Friday, April 19, 2013

Getting out of the . . .

Facebook game.  I'm seriously thinking of shutting down my account.  I can't take it anymore.  I realize I post a lot of things that are political in content and that I occasionally engage in debates.  I do, however, try really, really hard to be respectful of others and their opinions.  I never take something someone else has posted and re-post it out of context; I feel that's disrespectful and obnoxious.  I wish I could say that others are extending the same level of respect to me.  I also really, really tired of having people who claim to know and love me label me as a "progressive" or a "liberal."  Yes, I proudly use both of those labels to describe myself, but I don't like having them used as pejoratives.  Really, I'm just tired.  If we can't even communicate with friends and family members in respectful ways on social media platforms, how can we expect our leaders to do so?

Monday, April 15, 2013

From 1998-2000,* I lived an hour's drive from Newtown, CT.  In fact, I drove by the town's exit more times that I can remember.  I think that is one reason, among many, many others, I was particularly affected by the events there on December 14, 2012.  I knew that town. I had been there.  I had stopped for coffee and wandered down the idyllic main street with friends one lovely spring day.  Because of this connection (which is tenuous at best, I know), I have followed the story fairly closely.  I've been struck by the families willingness to discuss the events of that day and to share details about their children's lives.  Archer and I have talked about it a lot, and we even discussed it with Wild Man, as he heard about the shootings on the radio.  I've wept repeatedly for these children and their families, which may seem odd given that I don't know any of the families and that I was, arguably, not touched personally by this tragedy. 

Now I'm immersed in the debate for gun control, a debate that I hope will also spawn a debate on mental health care, our culture of violence, and empathy.  As I've read the news stories surrounding the upcoming Senate vote, I am unconvinced that anything will happen.  But I'm also confused.  If the gun lobbyists and those opposed to gun control believe so strongly that no legislation will be passed, why threaten to fillibuster?  Why shut down the dialogue altogether?  Perhaps gun control isn't the way to prevent similar things from occurring.  Perhaps their are better ways.  I am willing to listen, as I imagine are the millions of others who are in favor of stronger gun control.  But I do not, cannot understand the unwillingness to have a dialogue.  If we're going to make things better for our children, don't we have to talk to one another?

*I'm not titling the post, nor am I tagging it.  I'm not interested in using my blog to generate a lot of debate on gun control, even though I'd be happy to have some new readers.  I'm using my blog as a space to process my thoughts and feelings about this particular event and issue.

Saturday, April 13, 2013

Academic Mothering

I consider myself an academic mother; for me, the name, such as it is, merges my professional and personal life.  I am an academic, and I am a mother.  It is impossible to every stop being one or the other.  I am both simultaneously.  I am always thinking about my children and the things I need to do for them, and I'm always thinking about my research and writing.  There is no separation.

Many of my friends, especially my close friends, are also academic mothers, although I don't know how many of them would self-identify in that way.  Among these friends, I've observed something that I find disconcerting.  A few of these friends, two in particular, speak about mothering and their children with something close to disdain.  Now, these two women love their children; I don't mean to suggest otherwise.  They light up when their children walk into the room, and they tell delightful stories about their children.  But when in certain groups, primarily groups in which other academics are present, they act as though they hate parenting, as though their children keep them from their "real" work, and as though their "careers" are more fulfilling than parenting.  This makes me really uncomfortable for several reasons.

First, as I've blogged before (a long, long time ago), CU is fairly friendly to faculty members with families.  In fact, CU has an astounding number of faculty members with young children.  Part of this, I think, is due to Canadian culture, which allows for year-long parental leaves, and part of this is due to the unionized environment of CU (for example, despite being the equivalent of an American R1, the tenure requirements are fairly manageable and clearly spelled out; also taking parental leave of a certain length delays tenure by a full-year).  People here have kids.  People with kids bring their kids to class on occasion and many bring their kids to events and meetings.  Archer and I often have the boys on campus, especially now as we're in the odd time when my leave has ended but we don't have full time child care for Bear and we don't have any child care for George.  To return to my original point, no one here has ever made me feel less than anyone else because I have children.  Sure, I have colleagues who never ask about my children, but that's okay because I never ask about their dogs, for example.  I don't feel as though people question my abilities as an academic because I'm a mother, or at least I don't feel as though most of my colleagues do.

My friends' tendency to disparage parenting and their own children makes me uncomfortable because it's a performance, a carefully constructed one at that.  It is as though these two women, both of whom have tenure and have proven themselves as teachers and researchers, as it were, believe they have to project a certain image of themselves in order to maintain their academic credibility.  I think this just perpetuates the unequal way many academic parents are treated.  Everyone knows I have children, and everyone knows I'm happy to talk about my children.  But everyone also knows I am a successful teacher and a good researcher.  I am able to be both without disparaging one or the other.

This is not to say that I'm always secure in my role, and I do think my friends' tendency to speak badly of parenting is due to their own insecurities.  But I am secure in my role as a mom.  I know I'm a good mom.  I have three happy, healthy, confident children to support that belief.  I'm less secure in my role as an academic, although I am becoming more confident.  But I also believe that the two roles, the two halves of myself, as it were, can't be separated, and I don't want them to be.  I think my friends are more insecure about their ability to mother effectively while maintaining the active research and service loads that they do.  I know things are going to fall through the cracks, and mostly I'm okay with that.  I don't have to be a perfect mother, and I certainly don't have to be a perfect academic.  I'd rather be happy, get some work done, and hang out with my kids.

Wednesday, April 03, 2013

Letting Go

In January, I declared this the year of "Letting Go."  And then I promptly stopped writing about that.  I've done some work on letting go of some things, both emotional and material.  This theme is hard, though, as it requires I try to communicate with people that I've been less than successful communicating with in the past.  It seems, however, that I need to apply my theme to my professional life as well.

I met with Dr. Feminist Philosopher (the new chair of my home department) today to ask some questions about a grant she wants me to apply for.  She said, "M, we need to get your a mentor who can shepherd you through the tenure process.  We did this for Dr. X and Dr. Y, and it worked really well for them.  Who do you think it should be?  I think it needs to be someone from Underwater Basketweaving Department."  Now, Dr. Feminist Philosopher was on leave last spring when all the heinous things occurred with Underwater Basketweaving Department, so she isn't fully aware of why I'd be hesitant to work with someone from said department.  I said, "Well, yes, I see how that makes sense, but honestly, it's still a bit awkward for me given everything that happened last year."  She replied, "I don't know the whole story, and I don't need to know the whole story.  I know enough to know that they were unkind to you, both professionally and personally.  But you now have a tenure track appointment in our department, and I want you to succeed.  No one here does quite what you do.  Dr. X could help, but she's only just going up for tenure herself.  I think you need someone in your historical period."  I said, "Yes, and Dr. Americanist seems like a good fit as a mentor.  In fact, before all of this happened, we were building toward that sort of relationship.  But I honestly have not spoken to him in more than passing since last spring."  She looked at me for a moment, almost as if she were assessing me, and then said, "I will speak to him for you.  I will also speak with Dr. Modernist.  I know she isn't directly in your field, but she is kind.  She's a great editor, and I think you would like her."

I got the implicit message.  Yes, you were screwed over a bit, but you need to do well here.  Doing well here clearly means getting past all that.  You need to do that if you're going to succeed.  I appreciate that she is giving me the space to do this, and that she's the one trying to repair these relationships for me.  But honestly, letting go of this is hard.  I'm still trying to understand what happened.  It's hard not to feel as though I did something wrong, even though I know I didn't--other than trust these people.  It seems I have more work to do on this.

Tuesday, April 02, 2013

Is this enough?

It is exhausting to constantly ask "Is this enough?"  Whether I'm thinking about work or home, I'm asking myself that question a lot lately.