Our Auto Show “Adventure”

Econ-Mom: Today we made Family Mistake #5782 and decided (er, DH convinced me) to drive to the LA auto show.  You’re probably already laughing at me (or just shaking your head) but in case you’re wondering why this was a giant mistake:

  1. LA is a 2 hour drive away;
  2. My younger son has pretty significant sensory issues; and
  3. The auto show is extremely crowded.

After getting on the road late, stopping to play at a rest stop, and a trip to a Jack in the Box (with a very disgusting bathroom) , we finally found a $20 parking place that was pretty close to the auto show.

Outside the convention center we saw people doing some stunt driving, which I thought was kind of cool, but Peanut immediately started scream-crying because he “wanted to go inside.”  Of course, the entrance was still a little hike, and Peanut refused to use the stroller we brought (apparently he’s too big for the stroller now). While Peanut was wanting to be carried, Tuffy ran ahead and almost plowed into a few people.  So, I yelled something like “Tuffy get over here!” and then he started crying.  (He’s going through a super sensitive phase lately, I think partly because second grade has been hard for him.  So it’s not uncommon for him to cry if I raise my voice, which is something I am really trying to work on!)

Now both kids have gotten upset, and we’re not even inside yet. But once we got in the door, they were excited to sit in the cars.  Peanut especially loved to sit in the driver’s seat and push all the buttons. (I’m 50% sure he broke something during the short time we were there — just the stress of him touching all of these expensive things was enough to make the whole trip not worth it.) The environment was definitely overstimulating, and Peanut kept bolting away from us, so one adult would chase him down.  Luckily our cell phones worked in there because we got separated a lot. Tuffy was handling things okay at first but then started to get upset because he kept getting electric shocks every time he touched a car.  (Things you learn about your kids — apparently Tuffy really hates electric shocks!)

So, Tuffy is in tears again, and Peanut is literally getting bowled over by adults because it’s a mad house, and no one is paying attention to where they’re going. Since everyone was getting agitated, I suggested getting some food. But by this point I was already pretty fed-up, so when the kids started whining about how long the food line was I said, “That’s it, we’re leaving,” and we all marched back to the car.  Clearly, we all had just needed a nap because all of us (except DH thankfully) fell asleep on the way home!

In hindsight, the thing that makes these situations worse is that I’m not only getting irritated from dealing with the behaviors from the children, but I’m amplifying my distress by getting mad at myself for making the poor choice (or in this case letting DH talk me into the poor choice) to bring the kids somewhere that’s a sensory nightmare. I’m not sure why I never learn this lesson!! Only last month I made the mistake of bringing the kids to a hockey game.  Why? Well, selfishly, I wanted to go to a work social event. They’re usually happy hours which aren’t family friendly, so when my work organized a group hockey game outing, I thought we could join.  WRONG. (This was actually a way bigger mistake than the auto show – the hockey game was incredibly loud and both kids were in tears by the end of the first period so we had to leave.)

You would just think that I would stop making the same mistakes over and over again!! It’s so frustrating. However, I’m trying to re-frame this in my mind and think of it like this – you know what, we are perhaps a slightly crazy family, but we’re also an adventurous family.  DH and I always used to do tons of road trips, and we loved trying new things before kids, so we are going to keep trying to expose our kids to new experiences, too.  Sometimes those experiences are going to really suck. But it’s not necessarily bad for the boys to try new things and have the occasional rough experience out there in the world.  A lot of places in the world are a sensory nightmare, unfortunately, but the kids do better and better as they get older – and we are *trying* to get Peanut started with OT which will hopefully help (of course the intake process at our HMO has been long and drawn out but that’s another story!)

Law-Mom: I give you so much credit that you keep trying, Econ-Mom. I know it is/can be so hard. We were not adventuresome when the kids were young because, seriously, every outing just felt like one giant headache, such that it was “so not worth it.” (Eating out at restaurants with the allergy issues still feels that way. I get jealous every time I hear about someone going out to eat.) It is a struggle, finding that balance between activities that you are good for your kids and a stretch for them, while also maintaining your own sanity.

Truth be told, I feel like I have sensory issues, so I really appreciate it when you say that the world is a sensory nightmare. Because I feel like it is.  I really *cannot* stand noise. (Ergo, I am not a fan of large parties.) It drives The Hub crazy how much I hate his loud music. I shut myself up in our bedroom the other day because he had the music too loud, but he was making dinner so I didn’t want to force him to turn it down. Today, I went on a field trip with a group of third graders, and I am still reeling from the experience of all the noise.  (I feel dizzy and exhausted.) Crowds and noise are just a nightmare for me. So, I avoid them. When I take my kids places that are super crowded, it is that much worse for me because I am absorbing literally everything from them and from the crowd around me.  The older I get, the more sensitive I get (I think). So, I have a lot of empathy for children with sensory issues. And their parents! Because as sensitive as I am, I can *handle* it. I may not like it. But I don’t throw myself down in the middle of a store and throw tantrums (as SC1 used to do). I save that for when I get home. (JK.)

How to “Grow Your Career” — Someone Please Tell Me

Law-mom: I (mostly) liked this article, and mostly agreed with it (especially the paragraph “Role Models Aren’t Everything.”) But I found it lacking in actual advice about how to “grow your career” as a working mom. This all sounded more to me like: “How to just deal with the juggle.” What do you think, Econ-mom?

Econ-mom: Yeah exactly, that was an article on how to survive.  Which is fine, but doesn’t actually address the question of how to grow your career.  It’s funny you bring this up now, because I recently got a job offer – after being on the job hunt for six months! (Which, by the way, has sucked so much.)  This offer is for a pretty good job, but honestly, it doesn’t even require a PhD, and sometimes I just can’t believe that this was the best job I could get. (OK, perhaps I’m not in the best mood to be blogging about this right now.  This morning my 7 year-old asked me why his younger brother is still going to daycare, but he’s out of school, and I said, “The patriarchy.”)

Overall, this is the way I try to think about it: Maybe if you have a nanny for 12+ hours a day you can grow your career.  But I’ll just go ahead and impose my opinion on the world: No one (including men!!!) should want to be away from their young child for 12 hours a day. (Can you imagine a world in which men with young children refused to work 12 hour days?? Me neither.) Anyway, in my experience, working while my kids were young was really just about treading water. But when I’m feeling optimistic, I look at this new job as a foot in the door. It’s not my dream job, but now my kids are older and my husband is going to stay home and run the household. There is a lot of ageism in economics (and probably in a lot of fields), and the whole experience of going on the academic job market really feels like a one-shot game. But I have to hope that it’s not too late, and I can shine in this new role and eventually get closer to where I wanted to be career-wise. So, my answer to ‘how to grow your career as a working mother’ is wait until your kids are older. I think that is realistic in the sense that you can’t literally do everything all at once, but I’m not sure how realistic it is in terms of career outcomes. I am not sure that “leaning out” for a few years doesn’t permanently hurt your career, but let’s hope it doesn’t have to!

Law-mom: I agree with you on all of this, Econ-mom.

My Kids Give Me Perspective – Or Do They?

Once, a few years ago, I was lamenting to a classmate how little time I had to work on research.  She said something like, “Well, at least your kids give you perspective. Sometimes it feels like my whole life revolves around my dissertation.”

I’ve thought about that comment often over the years. It is, of course, very true that there is much more in my life besides my PhD. My boys do bring me immeasurable joy (along with a hearty dash of frustration and just general craziness.) But getting a PhD does come with a lot of emotional attachment and some pretty big ups and downs – for example that time a few months ago when I got an email saying that my paper was accepted to a conference, only to be followed a few hours later by an email stating that the earlier email was sent in error. Honestly, it is so hard to put on my June Cleaver face and say, “What can I get you sweetie?” when one of the boys says, “Mooooom, I’m hungry!” and I’ve literally JUST FED THEM, and I’m still trying to process some horrible rejection letter that I received earlier that day. In fact, I will admit that I almost never succeed at channeling my inner 50s mom in those situations. Instead, I snap at my poor unsuspecting child and then later feel badly about it. So, that’s fun for everyone. I guess what I’m trying to say here is, on the plus side, kids give you no time to wallow. On the minus side, kids give you no time to wallow.

Sometimes I’m really not sure if my kids are “giving me perspective.”  It’s not like I’m able to just immediately shrug stuff off and say, “That’s OK, at least I have my children!” And for another thing, when things aren’t going well with my PhD, I not only feel badly about whatever is going on with school, but I also have the joy of asking myself why I have been spending thousands upon thousands of dollars to put my children in daycare this whole time?

A perfect example of this happened just over a week ago. Tuffy and I were in the airport when I had my Erin Bartram moment. (I highly recommend reading her post – she describes the feeling of being forced out of academia much more eloquently than I could.) As we were waiting in the airport security line on our way home, I checked my email and found out that I had not been accepted for the one tenure-track position that I had gotten a fly-out for. But we barely had enough time to make it to our gate, buy some fast food, and shovel some of it in our mouths before we had to board the plane, so I had no time to do anything but speed us along (albeit in a much grumpier mood than I had been in before reading my email). As we boarded the plane, I didn’t even notice that Tuffy was checking out the cockpit, but one of the flight attendants told him to come in and meet the pilots. The flight attendants and pilots were all smiling and laughing and they had Tuffy – and me – sit in the cockpit and took pictures of us. It was silly and fun and Tuffy loved it a lot.

Clearly this wouldn’t have happened if I hadn’t had my child with me (OK maybe, but it seems like it’s somehow not as cute when grownups try to look into the cockpit). It was a nice, almost immediate reminder of how much else there is to life besides professional success. But have no fear, I did spend a little time wallowing – I broke down in tears the next day on my way to Target. (Yes, I went to Target by myself. You gotta treat yourself a little bit after a day like that!) I knew that my job market paper wasn’t fantastic, so none of this was incredibly surprising. But it’s hard not to get teary-eyed thinking about all the amazing papers that were in my head that I was going to write (including one about the child care market) and wondering if I should just tweet out all my research ideas since I have no need for them anymore.

Sometimes I just wish there was a way to say in my cover letters, “Look at what I was able to accomplish with one hand tied behind my back! Look – I got through my PhD coursework and wrote a few halfway decent papers while raising two kids. While breastfeeding for SIX YEARS. While taking one son to speech therapy, occupational therapy, development pre-school, and ABA therapy. While enrolling the other son in multiple autism studies. While dropping to part-time after my young toddler had been sick for weeks and was losing weight and then got a staph infection. While my husband left town for weeks at a time. But the hardest part is over now, and if you give me a chance at a job, my husband is going to take over as the lead parent and just imagine what I could do then!”

Unfortunately for me, the world doesn’t work that way. But I am at least on track to finish this PhD soon, which is still an accomplishment. And my boys are thriving, and once in a while I get to pretend I’m a kid and sit in the cockpit of an airplane; so, I guess I can say that while it’s still hard, some perspective has been given.

Law-mom: Econ-mom – I so feel your pain here: “if you give me a chance at a job, my husband is going to take over as the lead parent and just imagine what I could do then!” My job search situation is a little different from yours. I haven’t been writing about it on here, but I am on the look-out for a new job (preferably one in which I can earn what a J.D. should be earning) and it is discouraging. I sometimes feel like I will never economically recover from my years of parenting while side-lining my career. I once had a man say to me, when I mentioned the effect the “mommy penalty” had on my salary: “But you should be recovered from that by now.”

REALLY?!?! 1) Thank you for the disguised insult; and 2) How would you know?

Anyway — kudos to you for continuing to plug away. Getting a PhD while breastfeeding for six years and taking care of special needs kids is a HUGE accomplishment. Congratulations! Even if the job market cannot see what an amazing person you are, I certainly can.

A Working Mother’s Twelve Days of Christmas

I survived the holidays. They are over for me. That is because from here on out, I have no more serious obligations or demands on my schedule. “We’re leaving on a jet plane” today. Unfortunately, I know when I’ll be back again. Nonetheless, I am about to embark on my longest vacation that I have had since I went to Argentina with my BFF in 2004.

I am a survivor!

Because we are going away for Christmas, holiday deadlines got moved up (in a big way) for me this year. I had 10 fewer days than I usually do to get all the Christmas shopping and wrapping done. That is partly why my schedule has felt totally over the top insane since Thanksgiving. Here is a short list of all I have accomplished:

  1. Hosted Thanksgiving for 15 people (including myself) while my husband was out-of-town. (#singleparenting) I calculated that I spent 4 hours just grocery shopping. (Went to four different stores – one just to get the fresh turkey – and once had to go back to get canned pumpkin and eggs. #totallyforgot)
  2. Made the Thanksgiving 4-day break (which felt like a serious vacay, to me, peeps) fun by taking the kids to the Botanic Garden and a Christmas parade, while intermittently cleaning up,  putting away Thanksgiving entertainment ware and decorations, bringing out Christmas decor, and wrapping presents when the kids weren’t looking. And, even though I had missed choir and praise band practice that week (and weeks prior), I was asked Saturday evening if I could help out and sing that Sunday morning, which means I was at church practicing at 8:15 and didn’t get home until after noon (the morning after The Hub had just gotten home from his week away to visit his family). Thankfully, I had nothing else to do that weekend – what with out-of-town guests soon to be arriving – so spending almost four hours at church that morning made the rest of the day easy. (If sarcasm is a sin, then I will spend eternity repenting.)
  3. Still, I managed to get all the Christmas decorations, including the tree, up by December 1st, to host my parents and three out-of-town relatives. This involved piecemeal tree decorating at 5 am two mornings in a row: one morning lights; one morning garland. The kids put up all the ornaments one evening. At 8:30 that night, after lugging the last of the boxes back down to the basement, I looked at the clock and realized I had missed choir practice…again. #totallyforgot
  4. Helped my mom plan and throw a surprise 70th birthday party for my dad on December 2nd. This involved spending the majority of that Saturday running last minute errands, including getting the cake and twinkly lights for the palm trees. It also included setting up for the party and putting twinkly lights on the palm trees with my brother. Have you ever tried putting twinkly lights on palm trees? I don’t recommend it.
  5. It just so happened that a very large work project was also due on December 1st. Due to unforeseen circumstances, the deadline got pushed and contracts got pulled. And I and another woman completed in three days what we had contracted with another company to complete in one month. That all happened the week of Dec. 4th. One night, the kids made their own dinner while I worked at home into the evening. (SC2 made herself oatmeal, chicken nuggets, and fresh squeezed orange juice. Yes, Fresh. Squeezed. Orange. Juice. The child is so Type A, she is going to get her own page in the Type A world record books.)
  6. After surviving the work project (that added about 5 hours to my work week), I spent all of Saturday running errands. And when I mean I spent all of Saturday running errands, I mean that I spent the entire day running errands for all the things that I hadn’t had time for between hosting three parties in the previous two weeks. Most of these errands were returns for some clothes I had bought online and/or things we needed for our upcoming trip. We also squeezed in a Christmas Pageant practice (that I mercifully did not have to attend as a cue parent for the first time in 4 years) and a birthday party of a very close family friend (or I would have skipped it). Sunday was the actual pageant (why do they call it a pageant?), and the afternoon was spent stuffing business holiday cards with my mother for my father’s business (that I help him with on the side, #secondjob) and helping him e-file a notice of appeal. That evening I spent sorting clothing into piles: Keep. Donate. Move from SC1’s closet to SC2’s closet. Take on trip. Leave at home.
  7. Somewhere during this time frame, I stopped sleeping. Instead of waking up between 4 and 5, I started waking up earlier and earlier between 3 and 4. And then one day this past week, my body even had the audacity to wake up at 2:15. But that is the only reason I got everything done. Because, remember, I am still “just” trying to work full-time and feed my kids during this whole mess. In addition, The Hub started a class when he got back from his week-long trip over Thanksgiving. The class doesn’t get him home until 11 pm on Wednesdays, and he is gone from noon until 6 on Sundays. (#moresingleparenting)
  8. This past week I spent finishing up all other last minute errands and wrapping all the last of the Santa gifts that my neighbor will kindly put under the tree while we are gone to the surprise the kids when we get home on Christmas afternoon. Only, I woke up this morning (any guesses what time?) unsure if she actually has a key our house….Gotta rectify that before our early morning departure! #whatkeepsyouawake)
  9. I gave myself permission to not get out all my Christmas/Hanukkah cards before we left, but somehow I squeezed that in there, too. Although, there are still a few stragglers after “T,” so if you are at the end of the alphabet, you may not see your card until after the 26th.
  10. I enjoyed a bad cold from December 3rd to about yesterday, as well as some seriously fierce PMS that drove me to actually honk at my own children in the driveway when they couldn’t figure out how to exit our vehicle and enter our house. (It’s apparently hard.) I apologized later to my neighbor for disturbing her while she strung white lights on her evergreen bushes in the front. I apologized to my kids, too. (But, seriously!) “Happy Holidays….”
  11. I also ended up skipping (or declining invitations for) four parties I was invited to (all in the same week), due to said cold. I felt badly about this, but given that each day I also had been awake since around 3:00 in the morning, I have no idea how I would have survived that. Or made time for them!
  12. You may recall my recent holiday toast mentioned two back-to-back school concerts this past week. That was fun. (That statement is a blend of both sarcasm and truth: I do really love attending the children’s concerts and activities. The logistics of doing so, however, are always a bit much.)

That seems like a pretty well-rounded list of the Working Mom’s Twelve Days of Christmas. If I was really clever, I’d turn that into a song.

That brings me to honoring this blogger for writing one of the best blog posts about parenting I’ve read in a long time. My favorite of her paragraphs include the ones that begin:

“This is for the full time working moms…”

“This is for the mom who is home all day and loses her patience so often and so ugly…”

“This is for the mom who plans all the fun things to do and see and when the time comes is so stressed out from the planning…”

“This is for the mom who is always worried about how they will pay for things…”

“This is for the mom who feels as though she has nothing left to give her partner, her work, her passions, her creative endeavors, her friends, her family…”

“This is for the mom whose house is never clean, whose laundry is never altogether done or put away…” and

“The mental load of motherhood is heavier than laundry. There’s always more laundry and there’s always more to worry about.”

Well said, Ms. Katy Blogger. Thank you for expressing so much of what I have been feeling lately. Thank you for making me feel less alone in this whole parenting endeavor.

Yesterday, I woke up again at 3:30. I didn’t get out of bed until 3:45. I had nothing urgent that needed tending to. (Thank you, God.) I was able to sit at my computer with my coffee and blog and share with you all the things that make me tired and wake me up in the morning (or middle of the night). I thought I would sleep-in, but I’ve been waking up so early for so long now, I’m sure I’m doomed until Spring Forward when I can start waking up at my “normal” 4:30 time again. All I had to do was pack, and though there was a lot to pack, and a lot to remember, I felt relaxed and happy. I still am. I have absolutely nothing on my agenda for this trip (other than to see the Grand Canyon! #bucketlist), and I plan to savor every single minute of it.

Friday night, we watched some family videos from Christmastime 2010 and 2011. SC1 was two and then three. SC2 was a baby and then one. (I also looked skinnier than I remember myself looking. Dang!) It was a good reminder to try to live in the moment and just enjoy the now as best as we possibly can.

It can be hard. I really get that. The stress. The literally never-ending to-do lists. The constant barrage of needs and little hands grabbing at you, pulling on your clothes and hanging onto your neck, choking you. But…this holiday season, I am promising myself and my family: I am going to slow it all down. For 10 days. For 10 days, I am going to try to make time stand still and imprint the memories of this time together into my brain. And just….relax.

May you, too, Mom on 11, get a breather. May you have a blessed holiday season!

Econ-mom: Well now I feel like a slacker! 😛  Honestly we’ve been busy this year too – I am also leaving town so I tried to get everything done by today.  It’s Sunday and I’m at a coffee shop (about to work on my paper right after I write this!) because it’ll be my last day to work before I head out of town, and I have a conference deadline on Jan. 15th.  I can’t say everything has gone smoothly for me – Thursday was going to be the last day I saw my son’s nanny this year and I got some gifts for her children, but 5 minutes before I needed to leave to pick up Tuffy I realized I couldn’t find them.  (I had hidden them from Peanut, and myself apparently.)  I couldn’t remember where I put them and I thought DH might have been the one to hide them so I called him at work.  When he said he had no idea I basically said “Bleep bleepity bleep now I don’t have the gifts and I’m going to be late to school to pick up Tuffy and he’s going to wander off and get kidnapped and DIE!”  So… honking at your kids isn’t so bad Law-mom! 🙂  (PS. He didn’t die and I ran home and found the gifts while he was at chess club.)

But other than that I actually have felt pretty good this year, at least relative to the past few years. (Even though I realized the other day that I *might* have given some of the teachers inactive gift cards – I mean, I do feel badly about this but I didn’t freak out.)  I think because it’s the first year in a few years that I’m getting a semi-decent amount of sleep!  Last year I was literally in tears because my Christmas cards were going to be late.  This is what happens to your mental health when you have a child who is awake from 2-4am every night. (Oh and by the way we were in the process of moving to a new city so I think I get a pass for being a hot mess then.) This year I’m adopting Marshall’s motto (one of the dogs from Paw Patrol) – ‘Do your best and forget the rest!’ (Some poor frazzled mom probably writes this character.)

So happy holidays to all of us and don’t forget to do your best and forget the rest!!

A Holiday Toast

A toast! To the school system for organizing two back-to-back school concerts the last week of school, during one of the busiest times of the year for working parents!

A toast! For finishing a massive work project last week rather than this week!

A toast! To the school system for doing absolutely nothing when my child was hit in the face with a dirty snowball yesterday!

A toast! To the school system for buying into software (probably for kickbacks) to send messages (lacking pertinent information) rather than just using what the real world uses: EMAIL!

A toast! To my job that demands three days in the office, even when no one needs to be there, thereby making my commute the stuff of nightmares (2 hours long, one way, yesterday)!

A toast! To the snow, for making taxing commutes that much more taxing! It will be so much fun going to the holiday concert tonight if it snows again, too! And it will be delightful traversing in the snow from the earlier-than-usual-train, so I can get SC1 to said concert practice in time!

A toast! To “sleeping-in” to 4:45 this morning!

A toast! To the fact that I remembered that SC1’s concert pants were still in the dirty clothes before it was too late, so I can get them clean before I leave for work this morning!

A toast! To the fact that I haven’t exercised in two weeks, because I’ve either been sick, or my schedule has been so demanding that there hasn’t been time for anything, much less self-care!

A toast! To the fact that I haven’t been to choir in almost a month, because I’ve either been single-parenting, sick, or my schedule has been so demanding that there hasn’t been time for anything, much less soul-nourishing hobbies!

A toast! To the fact that despite not exercising, I’ve actually lost (a little) weight, because my schedule has been so demanding that there hasn’t been time to eat!

A toast! To the fact that I am getting a much needed 10-day vacation in 4 days!

I am, truly, beyond grateful (for the second and last ones)!

Yours sincerely,

Law-mom

More On “Having it All” But Not “Doing It All”

I forgot to write about a important underlying premise of my post about why one cannot “do it all” – career and parent and house-keep. I mean, you “can,” but you’re not going to excel in one or more areas. You are not going to succeed as Julia Child (cooking), Martha Stewart (decorating), Ruth Bader Ginsberg (working), and Mary Poppins (parenting). While the reason – lack of time – may seem fairly obvious, a more interesting question might be: Why do women feel the need to “do it all?”

Maybe it is just me, and this is not a cultural phenomenon. But I don’t think so. I have had to learn that I don’t need to be Julia, Martha, Ruth,and Mary. I don’t expect non-lawyers to draft and edit a solid appellate brief. So, why would anyone expect me to perfectly frost a 3-layer cake? Or look like Heidi Klum? (I probably should have also inserted Heidi above, because there is also an expectation that women look like Sex Goddesses while cooking, decorating, working, and parenting, too.)

The author and blogger, Jen Hatmaker, wrote about these expectations in her book, “For the Love,” in her opening essay, “Worst Beam Ever.” Read her full passage here. Favorite portion of the passage: “…[She] completes one million domestic chores that multiply like gremlins…” while doing everything else (working, caretaking) and still feels like a failure.

As I keep reading her “Worst Beam Ever” essay, I am realizing that Jen already wrote this post and the aforementioned one, as well. I read her book about one and a half years ago. Maybe it’s taken me all this time to fully digest it. Regardless, I agree with her 100%. And I remember now, when I read it the first time, mentally going through my own “on the beam” and “off the beam” checklist. My “on the beam” activities are pretty much all my “have tos” — working and parenting. I have tried adding singing and exercising onto my beam this fall, and it’s been really challenging. Some days/weeks, it feels like too much. But I also believe both activities to be nourishing and life-sustaining. For too many years – and I mean years – I had no outlets to keep myself in balance. Anyway, since I can barely even keep singing and exercising on my beam — two things I actually like and want to do — here are some things that I keep with absolute certainty off of it: Classroom parent? Off the beam. PTO? Off the beam. Homework? Off the beam. (If they can’t do it on their own, then it shouldn’t be assigned.) Baking? Off the beam.

By giving myself permission to “off the beam” those activities which do not fit my lifestyle or personality, I have found greater amounts of “inner peace.” (I use quotes, because it sounds so hokey.) And if you haven’t tried it, yet, I suggest you do!

Econ-mom’s response:  Law-mom, I can tell you it is NOT just you!  I also catch myself in these double comparisons – compared to work-at-home-moms, I fall short. They do everything with and for their kids. Story time at the library, play dates at the park, home-cooked all-organic meals and snacks. Not to mention that if their child needs therapy they never have to say to the therapist, “well, I’m only available after 5,” and get a raised eyebrow in return.  And compared to my fellow grad-students, I fall short. They’re in the office until 8 pm every night, getting stellar teaching evaluations and cranking out polished papers.

This topic also came up in the 7-year-postdoc blog post when Radhika said:

We (myself included) admire the obsessively dedicated. At work we hail the person for whom science and teaching is above all else, who forgets to eat and drink while working feverously on getting the right answer, who is always there to have dinner and discussion with eager undergrads. At home we admire the parent who sacrificed everything for the sake of a better life for their children, even at great personal expense. The best scientists. The best parents. Anything less is not giving it your best.

And then I had an even more depressing epiphany. That in such a world I was destined to suck at both.”

This is exactly why I wanted to work on this blog, despite not having much time to devote to it.  Instead of the superstar moms and superstar academics being my role models, I wanted to have more examples of people who do more than one thing to look to as I forged this path.  Frankly, I didn’t have many examples. Probably because those of us trying to juggle work/school and young kids just don’t have time to be spouting off about it on the internet. And I’m not saying I want to be a role model per se, just a data point. Just one person out there showing anyone out there who wants to attempt this craziness that, “Yes, it’s OK to half-a** some mom stuff AND half-a** some school stuff.”  And your kids will still love you and you will still (probably) get a job when you finally finish school.

And Law-mom, I’m with you on the singing and exercise! OK, I don’t sing (even my kids are already telling me to stop, haha.) But I started going to jazzercize twice a week, and sometimes I feel guilty about taking that time, but it has helped me feel SO much better. That being said, I have vowed to never preach self-care without acknowledging that sometimes it is almost impossible.  There was a period in my life where I’d read an article about self-care, and I wanted to crawl through the internet and grab the author by the shoulders and scream, “Why don’t you take my kids for TWO DAYS so I can SLEEP and then talk to me about self-care?” But if you have any ability to do something for yourself, it absolutely pays for itself in terms of increased energy and patience!

Law-mom: EM, I loved everything about your response and agree with all of it! Thank you! (I especially appreciated wanting to crawl through the internet….That happened to me after I read a blog (while post-partum) by a running pregnant woman who basically said: “If you don’t run while you are pregnant, you are a lazy slob who deserves the horrible body you are stuck with after you gain 55 pounds and swell to the point of bursting.” But I guess that is a blog post – or a therapy session – for another day. Ha!)

This Thanksgiving, I am Thankful for My Village

How many people does it take to get to get two kids to school, to tutoring, and back home on a regular work day? Four. It takes four people: Their mom (myself) and three neighbors who helped me out on Monday before and after school. Thank you, friends! I also need to thank my aunt who came to “Special Someone Day” at my children’s school on Friday. (That is another blog post about the incompatibility of school schedules and demands and work schedules and demands.)

The struggle is real, as they say. So is the guilt. “What if ALL women worked?” I ask myself, daily.** Then what? What would happen to the PTOs? The church youth group run by faithful volunteers? Who could help me out in a pinch like yesterday when my train was running 15 minutes late? A 15 minute delay may not sound like a lot of time, but it is when it takes you 15 minutes to walk home from the train in order to jump in the car to drive another 15 minutes to pick up your child on time from tutoring. It’s also a huge delay when you are then supposed to drive another 15 minutes back to get to a 20 minute parent-teacher conference on time. (That was some awesome scheduling on my part. #mentalload.)

The world needs caretakers. It is an undervalued role in our society, which usually falls on the backs of women. I am very grateful for the caretakers in my community, who make it possible for me to work and, therefore, live in the same community with them. It is a privilege to know and live among them. They are a blessing to our family and our community as a whole.

I loved Econ-mom’s comment in our last post that the only way she “does it all” is by living in abject filth. The only way I “do it all” is with the help of my friends and family. Thank you to my village! This Thanksgiving, I give effusive thanks for your support.

 

**If all men and women had to work, maybe there would be a change in how we structure the school calendar.