reason #712 i’ll never be a brain surgeon

Last weekend, I took the kids to the Science Center, which is a little above their age. Well, only a hair, in the case of the 7 month old. But I went anyway since it’s age appropriate for our friends’ kids, and it was pretty cool. Except by midday, my Dawdler decided she had to eat a snack right away. Because, toddlers, ugh! Requiring food every 6 or so hours, am I right? SO high maintenance.

When we couldn’t find anywhere to eat except their pricey proprietary on-site cafe, Dawdler struck out on her own seeking a spot where she could sit down and inhale the stash of Toddler Chow we’d brought from home. She found a great little secluded spot where she could eat undisturbed.

Except it was highly disturbing to me. I found her seated in a dark little corner theater where there was a looping video of brain surgery.

I mean, I get it. She had no idea what she was watching, and the Science Center is noisy and crowded, which can be a difficult environment for her, as she’s shy in temperament.

But I would have strongly preferred the other corner theater. The one with a looping video of a birth. Either way, I guess it solved the problem of I hadn’t brought any Mommy Chow.

A Public Service Announcement

The following are incompatible:

  • Trying to catch up on sleep at any opportune moment while living in a household with
    • a Dawdler Toddler who invents every excuse under the sun to delay bedtime (because that’s what toddlers do)
    • a 7 month old who refuses to sleep through the night for no good reason whatsoever

– while also –

  • Trying to relieve My Better Half™ of many parenting duties so as to permit him blocks of uninterrupted time and focus to write a dissertation.

The following are also incompatible:

  • Trying to escape the soul-crushing pressure to finish a dissertation so that one can have free time again (aka, sleep, attend to the monstrously long honey-do chores list so our house does not fall down, and for the love of all that is holy, relax for the first time in months years)

– while also –

  • Knowing that ‘free time’ should really be defined as the pressure of “hurry up and get a job, goddamnit!”

And, finally, the following are also incompatible:

  •  Trying to predict whether one will be able to find childcare on such short notice should one accept an offer of seasonal archaeological fieldwork

 – or –

  • Deciding to turn down said job offer in order to avoid bringing in a chess master to calculate and predict the matrix of childcare solutions such a job would require, with the hopes of finding another part-time job that may never materialize

Those who attempt to reconcile these incompatible goals report side effects including sleeplessness, restlessness, frustration, stress, loss of patience, and an inability to see the light at the end of the tunnel.

Yup, this one’s about the weather

Today is a nearly-May miracle. It’s been only 72 and it’s rainy-ish.

Let me repeat that. Seventy two degrees.

Look, I get how perfect that might sound to you, Dear Readers, who may still be mired in winter. In fact, some of our friends came in town this weekend *because* they couldn’t stand yet another snowstorm and so decided at the last second to come here. They’ve invited us over to their hotel to hang by and in the pool all weekend. Here’s how that conversation went:

But it’s freezing!

“What are you talking about, it’s 70 degrees today and supposed to be almost 90 tomorrow!”

Like I said, freezing.

Maybe unless you’ve lived in a climate like this, it’s hard to relate to loving rainy, gray days as a byproduct of hating so much sunshine & warmth. But I do. (And I’m not alone.)

So while they’re hanging in shorts & swimsuits, I’ll be inside, curled up on the couch under a blanket, sipping hot coffee, and watching a movie with the Dawdler.

Bringing children & work together every day

Yesterday, at least at my workplace, was Bring Your Child to Work Day. It was also, at least in my job, Bring Work to Your Children Day. Aka Thursday. Aka my telecommuting day.

I think when you say ‘telecommute’ a lot of people picture some kind of tech startup employee who works from cooler-than-thou hipster coffee joints all day. In my case you should envision me surrounded by the detritus of toddler & baby toys trying to respond to emails with one hand while nursing and shushing Baby with the other, sipping room temperature coffee all day (so as not to burn Baby when he inevitably flings his hand into the mug sending its contents all over my applesauce and GoGurt-encrusted jeans). I’ve telecommuted one day a week ever since the nearly 3 year old Dawdler was born – and it was fine when it was just her. Now my telecommuting day just feels so overwhelming. It’s impossible to compartmentalize anything. I’m trying to work while also pick up the ever-growing clutter around the house, I’m trying to put away laundry amidst work and a crying Baby, and I’m trying to convince the toddler Dawdler to shuffle off to daycare so I can focus on only two things at once, with the ability to give neither my full attention.

It’s nearly impossible to give my full attention to anything at all anymore, least of all myself. I get it, it’s a mom thing to never have any time to myself, but for crying out loud, I’ve got to find some time for myself. At my cubicle, I’m occupied with work. At home, I’m occupied with the kids. And during the rushed commute in between? I’m trying to slough off the day’s work and get into parenting mode with no space for my own occupations in between.

I have turned to working out before to solve this problem and decompress. Before I had kids, I went to the gym every night right after work before I got home. Now that just seems unfair to My Better Half. Right now, he has the responsibility of getting the kids up, dressed, fed, and off to daycare (and in the case of Baby, full-time parenting some days of the week), on top of adjuncting and trying to write and make dinner and. And, and, and. So it feels awfully selfish of me to tack on an extra couple of hours to his days to stop off at the gym for myself. When I explained this to someone, they said “oh! So that’s just mommy guilt! You gotta shut that sh*t down.”

Please don’t ‘just’ that. That ‘just’ you threw in there implies that it’s all in my mind, that it’s ‘just’ a small problem, that it’s insignificant. Baby is now 7 months old and I’ve never managed to get in a single workout or find any regular routine of time for myself since he was born. That doesn’t feel insignificant. Sure, it’s true that this is just a phase, as my mom says. But it doesn’t feel temporary living in the midst of this phase.

So until I can sort this out and/or afford a gym membership, you’ll excuse me while I carve out time for myself at the bottom of this bag of Pepperidge Farm Molasses Crisp cookies. It’s ‘just’ one bag. A week.

Meltdown

Me: whoa! What’s that smell?

My Better Half: Anything you need from the store?

Me: no. What’s that smell?

My Better Half: okay, we’re off to the store.

Me: uh, so wait, what’s that smell?

My Better Half: we gotta go get a new toaster oven…

…and a fire extinguisher. See ya!

Oh, okay. That about explains it.

Path Dependency

I’ve always been fascinated to hear how people fall into their line of work. Some, like me, seem to stumble backasswards into what they do. Some people seem to be able to leverage a hobby into a career. Some, like My Better Half, seem to be oriented to a particular path for as long as anyone can remember. He is an academic archaeologist through and through with a voracious appetite for any and every scholarly work in his field. His insatiable quest for anthropological expertise has been around since he was 3, if not sooner, according to collective family memory. And he can’t help but teach no matter where he goes, regardless of whether his students are actually students.

Too bad academic teaching isn’t so much a thing anymore.

When he started this journey, the job market seemed reasonably rosy. He left behind steady work as an archaeologist for a consulting company to go back to school so he could achieve his dream of teaching. And if his dream of teaching at the college level didn’t pan out for some reason, no matter – he could always pan for gold. Or at least go back to being a field archaeologist.

We always knew how competitive any academic job market would be, but we also thought that, unlike some other fields (I’m looking at you museum studies), he could always fall back on his prior career as a practicing archaeologist working for an environmental consulting company.

What happened next is a story that’s all too familiar to anyone who’s been following changes in higher education, or an adjunct boom, or even adjunctivitis, whatever the hell that is. The recession meant alot of things, including a decline in public funding for higher education, trickling down to departments being unable to hire full-time tenure-track professors and increasingly relying on adjuncts to teach. To the extent that now somewhere upwards of 2/3 of those who teach at the college level are only adjuncts or instructors without any possibility of tenure.

What all that means in our household is uncertainty & inertia. The very few full-time instructor or tenure-track jobs that were available were open months ago, when he was still neck deep in writing drafts of chapters. And taking care of a newborn. And the 2 year old. And teaching at the community college. And TAing at the university. And taking care of cooking, cleaning, & yardwork. Now that he’s only knee deep in putting the final chapters together, there are only temporary openings, 1 year appointments, mostly.

No matter. He can fall back on field archaeology until he lands a teaching gig, right? Not exactly. Even in his former career as a field archaeologist, the recession meant that the kinds of projects that triggered the need for archaeological fieldwork collapsed. No new housing developments being built, no major road construction, no new light rail lines, no substantial construction of any kind at all meant that cultural resource management firms shrunk (read: layoffs) or closed, leaving even those in his “backup” career path under- or unemployed and with no clear path. But even if he could find field work, would that work, uh, work for us? A quick look at our bank account says “absof*ckinglutely” but a quick look at our two (very young) kids says “nah uh.” Not at this stage in our lives.

So what’s left? That’s the problem. He worries that he is path dependent. And in the most general sense, of course he is because we all are. The choices we made in the past necessarily influence the present. But his point is that by choosing to get a Ph.D. he has continually winnowed his opportunities down to such a degree that he now stands almost no chance of being seen as anything other than grossly overqualified for anything other than teaching at the college level. Which, if you recall what you’ve been reading since paragraph 2, is about like the odds of scoring a job in journalism. Or law.

Sure, he’s got a steady recurring gig as an adjunct. Which is going great says no one nowhere. Is it any wonder so many Ph.D. students are jumping ship? Sure, if you’re not destined for academia, then is the Ph.D. necessary? Maybe, maybe not (basically: it depends). And while we should not forget that those who have Ph.D.s also are empowered to make choices, what about those who dream of nothing but a shot at the academic career and nothing else? What about those who want to be dependent on that particular path?

In our household, we’ll have to wait and see. Plan A is to abide by the adjunct’s life for the fall semester while Better Half goes on the academic job market (if there is anything in his area to pursue) and see what happens. Plan B? Still not clear. Selling drugs, perhaps?

too smart for her own good

My 2 year old, aka the Toddler Dawdler is very clever.

A little too clever. I give you two case studies:

 

    • Sometimes I sit in the back seat of our car with her and her baby brother to keep either him or her, or sometimes, though rarely both, reasonably calm. However, whenever I don’t feel like sitting back there but she insists, I reply with “I can’t. Sorry! That seat is ALL wet.” “Why is it wet?” “I don’t know, but it just is, so I’d better sit up here because this seat is all dry.” “Yeah, good idea!” This worked without fail. Until the other day. The Dawdler got into the car before any of us. She likes to climb in from the passenger’s side (her carseat is on the driver’s side) and as she climbed across the seat to her carseat, she exclaimed “Mommy! I checked! This seat isn’t wet anymore! You can sit here!” Oh, brother.

 

 

    • She declared at dinner last night “I’m done! I’m going to go wash my hands. And then I’m ready to go get ICE CREAM!” Uh, hon? We aren’t going to get any ice cream. My Better Half echoed the same sentiment and then followed with “But we do need to go to the store to get milk.” Her: “Okay…” “…and ICE CREAM!” Sigh. I take her to the store, and explain as we’re getting out of the car that maybe we can grab some ice cream while we’re at the store but that we are not going to an ice cream shop. We’re walking around grabbing a few things and she impatiently turns to me in the cereal aisle and says “I WANT TO GO GET ICE CREAM!” I repeat that maybe we can get some in the frozen aisle in a few minutes. We get to the frozen aisle, and she makes a bee line for the ice cream. She declares she wants chocolate to which I tell myself OH HELL NO, LADY, I’m not staying up with you til 11:00 tonight. So I shuffle her along to the popsicles and pull out some frozen fruit bars to show her and she says “I wanna HOOOOOOLLLLLD it” which is her way of pissing on something to mark it as hers. We get to the checkout, pay for our items, including the popsicles, and as we’re walking out, she turns to me and says “I want to go get ICE CREAM!” I tell her, “Sweetie, we just got popsicles, that’s what we’re going to have, that’s what you picked out.” Her: “Okay.” Followed a few minutes later by: “but that’s not the same. That’s not ICE CREAM!”

 

She’s a stickler for the truth, that one.

Colbert’s gain, my loss

Breaking news this morning is that Stephen Colbert is leaving Comedy Central to take over CBS’ “Late Show” from David Letterman.

Sigh.

I wish I could get on board with this. After all, America’s funniest comedian is going to get a wider audience, and undoubtedly, boat-loads more cash. So, good for him, I guess.

But I worry that he won’t have the comedic freedom, I wonder whether he’ll remain in character (answered: no, so in and of itself that’s upsetting), and, I guess the biggest elephant in the room is the question of did CBS even consider anyone other than a white man? Jimmy Fallon, Jimmy Kimmel, Conan O’Brien, Craig Ferguson, I mean c’mon now. The only woman in late night is Chelsea Handler, and that’s on E! (though not for long). Sure would be nice to see more diversity in late night comedy.

Look, I love Colbert and will follow him wherever he wants to go. Maybe Comedy Central can set an example and fill Colbert’s void with, I dunno, someone who is perhaps not white and/or not male.

Nananananananana

It has long been clear to both My Better Half™ and me that Batman is the best superhero ever. It’s not even up for debate. I don’t think it ever has been. At this point, it’s been a fact so long that I don’t know the origins of this truth. Did we come to establish it as fact through conversation one night? Or did we each have the same feelings about the pantheon of superheroes prior to meeting one another and discover our similar views one night? No clue. But it doesn’t matter since we know this truth to be self evident.

We have different reasons for believing that Batman is the best. And they’re both equally valid. I think Batman rules because he has a sidekick, Robin. Whether you’re fighting crime or just going about your day, it’s always better to have a sidekick at your, well, y’know. My Better Half™ says it’s because he’s merely a mortal, just a regular guy. He’s not relying on supernatural powers or alien traits to help him in his quest to redeem Gotham from crime & corruption. It’s purely motivation and hard work.

We’ve discussed this many, many times. But only yesterday, when we were talking to the Toddler about superheroes, a topic she is starting to gain some awareness of thanks to daycare friends sporting “Piderman” shirts, did we realize one other thing that fuels Batman. It’s still mostly motivation and hard work.

But also ungodly sums of money. Let’s not forget that. Minor detail.