It’s not really working

This whole “let’s share E.’s care between us while Q. keeps his full-time academic position and I finish my PhD” thing.

It did work, mostly, when Q. was on sabbatical.

It did work, mostly, last semester when Q. was on a reduced teaching load.

It is clearly not working this semester now that Q. is on a normal teaching load (albeit the heavier side of normal).

Q. is beyond stressed. It’s not helping that he keeps taking on things. He agreed to be the keynote speaker for a graduate conference at the last minute because they must have had someone cancel on them and they were in a tight spot and he wants to look like a team player if he (or I) is ever looking for another job in the area (Canada’s academic community in our field is small. Reputations get around.). He at some point in the past decided it would be a good idea to rejig his section of a big survey course, which means he has to write new lectures this semester. This, in retrospect, was a very bad idea. He’s got committee work. He’s got page proofs.

He is, I keep thinking, JUST on this side of sanity.

I can think of no better indicator of the seriousness of the situation than the fact that he has become a bit teary talking about it all twice in the last month. This, from a man who I have seen cry exactly three times in the ten years that I’ve known him. Once when his father died, once when we first talked about what would happen when he moved back home three months after we started dating, and once, when we were pregnant with E., when I gave him the “tenure baby” onesie I’d ordered.

Q. is a bottler. He really takes to heart the idea that you just have to “be a man” and get on with things. As a result it is excruciatingly hard to get him to open up and tell me what he is thinking.

I, meanwhile, sit and watch and fret.

I think we will just about manage to get to the end of the semester. Just. Reading week is coming, which will help. When I head over to the UK two weeks before E. and Q. fly (a fact which is causing me some insane anxiety right now, which is another post), my Mum is going to come and stay with them so Q. can tie up his loose ends for the academic year.

I think I have managed to get Q. to agree to me looking after E. one day a week while we are in the UK so he can do his own work. He won’t get any serious research done but it would be some time for admin or course prep. He says that he is planning to just relax and catch up on his sleep. I would love it if he actually did this. I will believe it when I see it.

But we can’t do this again next academic year. Next year I am hoping to finish and defend. Next year I may well have a course directorship that will give me sole responsibility for a fourth-year course.

Q. and I have talked a LOT about this. It is the right thing to do for my CV- go for the course directorship.

It is an insane thing to do from a family perspective. It would make much more sense to try to get a completion scholarship that would get me out of teaching for the year. Or even just TA in a course I’ve done before and put minimal effort into it, like I did this year.

But the job market is so terrible right now, we both know I can’t afford to pass up any chance to improve my CV. And Q. is 100% supportive of my taking the course directorship, if I am offered it (which is a relatively big if at this stage).

So. If I am going to finish next year, and especially if I am going to finish while teaching a new course, I cannot have less than three full days a week to work on the PhD.

And Q., it has become clear to me this semester, cannot function trying to squeeze his full-time job into part-time hours. Even though he’s not doing any research at the moment, the admin and teaching commitments just seem to expand ever outwards.

This is changing how I am thinking about daycare options for E. come September. We are supposed to hear at the end of the month or the start of March whether there is a space for him at the co-op nursery school in our neighbourhood. Originally we were just going to take anything they could give us, even if it was just three mornings, in anticipation of holding his place to go full-time the following year.

But three mornings isn’t going to cut it, especially not if one of those mornings is a duty day where I’m in at the school. And if we’re pregnant and we have a baby in summer 2014, E. won’t be going to full-time nursery school that year because we won’t be able to afford it. We’ll be lucky to be able to keep him in for a couple of mornings so that I can have a bit of one-on-one time with 2.0.

So I’ve come to the conclusion (I have yet to broach all of this with Q.) that I need to find some other options so that if the nursery school cannot offer us three full days (or two full days plus one morning, which is, I think, the minimum we can cope with), we can turn down the place they have for E. and go elsewhere.

Yep. Right after sorting out the major issues for the UK (flights, accommodation there, house/cat sitter here, holiday travelling), I’ve plunged into the world of daycare.

I could probably leave it until we hear from the nursery school, but I’d like to know that there are other options before we say no to them. I’m still really hoping they will have the right space for E. We are first on the waiting list, but it will all depend on what age group they decide he fits into (toddler group or younger preschool group- as a May baby by September he’s right on the line between the two), and what space is available after their current and alumni families have been slotted in, as they get priority.

I don’t know that I want to put E. in a big daycare, not least because I think part-time spaces are few and far between. But the idea of evaluating home daycares is stressful too. And my scholarship ends in August, which means we’ll be facing all of this at a time when our income will have suddenly dropped. We can manage it, but we certainly won’t be able to afford full-time care, even if I were comfortable sending E. to daycare five days a week (which I am most certainly not).

Add to all of this my inner doubts, which are wondering what on earth we are doing thinking about trying for a 2.0 given that will mean I will pop out another baby right after defending, so I will have at least a year with no mat leave and no income at all and no way to ask Q. to help shoulder the burden, since I cannot, will not, ask him to take more time from his job. His mental and physical health simply would not be able to cope. He’s put as much as possible on hold for two years now. If we have a 2.0, I am staying home with him/her. And when 2.0 is a year, we’ll have to revisit the daycare options since even if I’m just doing some contract teaching one or two days a week, Q. can’t be asked to pick up those days.

There are a lot of days I wonder if we’re crazy to even think about a 2.0. Things are still so hectic around here, and Q. is so stressed all the time. Adding a 2.0 would just add at least another two, if not three, years of total chaos. I know I want the family of four. I know I want E. to have a sibling. I know I want the years to come with two of them. But I’m scared of the newborn/infant phase again, because I hated so much of it for so long with E. I wish there was a way to have a 2.0 that didn’t mean JUST when we were getting E. into some care and we both had more time for our jobs we had a second baby, but I am ever mindful of the age gap. If we have a 2.0 when we first go back to the clinic, E. will already be more than three years older. But having a baby right after defending the PhD isn’t great either as it puts a bad gap on the resume at a time when to be competitive you really need to be doing everything you can.

The vast, vast majority of female academics who have children (most are childless) only have one. I’m really starting to see why that happens. The timings just never add up.

1 Comment

Filed under Butter scraped over too much bread (a.k.a. modern motherhood), E.- the second year, Emotions, Family, Second Thoughts

One response to “It’s not really working

  1. Em

    Wow, that all sounds really stressful. I feel tired just reading it. My husband and I are toying with the idea of him going to nurse anesthesia school. It’s a three-year commitment during which he won’t be able to work. We keep weighing different scenarios…even going so far as to consider living with our folks for a while…so stressful. Good luck to you guys as you navigate these logistics.

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