Category Archives: A (Good) Day’s Work

Microblog Mondays: Silent Women

Q. and I ran a mini-conference at our university last week, a workshop for the people who are writing chapters for the book we’re editing. It was an exhausting three days, with me out of the house each day from 9:15 a.m. until after 10 p.m. (except for an hour around bedtime when I would leave the workshop a little bit early to make sure I could get home in time to see E. and put P. to bed before taking a cab to the dinner location).

It was also invigorating: I spent three days listening to interesting papers and talking to interesting people in a very collegial environment (which is certainly not always the case in academia but Q. and I were quite strategic in who was invited to contribute to the volume, operating on a policy of “how many of our friends or people vouched for by our friends can we get involved”). It was wonderful to remember why I did a PhD in the first place, and to devote some time to the academic part of me. And, let’s face it, the chance to have uninterrupted adult conversation and drink hot tea and eat my own food at my own pace without needing to help someone else with their meal was also most welcome. Most people were exhausted by 4 p.m. because everyone had to attend every panel, unlike at a conference where no one will notice if you skip out on a session or two; I kept telling everyone I felt like I was on holiday.

The workshop was very successful and Q. and I feel confident we’re on track to produce a very interesting volume.

But here’s the thing- in the first morning session, there were seven women present (and nine men).

During that two-and-a-half hour session, three of those women said nothing at all. Three of the women spoke once.

And then there was me, who just wouldn’t shut up.

I found myself thinking about this all through lunch. Yes, I am much more well versed in the project and the literature, even while being on maternity leave, because Q. and I have been talking about the book and thinking about the book for two years now- but that holds true in comparison with the men as well. And yes, I was ridiculously excited to be out of the house using my brain, so I was maybe a little bit overeager to participate and a little bit nervous to establish my status (since the draft of my chapter which I submitted had been underdone given I’ve been on maternity leave and I knew it was underdone, although it looked far more advanced than it actually is when compared with some of the others).

The truth is, I’m always going to have something to say. I trust that my thoughts have value. I’m not intimidated by men, even very senior ones.

I sit at the table, and I speak up.

My sisters are exactly the same way. So at lunch on that first day I texted them, telling them what I’d seen and asking them how we’ve ended up being women who will not be silent.

We didn’t really come up with a clear answer, but we agreed that P. will have three fierce role models as she grows up.

The gender discrepancy in the workshop got better in the later sessions, but it never evened out entirely. I made a point of noticing when a woman had her hand up to speak and was being overlooked and made sure to defer back to her when it was my turn. When a female graduate student was brave enough to ask a question in front of several very senior full professors from overseas universities I made a point of finding her during a break to tell her what a great question it had been. And I made a point of telling Q. and our very good friend O. (who was one of those senior visiting professors) what I’d noticed at the end of the first day so that for the next two days they made a point of doing these things too.

Do you sit at the table and speak up? Do you feel valued by your colleagues when you do?

This post is part of #MicroblogMondays. To read the inaugural post and find out how you can participate, click here.

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Filed under A (Good) Day's Work, Life after the PhD, Microblog Mondays

Unbalanced

Sunday night, I went to bed after 11 p.m., only to get up again ten minutes later when I heard the car in the driveway and knew my mother and stepsister were back from the hospital. I went downstairs to find out how my stepfather was doing and to let them decompress (things can be very hard right now).

I eventually went to bed and fell asleep around 12:45 a.m. The next morning we woke up and got on the road as early as we could (7:45 a.m., which was 45 minutes later than Q. had hoped for and 15 minutes earlier than I thought would be possible) in order to make the long drive back home in front of the worst of the holiday weekend traffic. P., mercifully, slept most of the way instead of screaming like she had on the outward trip, but it still took us 8 hours (same as the previous trip but with two stops instead of six).

Monday night I went to bed around 9:30 p.m. I woke up at 4:15 a.m. to feed P. (she is still sleeping really well at night). Then I went downstairs and pumped.

And then, starting at 5:00 a.m., I marked essays. I marked until E. woke up at 7:15.

I felt like garbage the rest of the day.

Last night I did not get up after feeding P. at 4:30 a.m. I pumped after her morning feed. I did not mark essays. I slept until E. woke me up at 7:30 and as a result I feel like I can function again.

I can’t mark during the day as I get exactly 45 minutes of time to work (after lunch when P. naps in a carrier and E. is watching videos). That is enough to check work email and moderate the discussion forum. It is enough to keep my head above water with the course which is into its concluding week (I had originally planned to actually write a concluding lecture but that is not going to happen). I am only able to type this because P. is nursing.

I don’t want to ask Q. to come home early because he lost his entire week last week coming with me to see my family (where he took over in the kitchen and kept us all fed for the entire week so my mother did not have to worry. I love that man).

I will probably get an hour tonight when Q. takes P. for an evening walk after E. is in bed.

But I think tomorrow I have to get up again after her feed. They won’t get done otherwise.

I am heartsick and grieving, for myself, my stepfather, my mother, my entire family. I had to say goodbye and leave, knowing that I will never see him again.

I was supposed to be there this week with the kids. My mother was going to look after E. while I marked when P. napped. Instead, she has brought my stepfather home from the hospital and will look after him until he dies, and I can do absolutely nothing to help.

We knew teaching the course after P. was born would be a challenge.

We are so close.

There are only a few more days to go.

But this is really hard now.

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Filed under A (Good) Day's Work, Anxiety Overload, Family, Grief, Life after the PhD, Loss

Manic Mondays

This is fairly typical for my Mondays this semester.

6:30 a.m.: Get up. Print various files required for today that I was too tired to print last night by the time I finished prepping the classes.

7:00 a.m.: Feed cats. Dump dishwasher.

7:15 a.m.: Wake up E. Finish making his lunch. Pack backpack.

7:30 a.m.: Make sure E. is out of bed and getting dressed. Make his breakfast and my breakfast. Kiss Q. who is heading out early to get in a swim before work.

7:45 a.m.: Eat breakfast with E. Answer approximately forty-five billion unrelated questions. Wonder how E. manages to consume so much food while talking non-stop.

8:15 a.m.: Upstairs to brush teeth and find socks. Double check backpacks are ready to go. Wrestle E. into outdoor clothing.

8:35 a.m.: Leave house. Walk to school. Tell a story about Elmer the little red diesel engine with yellow stripes while giving drivers the stink eye when they come into stop signs too quickly.

8:50 a.m.: Wave cheerfully at E. as he heads into school, even if he is weeping. Walk at high speed to the subway. Be passed by many pedestrians. Realize high speed is no longer all that fast.

9:45 a.m.: Arrive at first university campus. Photocopy test for evening class. Notice random printout in photocopier room of application for conference travel fund. Notice deadlines do not correspond conveniently with conference in May. Realize only possible deadline is probably tomorrow. Fret.

9:55 a.m.: Set up in office. Await student who is supposed to write a make up exam.

10:02 a.m.: Wonder what has happened to student. Start correcting chapter solutions for language class that evening.

10:53 a.m.: Think about packing up as office hour is over at 11:00 a.m. and there is no sign of student. Have student turn up with a jumbled apology about it taking longer than usual to get to the campus.

12:15 p.m.: Student finishes exam. Pack up bag and leave to catch transport to second campus.

1:00 p.m.: Arrive at second campus. Realize am about to either attack passersby or cry from hunger. Buy ridiculously large platter of Indian food. Retreat to office.

1:15 p.m.: Inhale Indian food while also making PowerPoint presentation for lecture that afternoon. Text from labmonkey: Dad is in surgery getting a pacemaker. Try not to worry.

2:15 p.m.: Finish PowerPoint presentation. Call to book taxi for that evening. Call to reschedule E.’s dental appointment. Take a minute to check email.

2:20 p.m.: Write to supervisor to tell him good news about postdoc.

2:22 p.m.: Have knock on office door. It is supervisor, excited about the email. Accept congratulations. Leave office door open because am now on official office hours.

2:30 p.m.: Answer emails from students regarding upcoming assessment. No students come to office hours.

3:00 p.m.: Have spare moments. Check exam schedule for April. Email sisters to try to coordinate who can travel when in April. Suggest options. Bombard sisters with emails because have a few free moments to think about all the things on the to-do list.

3:40 p.m.: Pack up backpack. Leave office.

4:00 p.m.: Start lecture.

5:10 p.m.: Finish lecture. Shut down technology, field questions from students, put on boots. Walk briskly down to where the taxi should be.

5:17 p.m.: Get in taxi. Text labmonkey to see if Dad is out of surgery. He is and it went well. Text with labmonkey to get update about Dad generally while in taxi. Argue with driver about route. Win argument.

5:58 p.m.: Arrive back at first university campus. Pay driver. Eat snack and use washroom.

6:05 p.m.: Start teaching class.

8:45 p.m.: End class. Shut down technology, field questions from students, put on boots. Walk briskly out to bus stop.

8:51 p.m.: Catch earlier bus. Send triumphant text to Q. Eat apple. Finish book.

9:40 p.m.: Arrive home. Turn on computer and look up conference travel fund application. Confirm that cannot apply for funding once conference has happened. Realize will have to get up tomorrow morning and complete application. Q. offers to drop it off, saving the trip to campus. Reminded again why he is so wonderful.

10:00 p.m.: Go to bed. Set alarm for 6:00 a.m. Snuggle with Q. Try to ignore baby dance party in uterus. Sleep.

 

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Filed under A (Good) Day's Work, Butter scraped over too much bread (a.k.a. modern motherhood), Family, JK, Me? Pregnant?!

This and that

A few bits and pieces as I’ve found myself up at work with no access to an office and not enough time before class to do anything fruitful:

  • My cold is officially a sinus infection. Blech. I am hydrating like crazy and have resorted to sticking my head under a towel over a bowl of boiling water to try to encourage things to clear out. I am not sure if I go to see my GP whether she can do anything to help, but if things don’t improve by the end of the week, I may cave.
  • On my way to work today I got off the subway and Q. was waiting to get on. Nice bonus!
  • Phaselus had a dance party in my uterus last night while I was falling asleep and kicked the crap out of Q.’s hand. S/he was then super quiet when I woke up this morning. I had a (relatively) brief moment of panic that the baby dance party had in fact been extreme flailing and distress from a cord accident or something. Then Phaselus woke up. Clearly I need this referral to the mental health program.
  • Speaking of, they called me yesterday to book my next appointment. I was walking home from school with E. at the time and had no access to my calendar, so I asked if they could call me back and said I’d be home in five minutes. Then nothing. I am going to give them until the end of the day tomorrow and then I will call the general number just to make sure I didn’t slip off someone’s desk.
  • I survived my first two rounds of marking for the semester. My first year class averaged a highish C+ on their mid-term exam, and the third-year class averaged a lowish B on the in-class essay. Both are exactly where I would expect them to be, which was rather pleasing as I had been concerned that a) I had set a much too hard exam for the ickle firsties, and b) I had lost all perspective and patience while grading two-thirds of the upper year class’s assignments on the train coming home on Saturday- the train ended up being over two hours late, and my computer wouldn’t connect to the WiFi, so I had nothing to do but mark. It was a real struggle by the end, but apparently I didn’t take it out on them. Hurrah!
  • I did some digging and some calculating and I think I worked out how much maternity leave I’d be entitled to if I took 10 months off (September 2016 to June 2017). It is a decent chunk of change. Certainly enough that I could rationalize doing this, taking July and August off as unpaid leave and then starting the postdoc in September 2017 when the baby would be almost 15 months old. “I thought you said you would go crazy if you were off for a whole year,” said Q., when I announced this to him last night. “I did,” I said, “but if I take the postdoc, there’s no way I’m putting the baby in full-time daycare at six months old to start in January.” I think if we go this route I would want to look in to getting some casual help from January 2017 onwards to give me a bit of time to work on my own stuff while E. is at school. I also think taking the postdoc depends on Q. agreeing to be at home with the baby one weekday each week (and then he could make up the day on Saturday if he wanted), and me being at home one day and working four official days plus some evenings. I know lots of people do it, but putting a 15 month old in full-time daycare is not something I think I can do. Plus the financial advantages of the postdoc over contract teaching evaporate if a full-time nanny or infant daycare place enter the picture.
  • Six months in, E. still complains bitterly about going to school and how much he misses me. He seems absolutely fine when he is there. We’re getting no reports of behavioural issues and there are even signs he’s making friends. But he is a true homebody introvert at heart and he really would just rather hang out with me.
  • His kindergarten class is participating in the ‘Reading A-Z’ program where they send home leveled readers and once the child has mastered it, the book goes back and another one comes home. We have suspected for a while now that E. is masking how much he can read while at school and this was proved by the level ‘aa’ (I think the very first level) book sent home with him on Monday. E. read it once, then had it memorized, and announced to Q., “Well, it’s a bit simple, isn’t it?” “I hope I will get a more interesting book this time,” he told me as he went in to school this morning to exchange it.
  • I decided to out myself on Facebook today. I am feeling more pregnant than usual in the last few days and just felt it was time. I posted this photo (I did think it would be too subtle, but people picked up on it right away.)
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Filed under A (Good) Day's Work, E.- the fifth year, JK, Me? Pregnant?!

Quiet

Last night I sent the two peopleĀ  most precious to me in all the world through airport security where they would get on a plane and fly the long arc down across the ocean to a sun-burnt country.

They are somewhere over the Pacific right now as I type. I know their flight got into YVR on time, and that they left YVR a bit early. They should touch down at SYD around 6:15 p.m. my time, a little more than 24 hours after I said goodbye.

E. was fine saying goodbye. I think we gave him just enough lead time (one week) that he was able to process through his anxiety about the separation and by the time we got to the airport he was just excited to get on the plane. I picked him up for one last hug and he said, “Mummy, I think we might miss the plane if we do not go through security soon.” All right, kiddo. I get it. You’re ready.

I wasn’t.

My sister, C., came with us so that I did not have to drive back from the airport alone. She ended up doing the driving, as I have a miserable cold that is badly disrupting my sleep and I am not really functioning all that well. Her crazy ‘avoid traffic’ app took us on a convoluted route that did, eventually, as promised, lead us to where we needed to go, and we could chat the whole way and we weren’t stuck in traffic like we would have been on the highway. A successful trip all round.

The house is very quiet. I got out my best stuffed animal, the cougar that has been my most special of friends ever since I was two and a half. I still sleep with him when Q. is away because I have a ridiculously overactive imagination and I can’t cope otherwise. It’s an effort not to put a light on somewhere upstairs when I’m in the bed alone.

I worked out last night that I have never been alone in the house since E. was born. I have spent nights away from E., two full weeks when I went to the UK early in 2013, but I’ve always been the one to be somewhere else. And when Q. has been away, I have been here, with E.

It is strange that this used to be my normal. That we spent two and a half years in this house, just the two of us and the cats, and I would be alone whenever Q. was away. Now the house is so thoroughly permeated with E’s presence, it is hard to believe that he is gone and that I will not be able to hug him again for a month.

It was the right decision. He will have a wonderful time down under. It will be good for him to have so much time with his father, especially since Q. will be doing more of the school pick ups next semester because of my teaching schedule. And I have a lot of work to do, not least because I just picked up a third courseĀ  yesterday (the course director took another job and quit halfway through the year).

And there is a part of me that is looking forward to getting my own breakfasts without having to organize someone else’s first; to be able to take a long shower without having that tiny pulse of anxiety wondering whether maybe this time my child might not be just sitting downstairs quietly reading a book, but might have hurt himself; to be able to make plans for the afternoon that can go past 3:05 p.m.; to make dinners that don’t meet with Q.’s approval (beans and goose sausage wienies, I’m looking at you). And I’m looking forward to going home for the holidays to be able to visit with my family without the added layer of Q. and E., because as much as I love watching my son play with his grandparents and his aunties, it will be nice to be able to have some long conversations.

I might even be really daring and go out and see a movie or two while I’m still at home by myself. With popcorn even!

Q. and I went out for lunch yesterday to have a bit of time together before the flight (lunches with Q. is one of the best results of E. being in school). He was a bit worried that E. might eat too much junk food and watch too much television and go to bed too late while they were away. In general he felt discipline might break down entirely.

“Whatever,” I said. “It’s a month. Let him have fun. As long as he gets enough sleep and eats on a regular basis and doesn’t get a sunburn, who cares about the rest.”

I never stop being a mother. But for the next month, I am no longer responsible for E.

That is weird and freeing in equal measure.

I am going to miss them.

But I am also going to make sure I do not waste this time to myself.

It will likely not come again for a very long time.

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Filed under A (Good) Day's Work, Anxiety Overload, Down Under, E.- the fifth year, What were we thinking? (aka travelling with small children)

Clarity (Part One)

It has been hard for me, this past year.

Hard to be unemployed without paid work (for, as Q. pointed out to me, over and over again, I did have a job, just not one that society values).

I have had a lot of time to sit and think. Probably too much time to sit and think given my natural propensity for thinking/fretting/planning.

I went round and round and round in my head.

My thoughts were a maelstrom.

A vortex.

And then, at last, there was stillness.

I still don’t know what I’m going to be doing this year.

I still don’t know what I’m going to do in the future.

I don’t know whether I will have a ‘job’ or a ‘career’.

But I realized the only thing I really needed to understand in order to be able to move forward.

Absolutely nothing is more important to me right now than having control over my time.

Not salary. Not the type of work. Not the opportunities for promotion.

I do not have to work in an office for eight hours a day.

And I am choosing not to.

I don’t know what’s coming next.

But now I know I’ll recognize the opportunity when it happens.

Because finally, finally, I know what I want.

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Filed under A (Good) Day's Work, Life after the PhD, Who am I really? (Career Angst)

Random thoughts on a summer Thursday

Item: The second week of August is almost over. I am not sure how this happened.

Item: This means that school is less than a month away. REAL school. Five full days a week. We’ve found out that despite having nine other children from his nursery school going to his new school, only one of them is in E’s new class. A new class which is a split JK/SK, which means it could have upwards of thirty kids in it. I am trying not to freak out, but it is hard.

Item: I am freaking out about lunches instead. We are supposed to send two snacks and a lunch daily. Nut-free, but that seems light compared to the restrictions imposed on some of my friends who live in other cities (no homemade items being the most egregious). I am not sure what we will do about protein given a) we cannot send nut butter and b) I’ve found more than one study that suggests an insulated lunch bag and cold packs still doesn’t keep food cold enough to be safe. I am also utterly overwhelmed by the sea of lunch packing options and am trying to strike a balance between getting good stuff and not freaking out at the cost of replacing it if E. loses it all in the first week.

Item: As a result, I have yet to buy any sort of lunch packing equipment. I have a week to sort this out (E. will need a lunch packed for his week of full-day camp run by his nursery school, which we are hoping to use as a transition point to JK).

Item: At no point am I likely to turn into one of those Pinterest bento box mothers who constructs unique, adorable, and nutritiously balanced lunches, all cut into beautiful shapes and designs, each and every day. That way lies madness.

Item: Not that I am complaining, but my child is going to have to stop this “go to bed at 7:30 or 8:00 p.m. and sleep until 8:30 a.m. or later the next morning” phase before school starts. He slept until 9:45 a.m. the other day. School STARTS almost an hour earlier.

Item: Child is also eating like there is no tomorrow, so hopefully this is just a growth spurt and not some new need for thirteen hours of sleep a day.

Item: I had a Skype conversation with my supervisor this week where he wondered about my progress on getting a couple of articles ready to be sent to journals. Answer: none.

Item: The day before, E. spent twenty-five minutes of his hour-long quiet time singing (loudly) “When is quiet time going to be over?” to the tune of “Bumping up and down in my little red wagon”. And my supervisor wonders why I get nothing done.

Item: I heard back from the academic press where I sent my dissertation/book manuscript in March. Two very long, very detailed reader reports. One generally in favour of the book, one more on the fence. Editor wants the book again when I’ve made the revisions and seems very positive about it, so it’s a good result, as the two expert readers have basically given me a road map of what I need to do to make the book better. I could have tinkered with it for months without being able to reach the same conclusions.

Item: Supervisor wonders when I might get the revisions done. “By Christmas?” I laughed. “If I’m still unemployed, maybe.”

Item: I am still unemployed. Still putting out applications, still have irons in the fire, but nothing concrete as of yet. I just applied for a job that would be absolutely perfect- permanent, part-time doing interesting work involving research and writing for a non-profit organization that does a lot of good in the community. See? Perfect. I am just hoping I get an interview with them as I know I could do the job, but my background isn’t quite approaching it from the angle they wanted.

Item: Cycle day eleven today. This cycle’s experiment is apparently “let’s not follow the diet we have been and eat a lot of sugar and dairy products and see if we still ovulate”. Oh the ice cream.

Item: Out of the last seven weekends, we have had grandparents staying with us for six of them. That is too much. E. has forgotten how to play by himself.

Item: I read Station Eleven, The Bone Clocks, and Margaret Atwood’s The Year of the Flood trilogy all in the last month. It turns out that is too much dystopian near-future fiction. I might have to go back to Guy Gavriel Kay for a bit. (I recommend them all most highly, just not all at once.)

Item: The sun is going down noticeably earlier in the evenings now. I’ve realized one of the things I miss most from my pre-kid life is going for long walks on summer evenings after dinner. E. was staying up later earlier in the summer, but he’s too tired at the end of the day to want to go on yet another walk (and I’m not really at a point where I can handle the constant barrage of questions as we walk).

Item: I had to take E.’s balance bike away from him for a week because he twice forgot to stop before rolling out into an intersection. This is a punishment for me as much as it is for him as running errands now takes four times as long.

Item: I had a birthday recently (post to come on that). E. dictated my birthday card to his father. It said: “Dear Mummy, I think you have had a good supper and a wonderful birthday. We’re about to give you lovely presents. I hope you’ve had a lovely birthday. Love, E.” (with his name signed). Heart exploded.

Item: E. is currently shouting the alphabet (alternating in English and French) from his room. There is not much quiet in quiet time these days.

Item: Really though, FOUR is awesome. Loud. But awesome.

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Filed under A (Good) Day's Work, Books, Brave New (School) World, Cycle Madness, E.- the fifth year, Food, JK, Life after the PhD, Who am I really? (Career Angst)