Sunday, May 5, 2013

being three

Being three must be hard. I try to imagine what's going on in my W's little brain sometimes, and I can see why Mommy's rules make no sense. Why do we have to go sit on the potty even if we don't have to pee? Why can't I yell loudly when I see an older person and it reminds me of Nana? What's wrong with taking E's blueberries if she's not eating them quickly enough? Why can't I go to the park even though you're in a hurry to go to work? A three year old's job is to test limits, go over boundaries, and watch Mommy's reaction to see what's acceptable and what's not. Since most of those limit-crossing experiences are NOT acceptable, it makes sense that W is melting down all the time and appears not to listen. Ever. I know his hearing is fine because in quiet moments, we'll marvel at the fact that we can hear the airplane flying several thousand feet above us (almost imperceptibly so). But at three, hearing Mommy's commands and listening to rules must just be impossible. Like Charles Schultz's parents: "wah wah wah wah, wah wah wah!"

Being the Mommy of a three year old is also hard. I sometimes want to throw my own temper tantrum or set down rules that are more than illogical. Today, for example, we took both kids to the grocery store. Yes, I realize that was a dumb move on our part. When W and E decided it was a good idea to run down the aisles screaming at the top of their lungs, I really just wanted to leave. Leave the cart, walk out the door, get in the car, come home, and put him in time out for several hours while I got a bottle of wine and calmed the fuck down. Obviously, I didn't do that. Hours-long time out is certainly counterproductive and it was only 8:30 a.m. And a Mommy temper tantrum wouldn't work either if I'm trying to model what a reasonable person is. So instead, we rushed through the end of the shopping trip, we came home, and since the storm had passed by the time we unloaded the grocery bags, we mostly let the aisle-screaming episode pass.

We are doing all the things other parents do--time-outs, taking away favorite toys, asking W to use words to express himself instead of randomly hitting his sister or yelling nonsense words at us at the top of his lungs. Baby E (1.5 years old) is not an instigator of these behaviors, but damn it if she's not right in the "imitate everything W does" stage. So if he screams, she screams. If he yells, she yells. If he cries, she often cries. Excellent. Our house is a whole lot of noise these days. As loud and rude as the punk clubs I used to frequent in my 20s, but without all the alcohol and tattoos.

I get that this is all normal three (and sometimes four) year old behavior. I know it's a phase and it will pass like all the other phases. It's kicking my ass, though, and some days it feels like there is not enough wine in the world to ease the stress of a three year old tantrum.

As I typed that last sentence, I heard the pitter patter of his little feet coming down the stairs. He'd just woken up from his afternoon nap. He greeted me with a huge smile and a long sweet hug. I'll keep this three year old after all (though I still want my wine, even though its' only 3:45 in the afternoon).

Friday, May 3, 2013

being a mother on the non-tenure track

I was headed to the library yesterday to do some academic research, and thought I might get a book for myself. So I searched the lib catalog on motherhood and academia because I really could use some comfort and maybe some tips on how to maintain this tricky balance of working and mommying. I found two books, both of which focus solely on the challenges of being a tenure-track mother. One of them explains that yes, there are mothers on the non-tenure track, but for the purposes of their book, they're excluding those women because the issues are different. Ugh.

My first thought: I should try to collect some experiences of full time (or part time--no need to be exclusionary here) mothers who are in academia and publish my own damn book (or edited collection of essays). We're here, too, you know, and we could use the same kind of support that the tenure track mommies need!

My second thought: why is it that non-tenure track experiences seem (especially to the tenured people) so different and alien from the tenured ones? Yes, tenure is a huge deal. I have several friends who've been through it and I see the immense stress and frustration that results from a process that demands tons of work and time and political acumen. But you know what? Being on the non-tenure track has plenty of stresses, too, but they're different ones. And at least in my department, the non-tenure track has grown exponentially (esp. the full time one) while the tenure-track has stagnated. That means that the non-tenure track stresses have essentially multiplied and the tenured ones have more or less stayed the same. Why no love?

I haven't had a chance to read those two books on (tenured) academia and motherhood, but I will. I'll see if there is anything useful to report back in case another non-tenured mommy wanders onto my blog.

I wonder if there are any writings in the medical community about different tracks and women's experiences? I ask because at my institution, it seems that the med and pharmacy schools have a much more accepting and progressive attitude toward teaching faculty. I worked on a committee with a teaching-track (non-tenure track) pharmacy professor who seemed to think that he was treated well and that his practicing pharmacy professor colleagues did not look down on him in any way. He was just seen as doing a different thing than they were doing. This is just not the case in my field, in the humanities. Teaching track (non-tenure track) professors get paid significantly less than tenure-track professors and their work is seen as far less valuable (and far more replaceable) than those on the tenure-track.  Am I mistaken about the medical academic community? Are there different castes, in a sense?

I don't mean to turn this post into a rant about tenure, which I do think is an outdated and unworkable system in many ways. I'm all for maintaining academic freedom (which is really what tenure protects, or should protect), but I would argue that there should simply be two tracks of tenured (or non-tenured) faculty at an institution like mine (R1, major urban university): teaching faculty and research faculty. We should have the same level of respect and the same pay and retirement.

And if that were the case, there would probably be many more books about academia and motherhood and they wouldn't feel so exclusionary.

Anyone want to write an essay about academia and motherhood that isn't exclusively for women on the tenure track? I'm halfway serious about approaching a publisher and seeing what we could do. I'd even include essays on tenured women or tenure-track women to be fully inclusive of the academic experience. I absolutely get that tenure-track motherhood is hard. But so is non-tenure track motherhood (and adjunct instructor motherhood, and grad student TA motherhood, and so on...).