Wednesday, December 31, 2014

out with the old

Happy New Year, internets.  This year has not been a blogging year, but maybe next year will be better.  2014, what happened to you?

We had a crazy, colicky baby who still doesn't sleep but is far more pleasant as an 11-month-old and keeps getting cuter, so I hold out hope that things will continue to become more manageable as well.  Infants are a roller-coaster, and this one was no exception; all of my attention this year was here, and everything else just kinda happened around me. 

I got tenure, and barely noticed at the time in my sleep-deprived insanity.  Now I definitely notice the extra service work.

I taught in an immersion term for the first time and SUCKED at it.  Sucked hard.  I get to do it again in the future, without a four-month-old, so that should be a much better experience. 

I was a co-PI on my first NSF grant, which was a nice win.

I finished a final piece of writing with a research group that I am excited to be free from; especially after this year, I have no time for shitty collaborators and egotistical assholes, and I'm glad that I can be that much more blunt about it now that I have tenure.

2015, I have no significant expectations, which is probably good.  I am not as sad as some might be to be wishing the kiddo's babyhood goodbye.  I hope that this kid figures out sleeping before she turns 2. 

I hope that I figure out work-life balance before I get too far into my Associate Professorhood.  I hope that I figure out what I want out of my sabbatical before I need to apply.  I hope that I manage a successful shift to a new research area using a new instrument, and get some decent publications put together over the next two years. 

I hope that we all have an excellent 2015.

Thursday, August 21, 2014


I have now spent almost three weeks trying to get about six hours of work accomplished, and I have continued to fail.  Partly because life is crazy.  Partly because I have this weird guilt thing about giving the kid to Partner to deal with, since he takes her in the AM so I can sleep.

Related, we have registered for the only (new) daycare available.  They are not open yet, but plan to be soon, but have not provided any additional information.  They do not offer half days, and if we do it full time it will cost us roughly 20% of my (and our only) salary.  If we don't do this daycare, I have to find someone else to watch the kiddo piecemeal, and I have no leads except for finding new students who would hopefully not flake out on us (this is a real concern, as all but one of the students I trusted have graduated).  I have to do something, because even with both of us home with her we get zero things done.  I have no idea what to do about all of this.

I can't believe it's almost September.

Saturday, August 2, 2014

bullets for early August

- Why does a scientific society for a field that almost universally requires its practitioners to spend significant time doing research away from home during the summer require so much of the organization of its fall meeting to occur during July and August?

- It seems like babies who sleep like crap should really get a pass on additional sleep disruption during mobility developments.  Kiddo is starting to roll, and we are sleeping even less.

- I think I will have to pass on the camping trip I normally run for my fall course, and I am both sad about that, kinda relieved, and a little worried about the wrath of the students who were planning to attend.

- We still have no idea how we will deal with the babycare situation this fall, but I am looking forward to having something to do besides entertain a little cranky person. 

Saturday, July 12, 2014

hello the internet

Hey, it's the middle of summer, and life is not less insane.  Surprise! 

The term ended and we spent some serious "no babysitters, no pumping" time in our house, so that I could go to bed earlier.  Then we went to visit my parents on the west coast, which was not as terrible as I expected (flying with baby was ok until another baby sent ours into empathetic crying jags) yet more frustrating (why I continue to be surprised that no one remembers that babies need quiet to sleep, or at least ours does, is a mystery to me), but at least kiddo got to meet her cousin and aunts and uncles.  Then we came home and realized that all that time without a bottle was probably a bad idea, as we now have to get her taking them all over again.

We are trying an occasional "babysharing" arrangement with a few other families this summer, in the hopes that we can continue something similar into the fall since Small Town essentially has zero child care for kids under 3 (not exaggerating, I believe there are a handful of home cares that take 2 babies each and perhaps 8 slots in an actual daycare, so obviously all of these have huge waiting lists).  We now have a 6-month-old who is refusing bottles again, has yet to improve her sleeping, eats every 90 minutes, and really hates being put down for a nap via any method other than nursing, so this is going to be a challenge.  We are working on all of that, and we will see how we are doing by the end of August.

I remain largely a sleep-zombie.

Given all the above, I have pretty much abandoned all hope of doing anything productive this summer.  We have FINALLY received an NSF MRI award this cycle for a grant where I am a PI, so yay for that and hooray in particular for not having to re-write, plus I will have a lot of work to do with the new instrument soon but not quite yet, so I will try to make use of my less insane research time right now to take a break.  I have one research student who will be starting next week on a few things that I hopefully won't need to oversee very often once we go through the initial methods, and then I need to prep for fall, and if all that works out I will call surviving the summer a win once I get to officially change my job title to Associate Professor.

Partner is super busy on house stuff, so I hope to be able to do more of the childcare so he can get more done, as I know he is frustrated by the limited time he has to work.  We need to babyproof over the next few weeks so we can host babyshare (and so that we don't have to do it during the fall term), we are putting in a bathroom/laundry room combo on the first floor where previously there was only a laundry space, and there are always little things that need doing in an old house like this.  We just need to be a little more realistic about how much we can accomplish, even with several months of open time.     

Saturday, May 31, 2014

on babies, teaching and tenure

The past few months have been challenging.  Being back at work has been harder than I anticipated, mostly because of the "no sleep" thing but also because I've been teaching part of an off-campus immersion term.  I was supposed to be in residence for several weeks as the faculty member in charge; this worked ok until the weather got warm, and then we had a baby who wouldn't sleep in the heat (no AC on site) and we had to move back home (it's within commuting distance of our normal campus).  I will say this: kudos to you single moms, I did it mostly on my own for two weeks and it almost broke me.  Apparently the 1-2 extra hours of sleep I get when Partner takes the baby in the morning are really make-or-break.

I am very lucky to have really flexible and understanding colleagues working with me - they were very accepting of stuff I had to miss like field trips and some class days, and they were ok with finding a solution when I couldn't stay on site any more.  I had a very hard time coming to that conclusion, though, and it took a) Partner coming out to see us and observing that I was a total mess and not functioning on my own, and b) a terrible night when it was hot and baby wouldn't sleep and everything was mentally pretty bad for me, before I finally gave in and told my colleagues I couldn't make it work.  I have done such a shitty job in general this term, with my sleep-deprived, no-time-to-prep crappy course, that I didn't want to fail at yet another thing that I said I would do.  But also I am the only female who has ever worked on this program and it's my first time doing it, so part of me really didn't want to fail and fulfill some stereotypical "women are weak and working moms are worse" image.  If anything, I have gotten a lot of "good for you for trying to do this with a baby" comments from everyone, so I have no reason to assume that this is what people were thinking, but being postpartum has made me all anxious and emotional and self-conscious about work-baby balance.

So, we made it through, and now we have a few months before I have to try to be a full-time working mom again, for which I am grateful.  If we can be sleeping by then, I think it will be easier, but I'm afraid to have any hope on that count. 

Also in recent news, I received notification that I am being recommended for TENURE, which is something I hadn't worried too much about lately and yet is still a huge weight lifted.  One of my colleagues on this immersion term was also on my tenure committee, so a little voice in the back of my head has been panicking specifically over his observations of my terrible recent work.  I think he is probably one of the most sympathetic of my colleagues when it comes to work-family balance, so I don't know why I insist on the anxiety, but it was definitely there.

And, as usual, baby sleep is a dominating theme.  We finally have a nap schedule established, or at least a normal awake time between sleeps.  Kiddo is currently messing with me by occasionally sleeping 3 hours at the beginning of the night instead of 2, so at the moment I am waiting for the wake up instead of going to bed, but I have been waiting longer than I expected.  So now I have temporary visions of tonight being the night we do 4 or 5 hours - I should just go to sleep, who knows what could happen!?  And I'm sure I'll see her wiggling any minute now, destroying those dreams.  I really need to figure out how to get dinner/shower/work/pumping done before I put her down, so I can get this longer chunk of sleep too.  

Thursday, April 24, 2014


That whole thing about babies eating your life...was expected, and yet is somehow more intense than we had anticipated. 

Kiddo is doing pretty well, is largely happy and cries for good reasons, but she does NOT sleep.  She had a few weeks at the end of her second month when she did a few 3-5 hour chunks of sleep at night, and then she suddenly went back to 2 hours max and we're still there.  On bad nights she sleeps 30-45 minutes at a time, all night long, and if we're lucky she'll sleep for one 3-hour piece after she first goes down.

Partner has class, and exams, and homework.  I am teaching, but I have a very flexible schedule this term (luckily) and very understanding colleagues.  So I try to do most of the work at night, until I lose my mind, which has happened a few times on bad nights.  Once in a while I am a complete zombie, most of the time I am a semi-functional zombie, and I assume that not every baby sleeps this poorly or nobody would have more than one.

Someday I will blog again about not babies.  I hope that it is soon. 

Tuesday, March 4, 2014

"maternity leave"

Academia is generally a nice place to take maternity leave from a strictly time-scale perspective; one term off isn't a bad deal, and I also appreciated having several weeks off before we had the baby, since late pregnancy is not a fun time to stand a lot or to go out in the snow and ice.  I am very much aware that the US has terrible leave requirements and I am lucky to have so much paid time at home.  Mine has been a little more hectic than it should have been, though.

- My department is hiring a new tenure-line colleague, so I have been participating in phone interviews (sometimes while breastfeeding and trying to keep the kid quiet), dinners (kid was home with dad and I pumped for her), and on-campus events (I skyped in for some of it, which mostly worked but was not ideal).

- I am teaching in an immersion program next term and needed to participate in some weekly meetings (kid comes too) and evening seminars (kid is home with dad), though I didn't start that until several weeks postpartum.

- I am supervising two student projects (mostly email, rare on-campus meetings) and am on a committee that needed me to come in once.  I also have random research/leadership stuff to keep up with via email. 

Some of this was me being too nice (supervising students), and some of it was self-interest (job search) or not wanting to bail on things I had agreed to do and/or worrying about backing out of things as I go up for tenure.  I should probably have been less worried about other people and more worried about my own needs, in hindsight.  It hasn't been terrible, but I could have done without the hectic schedule in February and the amount of time away from kiddo during the terrible screaming evening hours; I have guilt that I took away the magical boobs when they were most needed.  If I had it to do over again, I would do some of this stuff but certainly not all of it.

I have been surprised by the response from my colleagues in some cases.  People in general are pretty supportive, and some of my colleagues have been very flexible and open to me doing what I need to do in terms of missing or moving meetings, bringing the baby, etc.  Others have been surprisingly thoughtless when it comes to making things happen in a way that makes it easy for me to participate, even after having an initial conversation about how my participation would have to occur. 

One mistake I made was assuming that people with young kids of their own would "get" my needs - this has not been the case.  In fact, some of the more supportive and flexible people are childless, and the most frustrating has two kids.  It is probably significant that all of these colleagues are men; I should not have made assumptions about how involved they were in their babies' lives or how their families chose to feed their kids as newborns.  Still, after being fairly specific about what I could and could not do (I thought), I have in some cases had to act in my own best interest and say no. 

Most of this extra work is finished now, but I'm left feeling that I was too accommodating.  I put myself through a lot of hassle, and Partner through some very frustrating time with the baby, when I probably didn't need to do so.  I know that there's never true "time off" in academia, when we can be completely off the radar for months, but if I do this again I will try much harder to get closer to that "I'm unavailable" ideal and stick to it.  I will try harder to be selfish.  And it will help a lot to be tenured.