The Big Fail

So. Here is the cold, unvarnished truth about why I am having so much trouble posting on here at the moment.

I feel like a failure on almost every level of my life right now, and I’ve been in such a dark space about it that I haven’t even wanted to type up the words to let them see the light of day. But my blog is my therapy. I don’t have a shrink (although I’m starting to feel like maybe I need one right now). Writing it out helps. So here goes.

1. I failed at having a second child.

2. And I’m failing at accepting this. I have spent the last couple of weeks seriously considering going back to the clinic for one more round of IVF (a Hail Mary pass if you like). With some ground rules: I want to change doctors (I’m done with mine) but stay at my clinic because I can’t handle the thought of moving and starting over. And I don’t want to freeze any late blooming Day 6 blasts. They make it to blast on Day 5, or we discard them.

I have been thinking seriously enough about this to be in contact with friends who have children with big age gaps (because we would be looking at an age gap of very close to 5 years) to get the good, the bad, and the ugly from them. I’m unbelievably conflicted, but there is a significant part of me that really really feels like I need a third IVF to be the deciding factor. One IVF worked. One didn’t. I’m caught in the balance and the uncertainty is eating away at me. Q. is happy to be done, but happy to try again if that’s what I really want. The big stumbling block for me is the money, because I don’t have a job and thus am extra conscious of our level of savings, but I’m starting to hit the point where I don’t actually care about flushing $10,000 down the toilet if it will mean I can walk away with some sense of peace.

3. I’m failing at being an academic. I have the most basic of revisions to do to my dissertation to be able to send it off to a press (well, I don’t think it will be ready, but my supervisor insists this is what I should do, so I bow to his experience) and I can’t bring myself to do them because every time I think about picking up my copy of the dissertation I burst into tears. And I mostly want to apply for a post-doc because that would make it easy to pick E. up from school every day for two years, and that’s not really a very good reason.

4. I’m failing at being a feminist, because it’s become terribly clear to me in the last month that my ongoing freak outs about not having a job are directly linked to the fact that I DO NOT VALUE the job I actually have at the moment- being a stay-at-home mother. Q. values this work. He tells me every.single.time I start worrying that I DO have a job, and a very important one.

But deep down it seems I don’t think it matters. And that’s sad.

5. I’m failing at getting a job. This is largely, I would think, because I can’t apply for 99% of the interesting jobs I see because I’m home full-time with E. (see above, number four). I have exactly five hours a week (if I am efficient at dropping E. off on time) where he’s not with me. Plus an hour of quiet time on the other days. This is not exactly conducive to finding and keeping paid work, but I am freaking out about it nonetheless.

Q. made two points to me on Friday (when all of this bottled-up anxiety finally came spilling out and I spent our Friday night “adult dinner” weeping helplessly at the table until Q. got enough red wine into me that I stopped). The first was: I only finished my PhD about six weeks ago. It might be premature to have expected to have it all sorted out at this point. The second point was: I can’t apply for a job for September now.

I think some part of my brain is still thinking in terms of academia, where you apply for any jobs months and months in advance and then you sit around to see if anyone contacts you. And that’s not the case at all once you’re outside of the university. The plan is for me to get a job for September, when E. will be (if all goes well) in school from 9:oo to 3:00 (or something like that) and I will have enough spare hours to put something together.

I can’t get a September job now, but I seem convinced that I have to.

6. I’m failing at this whole “PhD transition into life outside of academia” because I have no fucking clue what I want to do or what I can do or what I’m really qualified to do other than teach, even though I’ve been reading books and blogs and articles on the subject for a month now. And that makes me feel like I’m failing at being an adult, because I’m 35 and I should have my shit together by now. Plus my two sisters really have their shit together. My youngest sister is making a great name for herself in her field and will be off doing exciting things in exotic destinations this summer. My middle sister is in the midst of contract negotiations for the holy grail of academia- a tenure-stream position at a serious research institution.

I am not jealous of their (very very hard-earned) successes. It’s more that their successes are making my own flounderings ever more apparent (at least to me). I am so badly at sea right now. I hate Skyping with anyone in the family because when they ask what is going on in my life, I don’t feel like I have anything to tell them. E. and I did some stuff? I read a bunch of job ads I can’t apply for? I felt bad about myself again?

Partly it is because it’s winter, and it is dark and grey and cold (although we finally have some snow to go with the cold which makes it fun to be outside with a three almost-four year old). And partly it’s because I’m not getting enough exercise in (despite signing up for a 10K in June to light a fire under my well-insulated butt) because, well, it’s dark and grey and cold and now snowy, and I don’t do well with that if I wasn’t super fit to begin with. I tried running during my five hours a week during the day when E. is at nursery school but freaked out because I didn’t think I was using that time properly.

But mostly it is because I am in a moment of transition and everything, practically everything, in my life is in upheaval right now. And I can look at the situation as an outsider and recognize that this is the case, and recognize that things will get better, and recognize that it is unrealistic insane to think that I would be able to fix all of this in a month or two. And I know that five years from now I probably will have a job that I’m enjoying, and we will have resolved the issue of our family size (one way or another), and I will have made my peace with leaving academia, or will have found a way to stay in it that works for our family.

Right now, though, right here, I’m hurting.

So I’m writing it all down and I’m going to hit publish. Not because I’m trolling for sympathy. Not because I think anyone reading this can fix things.

Writing it down is the first step towards controlling these feelings rather than having them control me.

And I need, badly, to feel like I am in control of something right now.


Filed under A (Good) Day's Work, Anxiety Overload, Butter scraped over too much bread (a.k.a. modern motherhood), Family, Life after the PhD, Lonely Onlies?, Money Matters, Second Thoughts, Who am I really? (Career Angst)

5 responses to “The Big Fail

  1. I’m sorry. You’re not failing, even though it may feel that way. You’re just in transition. You’ve been sooo busy and goal oriented in the past that it’s probably a shock to the system. Fingers crossed that the perfect job arrived before September.

    I’m glad your hubby is on board with whatever you choose as far as more treatment goes. Xx

  2. I see echoes of my own life and thinking in so many of these, but particularly number 4. That one is so very hard for me, too. I feel so much of the time that I’m not really doing anything at all, and yet I am simultaneously so very worn out. How is that possible? Oh, right. Because I am doing quite a lot of things, it’s just that the world tells me none of them are important enough to matter, so I somehow manage to forget that I’m working two jobs plus doing serious mothering every other minute (including plenty of minutes I need to be simultaneously spending on those jobs, which is impossible). Somehow, in the very necessary process of defining “mother” in such a way that mothers working full time paid jobs weren’t discounted, it seems to me we lost track of the idea that being with children all the time is 1) a hell of a lot of work, and 2) valuable. Maybe that’s partly because recognizing those things would require rethinking how childcare workers are treated? Maybe because liberal feminism is focused on capitalism? I don’t know, but I know I find myself in tears over the cognitive dissonance of it all, regularly.

    Nothing about you seems like a failure to me, for what it’s worth. In fact, I’m quite intimidated by how much you achieve, in academia and mothering, both.

  3. That’s it, my dear- I’m coming to visit you. I have so much I want to say, but I’d rather say it in person, where I can give you a hug, too. Check your FB messages. 🙂

  4. You are not a failure. I think academia can be absolutely brutal to women, and especially to mothers. Everything – even your sisters’ lives and careers – looks different from the inside. I feel much the same way about my dissertation and job prospects as you do… I don’t really know why, but defending felt like a defeat rather than an achievement. Transitions are really hard. I hear you.

  5. I get it. I so so so get it. But what you’re feeling? They’re all feelings. We have to not let emotions take over facts in our minds. I’ve learned this the hard way over the past couple of months. Ended up with a bout of IBS, most likely due to stress, to bottling up emotions and letting them rule. Don’t let this happen to you!

    I think let’s start with the things you can control. The IVF? I honestly think you should do it. First I think you can try to let go of your concerns over the age gap. I have done this in the past couple of weeks — stopped caring about it and feeling like we’re under the gun to have another. And it feels so good. It feels like it’s more likely to happen this way. Second…if you do it, can you do PGD?

    Regarding the career…I think so many women feel like being home is not enough (myself included; if I didn’t have my freelance work I’d go insane), and it is ok. And it’s also ok not to know exactly what you want to do at every stage of your life. What if you let yourself luxuriate in having some time to think about it and assess your opportunities? And then what if you focus on other things, distractions (exercise, great books), while you’re figuring it out?

    Just some suggestions. I really do get it and it really is going to be ok. These feelings are not forever. Promise.

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