Wednesday, March 28, 2007

Books, parenting, and unsolicited advice

I've recently purchased a few books to help me figure out life with a five-month-old: Super Baby Food by Ruth Yaron, The No-Cry Sleep Solution by Elizabeth Pantley, and Touchpoints: Birth to 3 : Your Child's Emotional and Behavioral Development by T. Berry Brazelton. Each has been helpful, especially Pantley's book, which came highly recommended by my friend Sarah at Mommy, Ph.D. In a recent conversation with my mother, I mentioned my recent book purchases while we were discussing how S is doing with his attempts to eat solid food (as an aside, why do we call rice cereal and baby food solid food?). She asked me what I fed him first, and I said rice cereal mixed with breast milk and, then a few days later, sweet potatoes. She then told me what she fed me and my siblings first--rice cereal and applesauce. She also reminded me, as she has done repeatedly over the past 5 months, that she gave me rice cereal when I was 4 days old and I slept through the night. I told her that I purchased a book on feeding babies, and it suggested the sweet potatoes because of the low likelihood of allergies to sweet potatoes. I then told her about Pantley's book because, frankly, I'm so ready for S to be able to put himself back to sleep that I was (and am!) excited to have a book that has worked for people I know. My mom sighed and said: "I never needed a book to help me with you and your siblings. I don't know why you can't just try the methods I used. You obviously turned out ok."

In the five months I've been a mother (and the 9 I was pregnant before S was born) I heard similar comments from my mother and C's mother. I gave up trying to explain that it had been 30+ years since they had children and that things had changed. I gave up reassuring them that yes, C and I did turn out fine, but that we wanted to be able to do things for our child without calling them or our pediatrician every five minutes. I gave up wanting to strangle both of them, and I simply reminded myself that they were well-meaning because they are. But it is still frustrating. In this particular instance, I just changed the topic. I know the implicit meaning behind my mother's comments: she feels that I'm calling her a bad mother because I'm not following her advice or doing things precisely as she did. I didn't get that when I was pregnant, but I do get that now that I'm a mother. By buying books rather than calling her and relying on her admittedly bad memory, I'm criticizing the choices she made as a mother. I once tried telling her that I research as part of my career so that it comes naturally to me to research things about my child. That didn't work because she said children can't be researched (which, for the record, was one of the most absurd things I think my mother has ever said). I understand that by criticizing my choices, my mother is defending hers. So now instead of getting annoyed with her criticism of me, I just change the subject. I wish she could understand that I'm just trying to figure this all out on my own and not questioning her choices.

On a different note, I spoke to my grandmother yesterday, and she offered some unsolicited advice too. I told her I plan to give S bananas next because I'd read they are easy to digest. She told me to stock up on the stain remover as bananas stain. That was some useful advice!

Friday, March 23, 2007

Too cute

S has a bumbo chair, which he isn't all that fond of. But our cat Pearl has recently discovered it. This was too cute, so I had to share.

I love my boys

I do. I just wanted to share that.

Tuesday, March 20, 2007

Mixed emotions

C has an on-campus interview, which is great. What is not so great is that the university is in a town more conservative than the one we currently live in and it's even farther away from our families. I'm thrilled that he has an interview, and I'd love for him to get the job. He'd make what we're making together and then some. But I'm not sure I can stomach three or four more years in conservative small town America.

Saturday, March 17, 2007

Spring Break is almost over

And I've accomplished absolutely nothing--school wise at least. I haven't done any reading or writing, and I certainly haven't graded any papers. I did manage to clean out S's closet and sort through all the clothes he's outgrown. I put a lot of stuff away should we decide to have another baby (which is the topic on our mothers' minds!), and I'm giving away some stuff that I'm not attached to. C, who is a bit of a pack rat, would have me keep everything, but that just seems unreasonable. Monday I'll be able to get back on my normal schedule. Today, S and I are going to the local pool to sign up for a water babies class and to take a nice long walk in the beautiful spring weather. We may even go buy some flowers to plant!

Wednesday, March 14, 2007

Sounding board

So as those of you who read this blog and offer many helpful comments have become my sounding board for me and my frustrations regarding C's dissertation, I am, logically, his sounding board. In all honesty, (and yes, C and I have discussed this!) I'm tired of his dissertation. For the past 6 months if we're not talking about S and family issues, we're talking about C's diss and his job search. I honestly don't feel like I can talk about Colonial Merida one more time or the implications of the facade he's focused on. And I know he's tired of it too. I guess I'm feeling a little whiny. I want C's feedback on my work--I want to talk about me for awhile.

One of the things I love the most about our relationship is that we give each other great feedback on each other's work. He has read my proposal several times, and now I want him to read the work I've done on the first chapter I'm working on (ok, so it's only 5 pages). I just don't feel justified in asking him to do it. I so, so, so want him to get finished that I've put a lot on hold because this is what is right for my family. But I'm still a little frustrated. I do have other people who could read it, but the 5 pages are in the "stupid" phase. There are a very select number of people whom I ask to read my work when it is in the "stupid" phase, and that number is 1.

To add to the stress, C's mother (whom I get along quite well with) is in town for the week, and she is spoiling the pants off of S--as much as you can spoil a 4.5 month old. At least I won't have to buy the kid clothes until the end of the summer. . .

Friday, March 09, 2007

Big smile

S and I picked C up at the airport yesterday. After 5 days of not seeing his father, S lit up as soon as C took him from me. Our little guy literally tossed his head back and laughed while grabbing at C's face. I think S's reaction made up for a lot of the frustration C experienced this past week.

Thursday, March 08, 2007

Still irritated

After two incredibly productive days, C had problems with his advisor again yesterday. Monday and Tuesday they made great headway, and the first three chapters of his dissertation are finished--or at least ready to send to committee. And he's already spoken with his other committee members, and they both have told him they don't anticipate any problems and are ready to sign off on it. So why is his advisor flipping out and continuing to make comments about his familial responsibilities? I have no idea, but I do know that my usually even-tempered husband called me yesterday afternoon angrier than I have seen him in a long time. Usually he's the one calming me down because I have a quicker temper than he does. But I spent 45 minutes yesterday reminding him why he is in the northeast and why he has to put up with her comments. After her fourth comment regarding his ability to get the dissertation finished and fulfill his familial responsibilities (and after she asked if I had any more conferences to attend!), C finally told his advisor, as politely as he could, that she had made her point and that they needed to get to work so as not to waste the little time they still had together. I am so proud of him for saying that! He kept his temper and managed to get her back on task. Oddly, he seemed more like the teacher than she did.

He and I talked about this for a long time last night, and neither one of us is sure why she had the sudden change in attitude--literally overnight, her entire attitude about his ability to get it all finished changed. While he does have a fair amount of work left to do, it is manageable, and he thinks he can get it done by the end of the month. I hope she cooperates because I don't think he'll be able to stand the disappointment if she prevents him from graduating.

Wednesday, March 07, 2007

C's dissertation

Since I've written about it so much I thought I'd give you all a glimpse of the building that is the focus of C's dissertation. This picture doesn't do it justice, but it gives you some idea of its complexity. It is the Case de Montejo in Merida, Yucatan.

Light at the end of the tunnel

C gets home tomorrow, and his trip, thus far, has been successful. He and his advisor have gone through each chapter, even eliminating one (although its contents have been put elsewhere). He gives a talk tonight for his department, which is supposed to serve as a practice job talk and preparation for his defense next month. So, in the end, all the hassle I wrote about yesterday seems to have been worth it. He will graduate as planned, and we can now begin planning our trip up north to attend his graduation and visit some good friends. There is light at the end of the tunnel.

Tuesday, March 06, 2007

Academic Women, Supportive Wives?

I really wanted to write about this last week when the annoying person intruded upon my life, but I was so angry that I wanted to take some time out to think about the annoying person and the annoying event.

C is currently at his "home" university, meeting with his dissertation advisor to finalize his dissertation and make plans for his defense next month. His trip is annoying to me for several reasons. First, it seems what is being done could have been done long distance, as he had done most of the work long distance. Second, the flight and hotel stay was very expensive, and as 2 graduate students with a child, we don't have a lot of disposable income. But as the trip was planned some time ago, I had time to mentally prepare and time to establish a routine with S, which has made it easier for the two of us to be alone. But he was supposed to go last week, and the weather delayed him. He was set to leave on a Sunday, but he couldn't make all of his connecting flights due to weather. He could have gotten there by Tuesday, but then he had to meet me in another city on Thursday, as I was presenting at a major conference. I, obviously, needed him to take care of S while I was at the conference. The conference didn't offer childcare, and I didn't know anyone else attending. As I said, we had worked this all out over two months ago, but the weather simply didn't cooperate. When C called his advisor to tell her all of this, she flipped out. She essentially demanded that he get there as soon as he could and advised me to find childcare in the city of the conference or cancel my trip altogether. She told him that he didn't have time for such distractions and that if he didn't make the planned trip then they would seriously have to reevaluate whether he'd be able to graduate on time. I was LIVID. I felt like I was being attacked for not supporting my husband. Now, since S has been born, I've had decisions I've made as a mother criticized by various people, and I feel like I handle those quite well. But what I found so annoying about this particular situation was that this woman, a fellow academic, was questioning my need to attend a professional conference. She was essentially telling C that he needed the kind of wife who would put her career on hold indefinitely so that he could complete his dissertation. My conference wasn't as important as his meeting. To be completely honest, I don't think my conference was as important, and if necessary, I would have cancelled--it is more important for my family that C finish his degree and get a job than it is that I go to a conference right now. That said, I don't think she had any right saying that or even implying it. In the end, C had to reschedule his trip due to the weather, and she seemed to understand. We were able to arrange everything so that I made my conference, and he is at his "home" university now. She even apologized for flipping out, but in her apology she said "This is the disadvantage of being an academic couple with a child," a comment that didn't sit well with me at all.

In the week since this happened, I've been thinking about it a lot, and I'm still not certain what bothers me the most about her comments. I have no relationship with this woman, so her opinion doesn't really matter to me. But I felt like my choices were being questioned, and I felt like she was suggesting that being an academic and being a mother aren't compatible. My biggest fear in life is that I will have to sacrifice time with my child for my career or vice versa, so her comments gave voice to anxieties I've already been experiencing. I also didn't like my reaction to her comments and her suggestion that I find childcare in a city I'd never been to before and would only be in for 2 days: I immediately thought, "Spoken like someone who doesn't have children." I've written before about the division between women with children and those without, and all of a sudden I found myself in the middle of this debate--and I didn't want to be there. I'm still angry that she, an academic woman, suggested my career wasn't as important as C's and that she suggested that I wasn't being a supportive wife, but I honestly don't know which bothered me more. I wanted to list all the sacrifices I've made in recent months so C could work on his dissertation, as well as the time he's sacrificed with S and me to work on it. I then wanted to remind her what it was like to be at my stage in her career and how important conferences can be. But then I'm not defending my choices or my family's choices to her, I'm defending them to myself. Her comments brought all of my insecurities about motherhood and academia to the surface at a time when I thought I'd had all that figured out. That I am now rethinking all of that really annoys me.