, which appears to be a thoughtful, well written blog, albeit one I am not sure how I feel about. It is written from a Christian perspective, and in truth, it is fairly well written--I already said that, didn't I? I'm not sure why I find that surprising, but I do. . . What bothers me the most is the site's tone. It is prescriptive rather than objective; it is clearly telling readers what to think and feel. That bothers me no matter what the political or religious content of the site. I've stopped visiting the NOW site for the same reason. I am a big supporter of NOW, but I don't enjoy being told what to think about issues. I'd much rather read an objective article so that I can make my own decision than be told what I am supposed to think. The LAF site also bothers me because it assumes that being a Christian and a feminist are mutually exclusive ideas.

Tuesday, January 16, 2007


This morning S took a bottle from C in the house with almost no fussing, and he promptly fell asleep for 45 minutes afterward. We were able to eat lunch together for the first time in weeks--and I didn't even have to nurse S through lunch. It feels good to know that he is slowly figuring out the whole bottle thing.

So the uncertainty begins. . .

C has been applying for jobs since just after S was born. He has submitted over 40 job packets, and late last week, he received his first call for an interview. This was something to celebrate in our home! C had S while he was listening to the answering machine message, and he immediately passed S off to me so that he could run around the house screaming like a mad man! It was both amusing and endearing. It has been a tough year for C for a lot of reasons. First his advisor basically dumped him (said advisor took a position at another school over a year ago and assured C he would stay on as his advisor, but this summer, he suddenly dumped all his students from his previous university), he was forced to take on advisor who works in his time period but not his specialty, he has been working like mad to finish his dissertation, and he has been trying to balance fatherhood with a full-time teaching load and working on his dissertation. On top of that, his father died less than 24 hours after S was born. So last week's phone call gave him a much needed boost of confidence and a reminder that he is good at what he does.

While I was so happy to see my husband excited and happy, I am feeling a fair amount of uncertainty about the next few months. I truly hope that C gets several more interviews and that many of those result in on-campus interviews. But I am not mentally prepared to move in August, especially not across the country. Despite the disadvantages of smallish-town life, I have to admit I'm happy here.

Thursday, January 11, 2007

MLA and my residual guilt

MLA was over 2 weeks ago, but I'm still experiencing a lot of residual guilt from the conference. While I sat in interviews and engaged in some really great intellectual conversations and learned a lot about what to do and what not to do when I am on the job market myself, S & C struggled 7 floors below me. S has been refusing to take a bottle for several weeks now, and his refusal came to a head in a hotel room in Philadelphia. So even though my son is now taking bottles occasionally (we're still working on it) and my husband and I have discussed my guilt and his frustration, I still feel horrible about that entire experience. My guilt was compounded when I asked a friend to watch S yesterday for about an hour; again, he refused to take a bottle, and my friend was forced to come get me so I could nurse S. Later that afternoon C tried again to give him a bottle, and again, S refused. After 15 minutes of screaming, I couldn't take it. I took him from C and nursed him, and as soon as he positioned himself at the breast he latched right on and gave what I imagine must have been a sigh of relief. While I know these episodes, as C & I have started to call them, won't scar S for life, they are scarring me a bit. I already have a fair amount of anxiety about daycare, which S starts in a few weeks, but his refusal to take a bottle is making my anxiety a thousand times worse. Unfortunately, I simply can't be with him all the time, and I've worked out what I think is an ideal situation. He'll be in daycare 4 hours a day while I frantically work on my dissertation, and he'll spend the afternoons with both parents most days. I feel really good about this decision, or at least I did until he stopped taking bottles. My advisor told me what she hoped would be a reassuring story about her son: he never took a bottle, and she had her dissertation finished by the time he was 2. She said, "I'm proof that a dissertation can be written while your child naps." I fear I'm nowhere near as organized as my advisor, so I didn't find this particularly helpful. As I type this post, S is nursing away, and C is making up a bottle for later this afternoon to try again.

Sunday, January 07, 2007

The measure of a mother

I came across this very interesting article entitled "What's the real measure of a ‘good mom’?" and numerous responses to it. Reading this article made me ask myself (once again): are we obsessed with motherhood, and why is motherhood valued so much more than fatherhood? And finally, is it even possible to define what it means to be a good mother or a good father?

As S plays away in his bouncy chair right beside me while C edits a dissertation chapter, I wonder if S will value one parent more than the other. At this point in his life, it seems silly for me to even contemplate that. But remembering my own childhood, I do have to admit that there were certain times when I preferred one parent to another. My mom was great for making things better, and I can remember wanting to be with my mother much more when I was younger. But my mom wasn't always so great at helping me when things couldn't be made better. As I got older and life got more complicated, my dad was much better at helping me with things that couldn't be fixed--he'd let me cry and rant until I felt better about whatever had upset me, while helping me realize that not everything could be made better with a hug. Both of my parents had their strengths, and I value both equally, although very differently. My mom taught me to be a loving, compassionate person, while my dad taught me that I could accomplish whatever I wanted. Both encouraged me to challenge myself and to ask questions of those around me. Without either of them, I wouldn't be where I am today, and I know I will take things from both of their parenting styles as I parent my own son.

So why do we rarely see articles on the measure of a father? Why do we assume that mothers play a more influential role in the lives of their children? It seems as though when children succeed or fail the mothers are held responsible. As much as our society claims to value equality in parenting, we still seem to value mothers more, and along with valuing mothers more, we also hold them to unreasonable standards.

Saturday, January 06, 2007


This will be the first in a series of posts on MLA, so here goes.

I recently attended MLA for the first time, and my experience was good and bad. First, I didn't attend a single session or here a single paper given, so I can't speak to that aspect of the conference. I attended the conference as the graduate student representative on my department's hiring committee. My knowledge of MLA as a conference is limited to a very nice suite in a very nice Philadelphia hotel, where I sat with 4 other people for 2 days interviewing a total of 14 candidates. Much of the time I was wondering whether C, who was 7 floors below me with S, was having any luck getting S to take a bottle and if I'd have enough time to run downstairs and nurse S between interviews. That said, I learned a lot about the job market and the interview process. I hope that the process will be much less stressful when I am on the market. Here are a few things I learned:

1. Don't be boring.
2. Answer the question--much like a Presidential campaign, if you don't answer the question asked, you will just piss off potential voters.
3. Be prepared to answer the obvious question--for example, if you've applied for a position in 19th-century American lit, be prepared to answer questions regarding your teaching and research in that area.

Monday, January 01, 2007

Happy New Year!

Happy New Year! I am hoping to be able to blog more in the future now that S is beginning to be able to entertain himself.