Tuesday, April 29, 2008

Manipulating Yetta

In the 7 years that C and I have been married, I've learned how to manipulate my mother-in-law to my advantage. She is, when all is said and done, an immensely practical woman. When she was despairing about our new location, I decided to tackle the problem head on and get her on our side. I went to google maps and determined the mileage from our current residence to Home State, to the school C said no to, and to University X (sorry, I'm still working on a better pseudonym). The results:

College Town to Home State: 1,144 miles

No School to Home State: 1,116

University X to Home State: 1,001

When C shared this news with her, Yetta got excited. C also took it one step further. Knowing his mother hates to fly, he figured out that she can take 3 different routes to University X, which means she gets to see three different areas (each route is essentially the same distance) that she's never seen before. When he told her that, she got really excited. Now she is busy planning her first visit and has ceased saying things like "Why can't you just find a job at Home State U?" Hooray for manipulations!

Questions NOT to ask someone whose spouse just accepted a job

Before I begin, I want to say thanks to everyone who has been so supportive of the entire job search experience. For an academic couple, there is no such thing as only one half of that couple being on the market at a time. The process, for us, has been all consuming, emotional, stressful, and exhausting. We're really happy that it ended so well. Thank you for reading and commenting, especially when I was having an "I'm feeling sorry for myself" moment.

Since C has received and accepted the job offer, we've been on the phone a lot. We've had to call people we don't normally talk to and explain the new circumstances of our life. Most people have been supportive (in fact, I'm going to write a post on how we manipulated Yetta into being supportive!), but some people have asked really stupid and annoying questions and comments. Some of the questions have come from people who are unfamiliar with academia, but not all of them. So that I don't bite the heads off of any well meaning family members or friends, I thought I'd write them down to get them out of my head.

  • Why are you moving there?
  • Why didn't C apply to a school closer to me?
  • When will we ever see you again?
  • What will Wild Man do? (this is one of my personal favorites; as if Wild Man himself must now find work in our new location! Won't he just continue being a child?)
  • Are you going to start working? (this query came from my grandmother, who doesn't understand what we do at all; she also doesn't conceive of being a mother as work--having children is just what women do.)
  • What exactly does C do again?
  • Yuck! I would never live there!!
  • So he couldn't get a better offer than that?
  • You know, they get a lot of snow there. (My father, who was otherwise incredibly supportive, said this, and to be fair, he has a habit of stating the incredibly obvious.)
  • Will you be able to finish your paper there? (This one came from my mom, who is wholly unable to grasp the concept of a dissertation, even though we sent her and my dad a bound copy of C's. In her mind it is nothing more than the papers I used to write for college, and for that reason, she can't understand why it is taking me so darn long to finish.)

Friday, April 25, 2008

A decision has been reached

C has made a decision. He has accepted one offer and turned down the other (a very surreal experience, he informed me). We finally know where we will be in the fall, which is a big relief to me. He still hasn't signed the official contract (although he has received a letter of intent from the dean of the college), so I'm still not prepared to talk about anything specifically yet lest I jinx us. I will say that the atmosphere in our home has been infinitely more relaxed in the past few days. I can't begin to say how lovely it was to have my entire family in the same place for an entire week!

In other news, C asked about partner placement. Although this isn't something University X (sorry, but it is the best pseudonym I can come up with at the moment) will consider until I've finished my dissertation, they will consider it then--in fact, they are writing it into his contract, something I've been told is unheard of. The dean is speaking to the English Department about me (I spent the weekend revising my CV and writing a short description of my dissertation and teaching experience), and she is trying to work out a part-time lectureship for me. These people have been really wonderful with the entire negotiation process, so wonderful that C really hasn't had to negotiate all that much. Frankly, after past several months (not to mention his entire graduate student experience), I feel like C deserves to be treated so well!

Monday, April 21, 2008

Lots of News

There is lots of news to report, most of it good. There is so much, in fact, that I'm going to resort to bullets.

  • Despite my own paranoia, I am making good progress on my second chapter. I emailed my advisor last week to tell her I'd get her a draft by the end of the month, and she said that since she couldn't get to it until after she gives her final exam to work on it until the first week of May and send it then. That gives me just enough time to have a complete draft, including some sort of conclusion (I'm not always great at conclusions!).
  • C received 2 job offers late last week. I'm not going to go into specifics right now because he is in the very early stages of negotiating. We do have a preference, but with so much to work out, I'm going to wait to blog about things more specifically. This comes as a big relief to C as he was beginning to wonder if he'd ever get an offer. I can't express how proud I am of him--he has worked so hard for this moment. He truly was like a different person this weekend, or rather, he was back to normal, not scrambling to get things done or feeling guilty about having to leave again. All of the stress and frustration of the past several months was worth it to see the look on his face when he realized that he had not one, but two offers.
  • Now that he has these 2 offers, he has decided not to go to his last on-campus interview, which was scheduled for this week. It isn't a school he is very interested in, and even if he did get an offer there, he wouldn't accept it over the offers he does have. For the first time since the beginning of March, both of us will be home all week long! That is almost as exciting as the two offers!
  • For the past 2 nights, Wild Man has decided that he did not want to nurse before going to sleep. In fact, last night he asked to be put in his crib. He got somewhat upset when C left his room, but after a few minutes, he calmed down and put himself to sleep. It seems my boy may have decided to wean himself. I have mixed feelings about this; I'm not altogether ready for him to stop nursing. I still like having that as our special time. That said, I was planning to wean him before my research trip this summer, so if he decides to do it himself, that will certainly be much easier than forcibly weaning.
  • Going against what I thought made the most sense, C has decided to discuss these offers with his family. He isn't soliciting their opinions, and he has made it clear that the do not get an opinion. They have, however, had opinions, none of them good. They don't like either offer as neither moves us considerably closer to them. It seems they all, particularly Yetta and Pita, forgot how to say "Congratulations! We're so happy for you! I can't imagine how good this must feel." Instead, Yetta rattled off a list of questions about how often we'd be able to visit and why didn't he get any interviews at schools closer to them. For her part, Pita immediately burst into tears and said "Now I'll never have a relationship with Wild Man." I must say this statement really, really irritates me. They have no concept of how lucky they are to live in the same state as their entire family for so long, and they also have no concept how lucky they are to live in the same city as C's older brother, his wife, and their two boys. But it really irritates me because of my own familial situation. I never lived in the same state as any of my extended family, but I am very, very close to my maternal grandparents, my mom's youngest sister, and several of my cousins. Yes, it takes a bit more work to have a "relationship," but it isn't impossible. So I'd like to thank my in-laws for, as usual, making life all about them.

Saturday, April 19, 2008

Nap time changes

Apparently last week, while I was out of town, C and Wild Man devised a new weekend nap time routine. Previously, naps on the weekends have been hit or miss, not because Wild Man doesn't need one, rather because he has refused to take one. Nap times got to be so difficult that recently I had resorted to nursing him to sleep rather than fighting him for an hour. Even with the nursing, he would likely only sleep 45 minutes to an hour, which meant he was exhausted by 6:00 in the evening and would go to be much earlier than usual.

Well last week, C decided that nap time was going to change. Instead of forcing Wild Man into his crib, he set up a bed for him on the couch. He then surrounded him by all of his favorite stuffed animals and got his favorite blanket. C explained to Wild Man that he was tired and he needed to rest. He then told Wild Man to lay down, he read him one story, and he rubbed his back. After some initial fussing, Wild Man relaxed and was asleep within 10 minutes and slept for almost 2 hours! This worked on both Saturday and Sunday. This afternoon when we announced it was nap time, Wild Man started calling for me and even pushed his way past C to get to me. C, however, picked him up and performed the same ritual while I went to a different part of the house. It seems he fussed a bit longer today than he did last week, probably hoping I would give in and "save him," but within 15 minutes he was sound asleep and has already been asleep for almost an hour, which means I can actually get some work done on a Saturday! Hooray!

Friday, April 18, 2008

Dear Ms. M: I can't find any sources

Dear Ms. M:

I've been frantically trying to find sources for my research paper, but so far I can't find any except ones that offer a synopsis of the novel. It seems that no one has anything to say about Charles Chesnutt except Chesnutt himself. The paper is due in a week; what do I do?

Signed, Searching Unsuccessfully

Dear Unsuccessful:

I just wasted 10 minutes of my precious time (time that I'd rather have spent researching my own project) searching for sources on Chesnutt, and lo and behold, after 5 minutes on the MLA database (which, as you'll recall, I introduced you all to in class), I found over 70 sources on Chesnutt written in the last 8 years. I surveyed these quickly and emailed you several citations that I think you'll find helpful. I'm not sure why these were so hard for you to locate--perhaps it was the search term I used. After all one does not normally think to search on the title of the novel one is working on. In the future, I suggest you consult the reference librarians (which I've repeatedly told you to do) as they will be able to help you find a plethora of sources, most of which will be available in our own lovely library.

Signed, an annoyed Ms. M

Thursday, April 17, 2008

Positive Signs

Things may be looking up, and a lot of the stress may be about to come to an end. I'm not ready to say anything more than that right now, but today at least, I'm in a much better state of mind.

Give me a flipping break

Ok, so I occasionally break from my previous pledge to stop reading celebrity gossip. When I saw the headline entitled "Paltrow Suffered Postpartum Depression" I wanted to read it, thinking great, another celebrity is going to openly talk about PPD making it less taboo for "ordinary" women to talk about it. Then I read the column. I don't mean to sound uncharitable or unsupportive, but if the source of Gwyneth Paltrow's PPD after her the birth of her second was that she was unable to indulge herself in the same therapeutic techniques she followed during her first pregnancy, I am so not sympathetic. If everyone got PPD as a result of not having regular acupuncture and massages (yes, you read that correctly), we'd all be in a hell of a lot more trouble.

Wednesday, April 16, 2008

The Sources of Stress

Because I like reminding myself that I am stressed out, here are the sources of my stress:

  • C left for yet another on-campus interview today. So far he has been on 5 (including this one), and as of yet, he still does not have a job offer. We were both really hoping that he'd get an offer from one of the 3 schools he is really interested in late last week or early this week so he didn't have to go on any more interviews.
  • I've been officially been working on my dissertation for just over a year, and thus far, I only have a draft of one chapter. I'm disappointed in my progress.
  • C's car, which used to be my car, is leaking oil everywhere. We either need to buy a new car (which is only an option if he gets a job) or put a new engine in it (which will cost us at least $1,200).
  • My annoying fellow graduate students keep recalling books that I'm using for the chapter I'm currently working on.
  • I only have 10 pages written for the chapter I'm currently working on.
  • My house desperately needs to be cleaned--as in I can write my name in the dust on our bookshelves and the kitchen floor is gray instead of white.
  • I don't know how C is going to cope if he doesn't get an offer. He is already second guessing everything he said or did at every single interview, and he is feeling more than a bit discouraged. I can only offer so much encouragement too; he knows how much I know about the academic job market, so lots of times my encouragement comes off as patronizing, even though I don't intend to be patronizing.
  • I miss my husband.
Tomorrow I will be more positive, and perhaps, I will even post about the wonderful things in my life. In the meantime, I'm going to write for the next several hours.

*Amended to say: Usually writing these things out makes me feel better, and so today I wrote hoping that I would experience a catharsis and would feel better. It didn't work.

Tuesday, April 15, 2008

Conference Update

The conference went really, really well. I got a lot of great feedback about my paper and, thus, the concept that my entire dissertation is organized around. I feel really great about this as this was the first time I've discussed my work with people in my field who are not at my home institution. C and Wild Man did fine with out me, as I knew they would. In fact, I found it really insulting that so many people at the conference said to me "You left your son home alone with your husband; how is that going to work out?" I found this particularly insulting because we are supposedly enlightened academics. Granted this is a conference that is very welcoming of families, and I saw lots of men and women with their children. But I still don't like the assumption that fathers are incapable of caring for their own children for three days on their own. It was also really great to see my good friend, whom I haven't seen in over 7 months. We actually avoided lots of panels in favor of just chatting with each other, although we did go to a really interesting panel on Mommy Lit that I will likely blog about in detail in a few days.

I have lots of other things to say about what is going on in my life right now, but I'm not at the point where I can write about these things without getting more stressed out or emotional. So that's my update on my life: stressed out and emotional. How fun. . .

Monday, April 14, 2008

Memoir, Abbreviated

Flossie at Stepping on Acorns tagged me for the Six-Word Memoir meme. I've decided my life is too multi-faceted only to write one--ok, really, I couldn't decide which I liked better.

Here are the instructions: 1. Write your own six-word memoir 2. Post it on your blog and include a visual illustration if you’d like 3. Link to the person that tagged you in your post and to this original post if possible so we can track it as it travels across the blogosphere 4. Tag five more blogs with links 5. And don’t forget to leave a comment on the tagged blogs with an invitation to play.

#1: I haven't finished my dissertation; so?

#2: Academic motherhood: yes, it is possible.

I now tag Academama, Megsg-h and Supadiscomama at The Rhetorical Situation, Jennie at My Handful, and Anastasia.

Sunday, April 06, 2008

I don't want to go

On Friday I leave to go to a conference, and on one level, I'm really excited about this conference. I am presenting a chapter from my dissertation, and I'm looking forward to possible feedback. This is a panel that I proposed and organized, so I'm really looking forward to talking to these people. I also get to see a very dear friend of mine, whom I haven't seen since last July.

That said, I don't want to go. I really just want to stay home with my family. C has 2 interviews left, but this is his week off, so to speak. He will actually be home for 12 days. If I weren't going away this coming weekend, we could have a "normal" week for the first time in 5 weeks. It would be so nice just to stay home with my boys and be together as a family. Of course, getting to sleep in and order room service sounds like fun too . . .

Friday, April 04, 2008

Mean Mommy

I occasionally become a different sort of mother, the mother whom C has named "Mean Mommy." (And in our house this is a direct reference to a Sex and the City episode in which Miranda says "All of a sudden I become "Mean Mommy," and nobody likes "Mean Mommy.") "Mean Mommy" makes rare appearances in our household primarily because I don't like to be mean. Last night, however, I was more than willing to be mean. As has become his habit lately, Wild Man woke up at 12:15; his cries woke me up out of a dead sleep. I was in the exact same position I had been when I went to bed about 3 hours earlier (yes, I went to bed a 9:15, and no, this is not altogether unusual for me). Given that Wild Man had gone to bed about 45 minutes later than usual and that he had kept me up the night before, I was not in the mood to be soothing and comforting. I was in the mood to sleep. After it became apparent that he was not going to go back to sleep on his own, I went into his room, helped him find his puppy, and rearranged his blanket for him. He settled right down and in about 3 minutes was asleep. The second I turned to walk out of his room he stirred and sat up; rubbing his eyes, he said "Go play?" All of a sudden I realized that my wily toddler was trying to stay awake. On a different night I may have felt some sense of guilt over the chaos that has ruled our lives as of late and that has clearly had an effect on Wild Man. I may have interpreted this as an attempt to spend more time with me, given we hadn't seen each other much that day because of C's absence and my schedule. I may have been patient and comforting. This realization, however, irritated me to my very core, and I became "Mean Mommy." In my sternest voice I said, "It is not play time; it is sleep time. You go night night now." I then walked out of his room. He, of course, began crying. And you know what, this time I did not care. I was so tired that I just lied down in my own bed and dozed for the next 15 minutes. Yes, that's right I actually let my kid cry for 15 minutes straight, and again I did not care. After 15 minutes I went back into his room, and you know what? He wasn't standing up in his crib like he usually is; he was actually lying down, holding his puppy and his blanket. As soon as he saw me he indicated that he wanted me to hold him so he could rub my hair, something that always comforts him. I again said, in my "Mean Mommy" voice, "It is sleep time; you go night night right now." And for a change, he did just that. Within 5 minutes he was sound asleep in snoring. Within 10 minutes I was asleep myself. I'm beginning to think that "Mean Mommy" may be making more appearances if Wild Man continue to wake up in the middle of the night.

Thursday, April 03, 2008

Do we want our kids to be independent?

This morning, while Wild Man and I were eating breakfast, I watched Ann Curry of The Today Show interview a mom who let her 9-year-old son ride the New York subway home alone. The mother, who is a columnist for the New York Sun, wrote about her son's desire to ride the subway home alone and her eventual acquiescence to his constant nagging. They talked about the best way for him to get home from mid-town Manhattan, she gave him a subway fare card, a subway and a bus map, and $20 just in case something happened as well as a bunch of quarters in case he needed to call her b/c the kid doesn't have a cell phone. The mother, Lenore Skenazy, has received lots of emails from people nostalgic about the first time they rode the subway alone in New York, and she's received even more emails from people accusing her of child abuse.

In the interview, Skenazy made the very valid (I think) argument that we live in a culture of fear. New York, as recent studies show, is not the city is was 20 years ago. It is one of the safest cities in America, and her son, Izzy, made it home without incident. He didn't get lost, he didn't get harassed, he didn't get abducted. What he did get was a sense of accomplishment and a greater sense of independence, things that Skenazy sees as positive--and I have to say that I agree. I don't really see why so many people are outraged by Skenazy's decision to let her son ride the subway home alone. In fact the thing that surprised me the most is that Izzy does not have a cell phone--which shows me that Skenazy is not the typical parent living in 2008. She is clearly more concerned with raising her son to be self-sufficient and independent minded than she is with making sure he has the latest and greatest technology, even if that technology can be seen as a tool to keep him safe. It seems to me that she is being criticized for raising her kid to be independent, and I'd like to know when did that become a bad thing? When did it stop being a goal for parents to raise their children to know how to take care of themselves?

I am the mother to a very independent minded toddler. Wild Man will throw a temper tantrum if either C or I try to help him do something that he is determined to do by himself. My kid has already figured out how to climb up on our kitchen chairs to get to the fruit bowl at the middle of the table when he wants a banana; he'd rather do this than ask one of us to get it for him. Because he is only 17-months-old, his independence has raised some safety issues. I'd rather he not try to climb onto the kitchen table via a chair because I don't want him to crack his head open on our tile floor, but I am happy he is so independent. In the age of helicopter parenting, it seems that we want our children to be wholly dependent on us because it makes us feel like good parents. Will it make such parents feel like good parents when their 22-year-old children move back home after graduating from college because they still aren't ready to leave the nest? I thought it was our jobs as parents to prepare our children for adulthood, which means we have to help them learn to be independent. It seems to me that is all Skenazy did. If it is abusive to want your child to be independent, then C and I are in a whole lot of trouble.

Wednesday, April 02, 2008

I'm tired, plain and simple

I've been neglecting lots of things lately, my blog included, and the reason is in the title of this post: I'm tired, plain and simple. I'm not just the "I'm a dissertating-mom-of-a-toddler-tired" either. I'm tired physically, emotionally, and intellectually. It seems that the reason for my tiredness can be traced to one reason, the same reason incidentally that is currently the cause of every single source of stress in my life right now: C's job search.

In all honesty, I may as well have gone on the market myself as much time and energy as I've invested in this damn search. I remember thinking this past fall when C was sending out applications how much easier that whole process was when he did it in 2006. He had all the materials drafted this time; he just needed to revise them to address specific job ads. Thus, our fall was relatively stress free. We had lots of family time, and I even managed to find time to work on my dissertation on most Sunday afternoons. The spring, however, has been a different issue. C has been absorbed with conference interviews and on-campus interviews, which, aside from taking him to all end of the country, take an inordinate amount of time to prep for. He has been consumed by all of this stuff to the extent that it is impossible for us to have a conversation that somehow doesn't include a discussion of an upcoming interview. On top of that, we also enjoy stressing ourselves out further and having the conversation that starts "What happens if after all of this C doesn't get an offer?" When he is home, C is trying to keep up with his classes because he is, in fact, still teaching 4 classes this semester and prepping for future interviews. Every school has asked him to do something different, so his prep for every interview is different. Needless to say it has been hard to get a lot of work done, but I am trying my best to get through another chapter.

The thing that is stressing us both out the most is Wild Man's reaction to everything. C and I have been much snippier with each other than usual--we're both tired, we're both frustrated, we're both missing each other. We've had several pointless conversations which go something like "I'm tired, M." "Well, C, I'm tired too." "No, I'm tired." "No, I'm tired." In other words we have pissing contests on a semi-regular basis. Wild Man has picked up on the tension in the house, and he has also started having trouble sleeping again. This one isn't a surprise. My kid is not a good sleeper, but in the past few months we've had major break throughs. Despite the fact that he consistently wakes up between 6 & 6:30, he generally sleeps through the night. If he does wake up, he does so because he has misplaced his puppy, his favorite stuffed animal that he has taken to sleeping with. Once one of us gives him puppy, he goes right back to sleep. For the past 3 weeks, however, he has had what I can only describe as insomnia. At least twice a week, he wakes up around 11 and is awake for several hours, sometimes 1 but more often 2 or 3. Last night he was up from 11 until 1 and then from 3 until 4. He isn't fussy either; in fact, he only cries when he is alone. As long as one of us is in his room with him he is content to lie in his crib and hold our hands. Sleeping on the floor next to Wild Man's crib isn't the ideal place to get a restful night's sleep, however. We're both hoping that he will begin sleeping through the night again as soon as we able to get back to our regular schedule. Unfortunately there are three more weeks of travel ahead of us: 1 trip for me and 2 for C. It looks like I will continue to be tired for a while.