Monday, November 17, 2003

What Have You Done Lately?

On Saturday, I went to a baby shower for an old friend. It was a hip affair. Men were invited, no wishing wells, nothing cutsy whatsoever. Presents included chlorine free diapers and bilingual baby books.

They had an amusing shower game -- find a plastic, naked baby in your cupcake and get a prize. Triumphant guys with babies in their clenched teeth demanded gifts. (Yes, I have a twisted sense of humor.)

After all the presents were opened, the pregnant friend stood up and thanked everyone for coming and bringing thoughtful gifts.

And, she added, "you've all done so much yourselves in the past year. Lane has a new CD out. Tracy finished her oral exams. Nadia has gone back to school to get her Masters. Colby passed the bar exam. Lydia has a book out." She went around the room highlighting everyone's accomplishments. Another guy had a singing gig in Africa. Another bought a house. Still another woman was arguing an important legal case. Then she came to me. "Laura, I would say that you finished your dissertation, but you did that awhile ago." I lamely joked, "that's so 2001."

What have I done lately? I don't have a new degree or publication or art work or promotion or title or tenure or bonus. Nothing tangible to show to the outside world what I've been doing with my time. No plaques or certificates or finished products. Just works in progress.

When I was in graduate school, I went through a series of hurdles. First written exam. Second written exam. Orals. Proposal committee. Dissertation defense. Graduation. I tackled each hurdle, which sucked, but I had that warm feeling of accomplishment after I finished. And everyone got it. There were parties and gifts and balloons.

There's none of those clear cut moments of victory when you're home raising kids. Maybe when you drop them off at the college dorm with a stereo and a stack of books. But until then, there are few definitive victories.

There are only vague goals, like keeping them off crack and away from OTB. And nobody know how much work goes into just keeping them off crack and away from OTB.

Since I'm the Queen of thinking of cool things to say two days later, here's several accomplishments that I should have told my friend:
I successfully changed my 2,000th diaper on Friday.
I raised two kids to ages 4-1/2 and 1-1/2 without losing them in the mall, forgeting them in a car seat, or letting them play with cleaning fluid.
I logged 500 hours transporting my son to and from his pre-school.
I read Good Night Moon for the 1,000th time.
I carried fifty pounds of baby, stroller, and crap up the subway stairs.
I taught a class with two hours of sleep.
I no longer puke when I see someone else puke.
I kept up with the literature.
I prepared 18 lectures for a graduate class during naps.

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