Thursday, October 25, 2012

Dear Judgmental Park Mother:

Yes, I allow my three-year-old to have juice boxes, not that that is any of your concern.  He's also only recently potty trained, and he still requests a diaper when he needs to poop.  As the one time I forced him to poop on the potty, he was severely traumatized--as in he cried hysterically for an hour--I happily oblige him so that he doesn't refuse to poop.  Oh, and he also no longer naps every day, but he does sleep for almost 13 hours straight every night.  Let me know if there is any other aspect of my parenting or my child's life you'd like to comment on.

Community, Bus Stops, and Class Issues

One of the things I've struggled with since we sold our condo and moved into our house is the lack of community we've experienced.  When we moved last August, we anticipated that we'd get to know our neighbors and that Wild Man and Bear would play with the other kids on the street, as there are several around their ages.  That, however, did not happen.  Very few of the neighbors came over to introduce themselves, and it soon became clear that our schedules were very different from most of our neighbors (we were gone all day during the week, and our boys are almost always in bed by 7:30 or 8:00 whereas many of the neighborhood children are out playing much later).  We did not send Wild Man to the neighborhood school, which complicated things.  Over the course of the year, we met a few of the neighbors, and one of the first questions everyone asked was, "What grade is Wild Man in?"  That was followed by "Where does he go to school?"  Every time Archer and I explained that he was currently enrolled at a school close to CU and that when he started Grade 1 he would be going to the local French Immersion school rather than our neighborhood school.  The reactions we witnessed were immediate.  The people we spoke with were consistently taken aback, and everyone always tried to reassure us how good the neighborhood school is, which we know.  In fact, we chose this house because the school is so good, thinking that we'd end up sending the boys there if FI didn't work out.  But we felt judged, as though we thought we were too good for the neighborhood school.

Fast forward a year.  I finally feel a sense of community, and it is all because of the bus stop.  We've met several families through the bus stop, which is about three blocks away from our house.  While none of the families are on our street (we are the only family on our street sending our children to the FI school), all are within walking distance.  And each of these families are sending their children to the FI school for the same reasons we are.  As we got to know everyone, we learned something really interesting.  Every parent at the bus stop was a professional.  There are two lawyers, one teacher, an executive at a local corporation, another executive who commutes between CU Land and a city in the States, and a small business owner.  Moreover, two families employ nannies, and both parents work in all the families.  Also, the moms and the dads split drop off and pick up duties.  On our street, the situation is very different.  We've learned that most people on our street would be defined as "working class."  Four of the moms stay at home, one dad works with a heating company, another installs alarm systems, and another is a foreman for a construction company.  With one exception, the moms walk the kids to and from school (the school is 2 blocks away), and one mom actually runs a home daycare.  It seems, from a class perspective, that we don't fit in on this street.

I'm not sure where I'm going with this.  I do know this: I come from a working class background, as does Archer.  My dad was a firefighter, and my mom was a secretary.  Archer's dad worked in a factory (although he worked he way up to upper management), and his mom was also a secretary. Although we've both gone on to get graduate degrees and have academic careers, we were not expected to do that.  My parents wanted me to be a teacher, and Archer's parents wanted him to work at the same factory his dad did (because doing so would keep us close to them).  My point is that we're both comfortable with our roots, so to speak.  We've gone out of way to introduce ourselves to our neighbors; we've tried to coordinate playdates for Wild Man and Bear with the other kids in the neighborhood.  We've participated in neighborhood gatherings.  We decorate when everyone else does.  We say hello and goodbye, and we generally try to be neighborly.  But none of our overtures have been well received.  It's hard to live on a street in which we really don't know anyone, despite our attempts to know people.  I find myself increasingly thankful for our bus stop community every day.

Friday, October 19, 2012


Tomorrow Wild Man turns 6!  It seems impossible that he's that old, yet Archer and I struggle to remember what life was like before he (and his brothers) came into our lives.  Happy Birthday, Wild Man!

Just so you know. . .

three boys (ages 6, 3, and 3 months) are really, really loud in the car.  Really.

Monday, October 15, 2012

Questions about gifts

Here's a random question, which I may or may not explain: do any of you, those of you who are parents, have rules for gift giving?  Let's try that again: do any of you try to limit the number of gifts your families give your children? It's becoming a bit of a thing in our house, and I need some input.

A Conference

I attended a major conference in my field this past weekend (with thanks to Yetta and Pita, who stayed with Wild Man and Bear so that Archer could travel with George and me.  As an aside, that is officially a lot of pseudonyms for one sentence!).  It was really good to be back in the saddle, so to speak, and it was especially good to know that I did not have to rush home to get back to work.  You see, the thing I dislike about conferences is that I feel like I rarely have time to process all that I learn at a conference.  I am usually back in my office prepping classes, teaching, grading, writing, etc.  But this time I get to think about the panels I attended, the great ideas I heard, and how all of that affects me, my work, and my teaching.  I think I will be posting about this a bit in the next few weeks, but for now, I'll say that it was a good conference and I'm really glad I went.

Tuesday, October 09, 2012

Too much?

I had a lengthy conversation with a good friend a few nights ago.  K told me she was impressed with how much I've gotten done "academically" since George was born.  She said she was a "drooling idiot" for the first 6 to 8 months following her daughter's birth.  For the record, I want to say that most of the things I've gotten done are fairly easy tasks--some editing, a bit of writing on a collaborative project, some service oriented tasks before my leave officially started.  Mostly I've been mothering.  And most days I'm not sure I do that all too well.  Wild Man and Bear are eating too many applesauce, carrot sticks, and chicken nugget dinners for my taste; I'm drinking way to much coffee (and thanking my lucky stars that the caffeine doesn't seem to affect George); I'm perpetually running late; and some weeks I'm lucky if one of us makes it to the grocery store before 6:00 pm on Sunday evening.  Archer is picking up a lot of slack, but in the midst of all of this, he has renovated our downstairs bathroom (stupid, yes, but necessary as the tile floor was literally breaking apart) and started renovating our basement (also stupid, but also necessary for reasons I'll go into in another post).  In my mind this seems fairly normal, for us at least. We always have too much going on.  K's comment, however, got me thinking about the differences in the American and Canadian system of maternity/paternity/parental leave and how my own experiences have influenced my thinking about "leave."

I never officially got maternity leave when Wild Man was born.  I was a graduate student, so I worked around my teaching schedule (luckily I was team-teaching a course with my dissertation adviser, and she told me to "go away" for a few weeks following Wild Man's  birth).  I was able to keep Wild Man out of childcare until he was about 4 months old, and then I found a daycare that would take him part-time (a relatively unusual thing for Southwest College Town).  Even when he was with me, though, I was typically multi-tasking--reading and writing while I was nursing him or when he was in his activity center.  I managed because I didn't know any better.  I knew what I had to do, and I did it.

With Bear, I didn't qualify for maternity leave benefits as I hadn't accrued enough working hours in Canada.  He was born in the end of June, and I had from then until school started.  I didn't do any work in that time period, but by September, I was teaching 3 classes and on the job market.  It was awful, in many ways much, much worse than what I had experienced with Wild Man.  I was not Bear's primary care giver, and that was frustrating for me.  Luckily, Archer was able to take leave, and he was home with Bear for that semester.  That said, Archer was still submitting grant applications and working on an article.  Our schedule was insane as we struggled to find time to work, but again, we made it work because we had to. 

Now, I'm on leave.  I have been employed with CU long enough that I qualify for both provincial and university benefits (this means that I am receiving 90% of my pay).  Also, I will not teach again until September 2013, even though my leave officially ends the beginning of April.  I am not expected to complete any service or research until then.  But I am doing some research.  By some standards, I'm doing a lot.  I've learned this is atypical, especially for female faculty members.  While none of the faculty members I know who have taken a parental leave have stopped researching altogether, most have slowed down dramatically--as have I.  They do, however, seem to stop participating in all collaborative projects, which I definitely have not stopped doing.  In fact, the biggest project I'm working on now is a collaborative project, and I'm continuing to participate in my writing group, although I'm doing a lot more reading and commenting than new writing.  And I'm doing most of this while caring for George.  Some days I do nothing; some days I'm lucky I make it out of my pajamas.  Other days I focus on stuff around the house.  But at least one day a week I am able to carve out a chunk of time to do something academic.  It makes me feel focused; it makes me feel centered. 

But my Canadian friends think I'm doing too much, while my American friends seem to get why I'm still working a bit.  And on some level I agree that I am doing too much, but I'm not sure how to stop.  I think the American system--a system in which parents must think about returning to work almost immediately after having a baby--has hardwired my brain to think about work.  My sister was back in the office (in a part-time capacity) a month after giving birth to her son; she did this partly out of economic necessity, but also because it was expected of her.  Most of my friends either tried to plan the birth of their children around the semester, or they just managed to finish their teaching responsibilities with a newborn in tow.  Given this past experience, being on leave doesn't mean I stop working altogether--at least not for me.  It means I don't have to teach or do service.  I still have to do some research, while managing everything else in my life.  I don't know if I know how to do it any other way.

For the record. . .

I hate baby talk.  I do not speak baby talk to my children (although I don't necessarily talk to them like they are adults).  Baby talk drives me absolutely insane.  Seriously.  Insane.

Thursday, October 04, 2012

I did it!

I hired a cleaner, and she came Tuesday afternoon.  I have to say it was more than a bit odd to be in my house while someone else cleaned it.  Archer had to be on campus, so I didn't have the car.  I wasn't up for dragging George and his stroller on the bus, so we were home.  That said, she was a lovely woman, and she cleaned my entire house.  I still feel a bit guilty, but I am loving having a clean house--like she scrubbed the door to my shower.  I honestly haven't done that in over 6 months.  The water beaded up on the door when I took a shower this morning.  It was lovely.  Once Bear and George are in daycare at the same time, I'm not sure we'll still be able to afford it, but for now, I am going to enjoy it.