Monday, June 25, 2007

Some Good News!

I recently proposed a panel at a major conference, and it was accepted! The panel is on a topic very similar to the one of the current chapter I'm working on. Now I have definite motivation to get that chapter finished, so I can turn it into a conference paper fairly easily. I'm working on getting motivated as well. Despite all the stress of last week, I did manage to get three more books read and my syllabus for my summer course, which I start teaching next week, finished. I haven't gotten much writing done, but I am putting myself on a strict time schedule when S and I get back from our trip to visit my grandparents. I want to have 20 pages written by the end of July, which I think is manageable. I know I still have a lot to read before I can finish the chapter I'm working on, but I want to start writing more.

Thursday, June 21, 2007

New Plan for the Day

In an attempt to salvage the day (and my sanity), I have decided to take the day off. I am going to go pick S up early and meet C for lunch. After S's afternoon nap, I think we'll go to the pool so he can practice the skills he acquired at Water Babies last week.

A family update for those who are interested: C's mother did not have a heart attack, but she will have a heart catheratization tomorrow to clear up a minor blockage.

And a special thanks to Supadiscomama who took time out of her day to help make mine a little better.

It never ends. . .

C's mother is in the hospital, and we're not sure why. She may have had a minor heart attack, but we won't know until later today. She does have pulmonary fibrosis, which is a lung disease, and she is getting over a very bad chest cold. Her lungs and heart may be responding to the cold. We're both upset. C's mom isn't in great health, but most of her health problems could be improved if she lost weight, exercised, and ate better. Needless to say, she doesn't do these things.

And despite my worry over my mother-in-law, I am left feeling like it never ends. C mailed his dissertation to his committee on Tuesday; we were looking forward to a few quiet weeks before he had to start gearing up for his defense. We were excited because he wasn't going to be in front of the computer almost all day every day, and then we got the phone call telling us about this. Since we're so far away, we spent most of yesterday on the phone with C's brother, and now we have to determine if we need to make another emergency trip to see them. Is it wrong of me to feel like we can't catch our breath?

And this morning I called my sister to have someone to talk to about my frustration, worry, and emotional exhaustion. I didn't get the comfort I was hoping for; instead, I got a lecture on how C's mom didn't get sick to inconvenience me. So on top of the guilt I already feel for my frustration with this particular family situation, I got chastised like I am a child by my older sister, who then yelled at me when I tried to explain that I only wanted her to listen. Now I am in my office crying, and my relatively good mood is shot.

I'm still feeling sorry for myself.

Wednesday, June 20, 2007


My father is a firefighter in South Carolina, so this story has been on my mind a lot. Thankfully, my father was not involved, and no one he knows was hurt. I don't often use the word tragic, but I think events like this one are tragic.


In the past few months, I've been called "ungrateful" at least twice by my mother-in-law. In all fairness, she hasn't used that precise word, but that is the sentiment she expressed. My feelings are hurt. I'm not ungrateful; I appreciate the things she does for me. I even send her thank you notes for every gift she sends S. I try to call her at least once a week (even though C talks with her at least three times a week). And despite the complaints I've made about my in-laws here and elsewhere, I do care for my mother-in-law. But I'm tired. I'm tired of being judged, of being told I don't appreciate family the way she does, of being treated like a bad parent when S get sick, and, most of all, of being blamed for the fact that we live 1,200 miles away. I want from my mother-in-law what I want, but rarely get, from my own mother: love and acceptance.

It sucks that we live so far away. There I said it, and I mean it. It sucks that my father has only met my son once because his work schedule hasn't allowed him to take time off to travel. It sucks that C's dad never met our son. It sucks that we only get to see our families two or three times a year. It sucks that I haven't seen my niece and nephew for over two years. It sucks that my brother, sister, and I haven't been in the same city together in as many years. But that is the reality of our lives. I wish that C's mom could just accept this and make the most of the times we are together. I'm tired of her assuming that I'm perfectly happy to only make occasional visits to my hometown (a city I truly, truly love).

Perhaps this makes me ungrateful, but I fantasize about making a secret visit to my hometown so that C and I can visit our friends who still live there and can eat at our favorite restaurant without having to plan around the myriad of family events we have to attend when we're there. I want to show S the beach, the harbor, the beautiful parks. I want to not feel guilty for having a life of my own.

I'm tired of being treated like my life is a personal affront to my mother-in-law. And if you haven't already noticed, I'm feeling a little sorry for myself today.

Thursday, June 14, 2007

Another Disappointment for C

The unexpected job I wrote about has been cancelled (but it will be relisted in the fall), and C is understandably disappointed. I feel like my wonderful husband can't catch a break lately. As ambivalent as I was about this potential move, I really wanted him to get the job because, frankly, he has had an unbelievably tough year. On top of all of his dad's death, the job and dissertation stress, he also feels guilty about how little work I've been able to get done this year because I've taken over almost all of the household responsibilities and S's care so he can get this dissertation finished. I don't want him to feel guilty. I want him to understand that this is what a spouse does. I know he will return the favor when I am in the final stage of my dissertation. He told me the other night that he feels like he has to pay me back, and I told him that is ridiculous. I do wish he has had more time to spend with us recently, but I don't feel like he has missed out on any important events. I know this is a means to an end, and frankly, I get a lot more support from my stressed out husband than a lot of wives. It kills me that he doesn't realize what a great husband and father he is. I'm left feeling partially responsible as I was so ambivalent about the job.

On a more positive note, C has scheduled his dissertation defense. As of July 18, he will officially be Dr. C, and we are so excited about that.

Tuesday, June 12, 2007

Another Potential Move

I haven't completely wrapped my head around this yet, so I think this will be a short post. C didn't get the job he interviewed for in April, so we had reconciled ourselves (fairly happily, actually) to the reality that he would adjunct another year and go back on the market next fall. We both think he'll be much more successful with his degree in hand. A few weeks ago, three jobs came open in his area, and he put in for two of them, assuming he wouldn't hear anything. Friday morning he got a call from one of the universities, and he has an on-campus interview at the end of the month. I'm excited and anxious. I've come to the realization that I kind of like where we live--not necessarily the area (although we could and have lived in worse places), but the community of friends we have. The first job seemed managable b/c it was about an 8 hour drive from our friends. The new job is scarier to me b/c we will be across the country from our friends. Admittedly, we will be closer to our families, which is a plus. But I have lived away from my family for 9 years. My friends, particularly this group of friends, have become my family.

Thursday, June 07, 2007

Competitive Mothering

Before I became a mother, I never gave this idea much thought. If someone had said this to me before I was pregnant, I don't think I would have given it much thought, except to think "how can one mother competitively?" My friend Mommy, Ph.D. and I discussed the idea while I was pregnant with S. She said that once she became a mother she began asking other mothers what seemed to be harmless questions: how long does your baby nurse? How much does s/he weigh? Has s/he rolled over/sat up/crawled/smiled/laughed yet? How long does s/he sleep at night? She began asking these sorts of questions to get information, but then she began comparing her and her baby to the other mothers and babies. She said (and I'm paraphrasing her as the conversation was well over a year ago) that she began to observe that mothering was a competition. Mothers want to know how their children are progressing compared to other babies, which seems harmless enough to me. But, as Sarah pointed out, and as I have begun to observe on my own, mothers become disappointed when they realize their children aren't doing something at the same time as other babies, and they become proud when they realize their children have accomplished something before other babies. Mothering becomes a competition.

I have kept Sarah's observations in the back of my mind since then, and I think she is absolutely right. Mothers are competitive about their children, and I am no exception. I attend functions and go out to lunch with my friends who have children on a fairly regular basis, and we all ask about each other's children. I do believe our primary purpose is to find out how each other is doing and what is going on in our lives. But I have to say that when I hear that a friend's 5-month-old is sleeping through the night, I wonder "what is wrong with my child? What is wrong with my as a parent?" I then happily report that although S is not sleeping through the night he is eating, crawling, standing up, and any other new thing he has accomplished. I know how silly I sound, but I really want these other mothers to know that while I can't get my child to sleep through the night I can get him to do all these other things ahead of schedule. I then go home and wonder why I feel the need to compete. I know my son is unique and he will progress at his own rate. I know from personal experience that it does no good to compare children. My sister and I were compared to one another at every point in our childhoods. Those comparisons achieved nothing but making us hate one another until we were adults. We now have a close relationship, but there are still vestiges of competition in our relationship.

So here is yet another unanswerable question: why do mothers feel the need to compete with other mothers? The only answer I can come up with is a big one: insecurity. As my friend Sarah also predicted, I have never felt more defensive or more insecure about anything I've ever done in my life. Admittedly, I've never dealt with criticism well—a hang up from being a perfectionist—but I do not like to have my parenting skills criticized at all. I'll happily take any advice that I've asked for, but I don't like to have my decisions and my choices questioned. I know exactly why too: I'm relatively sure I’m a good mother, but I also question just about every decision I make as a mother—even the ones made instinctually. I think mothers compete because we want some sense of reassurance that we're doing something right. And what better way to do that than to know that our child has done something before another child?

Is it healthy? I certainly don't think so. I fully realize the pitfalls of comparing S to other children, as I have left several gatherings and cried because my child still isn't sleeping through the night. I blame myself for S's struggles, and he is struggling to sleep through the night. Our whole family is struggling to sleep through the night. I know that he will eventually master this skill, but I also know that there will always be something that another child does better than he does, just as there will always be something that he does better than other children. These realizations don't necessarily make me feel any better because I know I will continue to compare my child to other children and my mothering skills to other mothers. I only hope awareness counts for something.

Monday, June 04, 2007

New Look

I've decided I needed a change! Here is my new look, so to speak!

Competitve Parenting

I've been thinking about the idea of competitive parenting a lot, and I've actually been formulating a post in my head for a while, which I rarely do. I tend to blog in the moment, so to speak. I'm not quite ready to post yet, but I want to get the idea out there so I'm committed to writing about it.

Moving, Ethically

So it seems my previous post on "Moving and Ethics" was for naught. We have decided to go with the duplex, as it is the nicer of the two places. Now I feel like I can let myself get excited. As much as I hate moving (haven't I said that before?), I know this is the right choice. Our lovely condo is increasingly dangerous for S, who is now into everything! We don't have enough storage space, which means there is stuff he can get into everywhere. We've baby-proofed as best as we can, but we're still spending a lot of time saying, "No! Put that down!" In the new place, he will have his own room, and we will have our own office. We will be able to shut the door on the office and keep him out of wires, papers, cords, etc. Plus, he will have a backyard too!

Friday, June 01, 2007

Traveling with Family

Processing family time is often difficult for me. Actually, family time is often difficult for me. We live approximately 1200 miles away from our families, so we see them about twice a year or so. We've seen them more since S was born and C's dad died though, which has been both nice and frustrating. After almost 7 years of marriage and over 10 years as a couple, C and I still have trouble dealing with each other's families. I keep expecting it to get easier, but just when I think it has, I am once again reminded how different not only I am from his family but how different our family is from both our natal families.

C's mother and sister flew to the Northeast and joined us on our travels. Part of the trip had originally been planned for them to attend C's graduation, but as his graduation was postponed, the trip became solely about visiting old friends and me doing research. His mom and sister decided to join us as they "didn't know when they'd see any of us again" or be able to travel to that part of the country again. All in all the trip was fine, if occasionally tense. My mother-in-law made several pointed comments about us moving east of the Mississippi, and my sister-in-law, who has no children, repeatedly offered parenting advice. I am not great at ignoring such pointed comments, so rather than ignoring them, I find it necessary to explain the obvious over and over again. Here is a typical conversation between my mil and me regarding her desires for us to move closer.

MIL: I wish you all would just move closer, preferably east of the Mississippi.

Me: C applied for numerous jobs that were on the East Coast, including several in our home state. Unfortunately, he only interviewed at schools in the Midwest and Southwest. That is just the nature of academia; we really don't have much control over where we will end up.

MIL: I just don't understand why he can't get a job at Hometown College.

Me: Well, if there are ever any openings in either of our fields at Hometown College, we will definitely apply. But there is no guarantee that we would get those positions.

MIL: I'm sure the fact that you all are from Hometown and went to Hometown College would be of some benefit.

Me: Not really . . .

And we have this conversation over and over again. Sometimes I get irritated and snippy and ask if she knows something about the process I don't. Then she says something like "I know people at Hometown College (which she doesn't). I could speak to them about you all." Or she reminds C of all her friends who have all their children living spitting distance from their front doors.

To be fair, my mom isn't much better. She just passively says "I wish you all lived closer," completely forgetting that she and my dad moved to California to get away from their families when they were first married. My dad's career brought them back to the East Coast, not a real desire to be close to family.

Traveling together makes these conversations more annoying because we can't escape one another. Add to this my need to have people understand things and my inability not to respond to comments like the ones described above. I like things to be very clear and straightforward. No matter how many times we explain the reality of academic jobs to our families they never seem to get that we may live in the Pacific Northwest or Hometown. Somehow that all means that I don't want to live in the same town as our families--at least it means that for C's mom--and that I am not as committed to family as I should be.

Moving and Ethics

Let me state the obvious: I hate moving. That said, we need to move. Our 2 bedroom, 1 1/2 bath, 2 story condo is too small for us, especially now that S is mobile. S and I currently share space--the largest bedroom is half-nursery, half-office; however, as C acutely observed the other day, I am rarely able to get work done at home. I am occasionaly able to grade, answer student emails, and request articles from the library. I do read a fair amount while S nurses and naps, but I haven't been able to get any writing done at home for months. (*Aside: C made this observation as though he had a huge epiphany, completely forgetting that I've been telling him this for months. . .) C's office is in the dining room, which has worked really well until S got mobile. Now S is trying to climb into C's filing cabinets and rearranging his papers for him.

Moving in our smallish college town isn't easy. We tried to move last year--we even put a bid on a house, which wasn't accepted--but had no luck. This year we've decided to rent again since C will be back on the job market next year; it seems silly to buy a house if we'll may have to sell it in less than a year. So for about 3 months we've been looking for a 3 bedroom, 2 bath apartment/duplex/house to rent. The problem: we really like our current condo. We have a fenced in courtyard with a small shed. I can have all my plants, and C can have a grill. Our cats can get outside with little risk of escaping. In essence we have a yard without really having a yard. Plus our rent is incredibly reasonable, and we love our neighbors. Bigger places in our town are either geared toward undergraduates (3 bedroom, 3 bath homes with a rent that is perfectly reasonable when you divide it by 3, but not affordable for a graduate student and an adjunct instructor) or over-priced to keep undergraduates out of the neighborhood. The affordable places are in not-so-great=neighborhoods or in nice neighborhoods that would add to much time to C's current commute. And we're picky, plain and simple. We need to move, but we don't have to move. We really like our current place, as I said, so that doesn't really induce us to move.

Yesterday we found a duplex we both liked that was in our price range and fit most of our other needs. It has a large, fenced yard with lots of trees (the trees are a plus), a patio, a bigger kitchen, big closets (our current place lacks sufficient closet space), 3 bedrooms, 2 baths, with a convenient location. We put down a deposit, but we didn't sign any paperwork as the leasing agent was booked for the rest of the day. Practically as soon as we got home, some good friends called us to let us know a house in their neighborhood just went up for rent. It is slightly more expensive, but it is a house. C really likes this neighborhood. It would take a lot of time off of his commute, and we'd be right across the street to really close friends. Is it unethical to go see this place, providing we can see it today? And if we like it better than the other place is it unethical to withdraw our deposit and try to rent it? We haven't signed anything, so I won't feel too badly if we decide on the house versus the duplex. Plus, I know the leasing company will be able to lease the duplex without a problem. We're only the third family who has looked at it. I've decided to let C handle this one, which oddly seems fair to me since I've done all the work for the other place. I just wish the house had come available a few days sooner. . .