Sunday, November 30, 2003

Museums Sans Kids

On Sunday, I went to the Metropolitan Museum of Art by myself. I really wanted to see the exhibit on Romanticism without the kids. I wanted to read the signs and really look at a couple of paintings.

Steve and I take the kids to the museum from time to time. We're trying to teach them how to look at art and not to run from one end of a gallery to the other. We're trying to slowly civilize our savages. They're still pretty young, so we're just trying to get them used to the museum climate. Ian's only 1-1/2 and is pretty content to hang out in the backpack for a while. At four, Jonah can be guided.

Following the lead of some artists in the neighborhood, we've put up posters of Picasso along with old French pictures of ocean liners in their room.

At the Met, the statues in the Greek and Roman room are a good place for kids. They're massive and powerful, which Jonah likes. He also likes the still pool of water around the Temple of Dendur where he let him chuck pennies. Though Steve and I can't study things in depth, we just like being in a beautiful place like the Met. It beats taking the kids to the mall.

As much fun as it to educate the youth, it is still good to go on your own when given the chance, like I did on Sunday.

I took a class on 19th century art in college. It was one of those last minute, random decision classes that turns out to be great. The professor showed slides of Ingres, David, Gericault that have been burned into my head. I also remember she had a thing for feet. "Ah, yes. Nobody does a foot like David. Look at this close up the big toe. Amazing."

Romanticism was a movement in England and France in the mid 1880s. It was in response to the classicism movement which focused on Greek and Roman history. The Romantics were more interested in the exotic, tragic death of commoners, and in idealized pastoral life. Lots of dead women with dark skin and robes half fallen off.

The first painting is a full size replica of Gericault's The Raft of the Medusa. The original is at the Louvre (also reproduced on a Pogues album). Even the replica was amazing.

Other favorites in this exhibit:

The Execution of Lady Jane Grey, 1833, Paul Delaroche (French, 1791–1856)

Greece on the Ruins of Missolonghi, 1826 Eugène Delacroix (French, 1798–1863)

Calais Sands, Low Water, Poissards Collecting Bait, 1830, Joseph Mallord William Turner (British, 1776–1837)

Forget the mournful saints in the el Greco exhibit. Go see the dead dark women.


Friday, November 28, 2003

The Academic Artist

Crooked Timber, the Invisible Adjunct, Dan Drezner, and myself have been discussing the recent Academe article which highlights the difficulty that women with kids face when getting tenure.

Dan asks whether there are other professions that have similar obstacles to success. Lawyers and doctors also have to attend professional schools with several years of menial apprenships before attaining job security. But they are far more likely to get high paying careers that compensate for their years of toil.

The AMA has done a far better job protecting doctors from flooding the markets. Paul Starr's book Social Transformation of American Medicine relates how the AMA purposely regulates the numbers entering medical school in order to keep the demand for doctors high and thus guarenteeing them higher salaries. Academics should learn from their example.

Also, the medical profession is better about giving time off for women doctors. It's possible to take five or seven years off, and still find work because a medical license doesn't expire. For women with children who choose to work, a doctor's salary more than covers the costs of childcare.

Actually I think a better comparison is to a professional musician. My cousin, Jeff, is a classical cellist. He practices six to eight hours a day, works low paying gigs around the city, and has a small chance of getting a full time job in an orchestra. This is all complicated by the fact that he is marrying another cellist.

Jeff knew what he was getting into. Life after school and job prospects are openly discussed in his program and amongst other students. He decided that his love of music was more important that a family or stability. That openness should also exist in academia. I think every freshman entering graduate school should have full disclosure about their chances of finishing and finding work.

On Wednesday, I put forward some solutions for women academics and the biological clock. Arlie Hochschild argued in a book chapter entitled "Inside the Clockwork of Male Careers" for a part time tenure tack position. Any tenure-track faculty member with caregiving responsibilities for children, elderly or ill family members, or partners could, with sufficient notice, request that he or she be placed on half-time status for a period of from one to 12 years. Workload, including teaching, research, advising, and committee work, would also decline by one half. Benefits and advancement would be reduced proportionally during the period of half-time status, and the tenure clock would run at half-speed as well.

Yet another solution comes from a lovely e-mail from Allison Kaplan Sommers. Allison points to a couple of women academics who are supported by at home husbands, including mamamusings. Allison wonders how many high status women marry guys who want to stay at home. (Stay at home dads is a huge topic, which I'll tackle another day.)

Or we can just move on. Find another line of work. After a while of shaking your fist at an institution that doesn't listen, at some point you have to just say "fuck it" and do something else. Not just women with kids, but all the other good folks out there who couldn't land a tenure track job.

Several academic bloggers are working on the something else. What do you do with a PhD? Is there life after the dissertation? I think yes. (to be continued at a later date)

On this Thanksgiving weekend, it's more appropriate to count our blessings than to complain and gripe. Though my career plans may have hit some speed bumps in recent years, in all other areas of my life, I've been very fortunate. And for that, I'm truly grateful.


Wednesday, November 26, 2003

Monks and Debutantes

Crooked Timber has two more good posts on the academic life. Chris Bertram writes about the impact that extended time in graduate school has on the life of professors. He notes that most professors don't get their first job until their 30s, which is much later than it used to be. This, of course, has a huge impact on women who want to have kids around that time. It also means that professors will less time to put aside a decent pension for when they retire.

Also, the increased transience of professors and relatively poor compensation means that it is increasingly hard to be an academic and a parent. My father the professor who raised three kids in a suburban community is becoming rarer and rarer. There are only two types of academics that can endure these hardships: singles who are wedded to their books and married academics who are supported by high earning spouses.

Singles can travel around the country without worrying about a spouse finding a position in rural Alabama. They don't have the pressure of buying diapers and formula. They take their meager pay and live on ramen noodles and beer.

Married academics who have high earning spouses may not have the flexibility to relocate, but they can afford to take low pay positions without pensions. Their spouses support the academic habit, much like other wealthy women are given boutiques to keep occupied. They like having a smart trophy wife/husband.

The academic lifestyle is going to squeeze out all other individuals, leaving only monks and debutantes.

Gobble. Gobble.

This afternoon, I'm taking the kids to see the Macy's Thanksgiving balloons get blown up. Tonight, we're making sweet potato pie and cranberry sauce for Thanksgiving at my Aunt's. I'm going to be able to squeeze out a couple posts this morning, but that might be it until Friday. I'm definitely blogging on Friday because I'm on a roll, and I can't be stopped.

Mamo's Grandmother's Cranberry Sauce (Steve's Great-Grandmother)

1 quart raw cranberries (with a some unripened ones)
1 1/2 cups boiling water (in large saucepan)
2 cups of white sugar
juice of 1/2 lemon

1. Rinse cranberries in strainer and sort out over-ripe berries and stems.
2. Add to boiling water and cook for 20 minutes or until berries are soft.
3. Strain fruit of the cranberries through a collander or food mill into a bowl, pushing the fruit through the holes, leaving the skin in the collander.
4. Return the sauce to the saucepan and add 2 cups sugar. Boil for 5 minutes, adding the juice of 1/2 lemon during this time. Skim off white foam as it boils.
5. Test the liquid jelly on a cold saucer (chilled in freezer) to see if it looks like it will jell, before pouring into clean jars. Sometimes it must cool a bit longer.
6. After poured into containers and cooled a bit, keep in refrigerator. Will keep a long time.


Tuesday, November 25, 2003

Toddlers and Academia, Part Two

Almost two years ago, I interviewed for a tenure track position in political science. It was my dream job: right in my subject area, three-three course schedule, not excessive tenure demands, and in NYC, teaching smart, first generation college students. I wanted it.

On the day of the interview, I was eight months pregnant and at that stage when the bellybutton pops out and you waddle, rather than walk. The interview started out fine. But as the day went on, I realized that by that fall I would have to teach three new classes and breast feed a two month old baby and worry about the three year old. The university did not have a childcare service, and would not let me have a lighter load that first semester. The more I was told about the tenure requirements, I knew there was no way I could do it all.

Instead I decided to work part-time basically for free, so I could keep putting things on the resume. I would like to work full time in a couple years, though I fear this is completely unrealistic.

Clearly I'm not alone in finding a full time position incompatible with raising kids. Keiran quotes a recent report that finds that: Twelve to fourteen years out from the Ph.D., 62 percent of tenured women in the humanities and social sciences and 50 percent of those in the sciences do not have children in the household. By contrast, only 39 percent of tenured men in social sciences and humanities and 30 percent of those in the sciences do not have children in the household …

I have worried privately with the Invisible Adjunct that we are the only ones out there who have been forced to adjunct because of our family responsibilities. The authors of the report write: Virtually every four-year institution is supported in part by a cadre of mothers in non-ladder-rank positions. More and more they are teaching the undergraduate classes, and their temporary name cards can be found on office doors throughout the academy. I guess we're not alone here either.

Private industry is much more accomodating of women with kids than the university. Larger companies have child care centers, allow women to work part time for several years, have paternity leave, and have flex time. Companies are ranked by their accomodation for parents by magazines like Working Women.

If you have kids in your thirties and you work for a bank, you already have years of experience and senority under your belt, which buys you a lot of flexibility. In academia, though you've been toiling for years in graduate school, you're not considered working until you get your first job in your thirties.

Suprisingly, I haven't heard this issues discussed in the university. Instead,women academics form panels about the detrimental "self-labeling" that occurs when you enter a woman's bathroom with a figure with a dress. Because the label on a women's bathroom is a much more pressing issue than raising children. Idiots.


1. One commenter at Crooked Timber suggests that those without children should compensate. While I agree, this does lead to much resentment by the childless (also me 10/28).

2. The Invisible Adjunct and others have advocated for a different line of workers at universities. (me 9/3) One with more respect and higher salaries than adjuncts, but with less responsibility and pay than a full time tenure track professor.

I would love such a position. With two kids and a husband with a career, I couldn’t handle a tenure track position right now. But I could manage a position with a little less responsibility and one that would enable me to transition into a tenure track job in a few years.

Call it a mommy track if you must, even though I hate that term.

3. The report that Kiernan cites from Academe has other solution somewhat along those lines. Adjuncts and lecturers should have full benefits, including family leave benefits. Employment should be secured by long-term contracts after an appropriate period. Non-ladder-rank faculty should be eligible to participate in departmental affairs, and should have their research and publication efforts recognized. Departments should adhere to regularized standards of appointment, review, and retention.

This is a crisis, people. Universities need women. They need women and men with children. Having kids has shifted my intellectual perspective on a range of issues, and, I believe, has made me a better scholar.

And society needs children. If the barriers to work and children are too high, women are going to just stop reproducing. What will society look like without a next generation? Just look at North Dakota or up-state New York to have a clue.

Update: Go to the Invisible Adjunct for comments or to Crooked Timber.

Academia and Toddlers

There is a great discussion going on at Crooked Timber about toddlers and academia. See the report they cite on the effect of children on academic careers.

I have to put off commenting until this afternoon, because my toddler isn't taking his morning nap. But expect a long winded, rambling rant.


Monday, November 24, 2003

I'm a Loser, Baby

On Sunday night, Steve's crappy Compaq bit the dust. Windows wouldn't load, and after several attempts to find a backdoor in, it became clear that the whole thing had to be reformatted.

We should have backed things up ages ago. I mean it was probably a bad sign when the computer kept crashing. Perhaps a virus, guys?

Should have been a red flag when the computer would very softly and very quickly would say "loser" from time to time. Yeah, the computer called us "loser", and we just kept doing what we were doing without really stopping to think that such an event was unusual or even insulting. I just kept on blogging, and Steve kept on playing his silly war simulation games, until the virus destroyed years worth of Quicken data, e-mail addresses, and all sorts of notes and pictures.

Got to wonder what all those years of graduate school did to our self esteem.

Question of the Day

I must interrupt preparing my lecture on the teachers unions to throw out a pressing question of the day.

If your highly evolved husband/partner does the laundry without complaint or pressure, do you tell him that bras don't go in the dryer? By correcting him, it could dampen his enthusiasm and make you look like a micro-manager. On the other hand, dryers wreck havoc on underwires and straps.

OK, back to serious business.

Things to Read

Do academics dress like a crumpled up brown paper bag or like circus ponies?

What are the Do's and Don'ts of what to say to a perspective birth mother?

What Greats don't you get, though everyone else seems to, making you feel like a backwater rube?

Will Bloom County still be funny? Will Breathed bring back Bill the Cat? Ack!


Sunday, November 23, 2003

Midtown Meanderings

It has been freakishly warm in the city for the past few days. I mean its November, right? We're supposed to be waist deep in brown slush and confined to trading playdates in little apartments. Instead, we've been frolicking in the sun at the playground.

On Sunday, we took the kids to Midtown. The D train left us off at Rockerfeller Center. The lobby has amazing murals from the 30s and is a Deco classic. We couldn't gaze for too long, because Jonah spotted the skaters, who required attention.

The tree is up, but is covered with scaffolding. Even though, I've lived in the city for 15 years, I never bothered watching the lights being turned on. Not my bag. I might have to take the kids this year, because corny stuff becomes amazing when you watch your kid's eyes light up.

Then we went to St. Patrick's for mass. Our patented method for keeping two boys in the pew - show up late and with a bucket of snacks.

You would never know that the Church has had a tough few years. It was standing room only. Lots of Irish and Italians from the outer boroughs who came in to hear angels sing, instead of the fat lady warbling Gift of Finest Wheat.

St. Patrick's holds a special place in the hearts of working class Catholics. The wealthy go to Jacky O's old church on Park Avenue, but the commoners go here. My Italian relatives from the Bronx call it endearingly, St. Pat's, like an old drinking buddy.

After mass, we walked up Fifth Avenue to the Central Park zoo, which is just perfect for little kids. Just the show-offy animals like the seals and monkeys. No sleepers or hiders. No two-toed sloths. And it's small enough for little legs to go about on their own steam. I love it because it's beautifully designed and landscaped.

Later, we climbed huge granite rocks in Central Park and checked out the new Time Warner building in Columbus Circle.

Sunday recharged my batteries. I saw some new things, saw some old things through new eyes, and had a good walk about. Just what the doctor ordered.

(sorry if there are major typos or this post is too long and boring. Blame it on mucho seriouso computer problems, and no time to edit.)


Friday, November 21, 2003

Things to Read

Drezner slaps Lileks who slaps Salam Pax. It's a good fight.

Head Hunters

I feel better today. I'm still clogged, but at least I can operate heavy machinery.

I spent some time surfing the economic blogs yesterday. I'm very curious how the new jump in numbers are going to translate into real life.

My friends who are unemployed are still unemployed. And another parent from my kid's preschool lost his job last week. But on the up side, my husband has been getting a lot of calls form head hunters.

Head hunters are facinating. They somehow have located my husband and call him up with job opportunities from other firms. He finds out what other firms would pay him, and then he lets his boss know about it. His boss then uses those numbers as leverage with his superiors to bargain for more compensation for Steve and the others.

Head hunters insure that salaries stay about the same across the different firms. They provide gossip about the conditions at other firms. They come to the employee and entice him away with offers a better deal. They're little parasites on the system, which makes it move more efficiently.

Head hunters are also like the first birds of spring, promising better weather ahead. [mixed metaphor apology] If they are out and about, that must mean that jobs are coming.

This world is so foreign to Steve and myself who spent so many years in academia. You mean, you can bargain for your salary? There are other jobs to apply for? People come to you with job offers?


Thursday, November 20, 2003


Only a quick post today. I took a sinus decongestant that my husband pushed on me, and I'm in la-la land.

How do you watch children when you're sick and drugged? Away from the prying eyes of Child Protective Services.

Yeah, they'll probably watch a lot of TV today, but still I won't be able to take care of myself like I need to. I really, really want to get into bed and read my New Yorker and sleep for 24 hours. I tried to do that this morning for about twenty minutes. I ignored the kids jumping around next to me on the bed, and closed my eyes. Of course, I ended up with a foot in my mouth.

There is no balancing the needs of parents and children. No compromise. No 50/50 balance. I can't put off feeding and diapering the kids, just because I feel like crap. Kids' needs win.


Wednesday, November 19, 2003

Three Sikhs Day

Tuesday started with three cheery Sikhs in crimson turbans attaching enormous hooks onto the edge of our roof. Then ropes and pulleys and a platform were hoisted up. It was all so primitive. The hooks were cartoonishly large. And the ropes unusually thick.

I think that if I were to hang six flights about the pavement, I would like to have something more high tech. Something with digital read outs and back up systems. Something more advanced than a hook to keep me from splatting on the sidewalk.

From my living room window, I watched the three Sikhs fix the mortar between the bricks on the top floor across the courtyard. And they watched me, I'm sure, attend to the various chores of the day. Only New Yorkers feel comforted by having total strangers watch them throughout the day.

The weird day continued. I came home from picking up Jonah from preschool and read about the Jackson saga.

Michael Jackson's Neverland Ranch swarmed with cops looking for creepy evidence. That whole business is completely depressing. Jackson seems so completely unhinged and wacked out, that you just know that it's all going to end very, very badly. Like a swan dive off the Hoover Dam. Koolaid for the chimp.

When Angela came over for her regular Tuesday afternoon babysitting, she asked to speak to me in the kitchen. Oh, no, she wants a raise. Instead, she surprised me by valiantly offering to watch the kids for free one evening, because she thought I really needed to get out. Being a hopeless sap, I started to cry and flew out of the apartment to avoid further embarrassment.

In exchange for her sweet offer, I finished reading her husband's dissertation chapter. He's a graduate student at an Ivy League university, but his advisors are too busy to read his work. He doesn't know if his work is acceptable or if he's going in the right direction, and has been toiling at this for years. So, I read it and gave him some comments in the Starbucks on 181st Street.

I usually feel like I've used up my good will after 1-1/2 hour in a coffee shop, so I left without a destination. Too soon to go back home. So, I wandered the streets and the park in the misty rain.

At 4:00, I decided to head back home. Two laps around the park was enough. The Sikhs warmly greeted me. Their mustache curled up like two extra smiles. I hope their work keeps them here for a while.


Tuesday, November 18, 2003

Reader Mail!!

Allison takes me to task for my ill treatment of old hubby (blog 11/7 and 11/10):

I know weekend = family time, togetherness, etc. -- but your husband is stating a need -- to relax some on the weekends -- and you should try to help him out. And it's so much better when you can relax WITH him and not totally resent it.

She suggests getting a regular sitter on the weekend. Or a sitter on Friday, so that I don't go into the weekend so whooped.

I know, I know, all this stuff costs money. But I always say -- in regard to this, and in regard to getting someone in to clean the place so you don't fight over chores -- divorce is a hell of a lot more expensive. You need to invest a bit of money to stay married and stay sane during the baby and toddler years -- things will get easier as they get older.

Yes, you're right. Hubby needs down time. We both do. But when? How? We're barely managing work and kids. Leisure time might just kill us. I guess we could throw money at the problem and give Angela, our child-bride babysitter, a few more hours. A babysitter: $10 an hour. Dinner for two: $50. Subway: $8. Keeping one's marbles: priceless.

Viva La Revolution

David Brooks writes a funny op-ed in the Times about my favorite fashion magazine, Lucky.

Lucky is different from other fashions mags, because the models smile, Brooks explains, rather than pout or snarl.

In some of the photo spreads there will be groups of models staring despondently into space, looking like Sylvia Plath and the Methadone Sisters. Other models will be done up like psychologically damaged Lolitas, their lips pouting and ready for depressed sex. Still others glare out at the camera clad in, say, Ungaro, wearing the fierce expression Lorena Bobbitt must have adopted moments before she gave her husband that extreme circumcision.

It's all about elitism of the old school fashion rags. The authoritarian editors proclaim what's in from above. And you probably can't afford it.

In contrast, Lucky is much more democratic.

But in the world of Lucky, there is no beau monde. There is no fashion hierarchy. There are no authority figures, nor any social elite (that's why there are no celebrities). There's just the happiness of the local mall.

I used to poo-poo Lucky. I mean it calls itself the magazine about shopping. And any good New Yorker has a strong elitist streak. New Yorkers love being in the know, being the first to drink Cosmopolitans, skipping dinner so that they can afford a good pair of shoes, favoring scowling over smiling. Malls? That's for those commoners out in the provinces.

But Lucky is cool. They love clothes, rather than designers. Their fashion spreads feature frocks from Target and scarves from Old Navy mixed with more expensive items. The magazine contain pictures of their loyal readers proudly displaying shoes that they won in a contest. Nothing dark or artsy about it. Just joyous materialism. Yay, shoes!

I haven't forked over $12 for a year subscription yet. I'm not sure that I want the mail carrier to see it. But I love buying a copy from the Indian newspaper guy as a guilty pleasure when I have a sore throat or when I feel like I'm slipping towards frumpy housewife or serious professor.

But thanks to Brooks, maybe I can order that subscription without shame. After all, I'll be furthering democratic fashion revolution.

Tuesday is Reader Mail Day!

From Amy comes a good compare/contrast of I Don't Know How She Does It and The Nanny Diaries: A Novel. (see blog 11/12)

In the "Nanny Diaries", the employer is a non-working mother whose "career" consists of lunching, going to meetings, and supervising the work of her domestics. She manages to make this a full-time job. The big-shot father of the family is both physically and emotionally absent. The nanny tries to do her best for the child, and suffers for it.

In "I Don't Know How She Does It", the nanny is a much more shadowy character. The mother overpays her and resents her (just as she resents her husband), but ultimately the reader figures out that neither the nanny nor the husband is what the heroine thinks. The heroine sees the nanny as judgmental and domineering, but it's mostly just her own mother-guilt and projection. Similarly, she sees her husband as weak and useless around the house. In reality, she's a hard-driving workaholic executive, and he's the one who's nurturing the kids while she's away on business trips. At least that's what I took away from it.

Neither book paints a terribly attractive picture of the women who employ nannies.  Really interesting. (Toni, care to add a comment from the nanny perspective?)

Amy also says,

I suspect that Betty Friedan's portrait of the 1950s housewife only holds true for a particular geographical area and class.

Absolutely.  It is definitely from an upper middle class perspective.  My mom always said about Friedan, "What does she know about washing socks? She never washed a sock in her life."  The Feminine Mystique was definitely aimed at a certain audience.  Still, it makes for a fun read, and it had a huge impact at the time. 

Boy and Boots

I've just been reading Gawker. Makes me want to write about Rosie O'Donnell's play (go see it for Boy's sake) and those awful Ug boots that everyone's wearing.

Sadly, I'm not so hip anymore.


Monday, November 17, 2003

Things to Read

An article from the Washington Post on blogging cliques. It mentions some interesting literary blogs like Bookslut, Maud Newton , and Old Hag. (via Instapundit)

The New York Times looks at Gawker Media, which publishes several blogs including Gawker and Fleshbot. The CEO is making a little money selling ad space on his blogs. The article discusses his plan to slowly make blogging more profitable.

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.

The "Should" Squad

From Kieran Healy at Crooked Timber, comes this quote from an interview with Roberta Combs, president of the Christian Coalition of America, full-time Washington lobbyist and mother:

Interviewer: Would you like to see American products like television shows flourish in Baghdad as well?
Combs: Oh, no. I hope they don't show "The Osbournes" over there. Shows like that wouldn't exist if mothers stayed home with their kids and supervised what they watched.
Interviewer: But you yourself are a working mother. Do you think you could have been happy as a full-time housewife?
Combs: Probably not. Probably it would not have been enough for me. I always had a desire to make a difference. That is why I love the legislative process, where you can make a difference.

Kieran says that Combs does not practice what she preaches. (The same criticisms have been made about Phyllis Schlafly in the past.) Josh Chafetz at Oxblog thinks that you can argue both that staying home with the kids might be better for the kids, but working might be better for the parents. Perhaps balancing needs is best for everyone.

Maybe Combs's husband stays at home with the kids or a grandmother is around to provide the role of TV supervisor. Who knows?

I just want to comment on the "shoulds". Ever since I had kids, there seems to be a long line of people telling me one of two things: I should work or else I'll waste my education, all chances at sanity, and the kids will be completely happy at daycare for 60 hours a week. Or I should stay at home or else my kids will end up mildly retarded and homicidal, and I'll also love it.

It is troubling that Combs seems to be adding a third "should". You should stay home with your children for their good, but you'll be bored as hell and not make a difference in the world.

Pisses me off. I'm trying to find my own balance of work and family. One that doesn't neglect the kids or my own interests. I haven't quite figured it out yet, but I'm working on it, and I don't want outsiders of any political stripe telling me how to do it and implying that it is all so simple.


Friday, November 14, 2003

Things to Read

The unpopular kid in the playground. Allison Kaplan Sommers writes how Israel might react to anti-Semitism in Europe. I worry that it's a vicious circle. As more people tell you that you are not nice, the less nice you get. Just like the unpopular kid in high school, you say, "Screw it, screw even trying to behave, because no matter WHAT I do, nobody's going to like me or support me, so what the hell..."

Two posts on the power that students have over faculty. Erin O'Connor writes about faculty on guard against accusations by students of insensitive speech. The Invisible Adjunct questions the validity and use of student evaluations.

Hysterical posts on the Wiggles. Being Daddy reports that the band has split due to "both personal and artistic differences." Also, Wiggles blamed for a rash of pregnant moms.


Thursday, November 13, 2003

Stove Top? I'm Stayin'

In the December issue of The Atlantic Monthly (not yet on line), Margaret Talbot reviews the new movie, The Stepford Wives.

The Stepford Wives was first a novel by Ira Levin written back the early 1970s. Brief plot -- disgruntled husbands revolt against liberated wives by replacing them with robots who clean the house, mind the children, fix the food, and service hubby without complaint or comment.

Talbot found the movie dated. She thinks the husband revolt isn't a real threat anymore. (I'll come back to this point another day.)

Talbot says that the real threat to women today is the perfect parenting movement. Women then didn't have parenting responsibilities that they do today. Or the food hang ups. She describes a scene in the 1975 movie version of the book:

She makes coffee for her husband, but it's instant (this is the seventies, after all, an era ignorant of the unyielding foodie standards to come): a couple of spoonfuls of those glittering crystals and he's good to go. This was a time when a bubbling tuna casserole and some Toll House cookies could make one a domestic paragon.

Every morning in the midst of the hubbub to get Steve off to work and put Jonah on the school bus and feed Ian Rice Krispies, I have to take the time to grind the Columbian beans that have been carefully stored in the freezer. And carefully measure the scoops into the Braun coffee machine.

Remember Minute Rice? Hamburger Helper? Miracle Whip? Bisquit? Pillsbury muffins? The peanut butter and jelly all swirled together in the same jar? All moldering in a food museum in Akron.

One day last year, suffering from serious sleep deprivation from nursing a new born, I went to the frozen food aisle of the neighborhood grocery looking for something to full our bellies. Ah, Tater Tots. Just the thing. Just then my friend, Sally, turned the corner. She looked at the bag of frozen, fried cardboard in my hand with horror. Nailed!

For tonight's dinner, I cut up seven or eight tiny yellow potatoes, coated them with olive oil and salt, and baked them for half an hour. Yes, they taste much better than Tater Tots and have more nutritional value, but it took a lot longer. It meant a lot less time to read the paper and surf the web. No longer are women oppressed by men, but by food snobbery.

Honey, we're having tuna tomorrow.

Life in New York

I usually get a chance in the morning, while Ian naps, to get in a quick post. Today, we all went on a tour of PS 187 instead.

A large group of nervous, middle class parents were led around the school. Here's what they were thinking, Can I send my child to this school? Will my child be the only white kid in his class? Will my child end up with a tatoo selling drugs on the corner if he goes to this school? Will he ever go to college? Is there any way that I can afford to move to the suburbs? Should I put my kid on a 40 minute subway ride every day to get to the good public schools? How many of these other parents are going to send their kids here? See, it's really a prisoners' dilemna. If everyone send their kids, then the school will improve. If only you send your kid to the school, then your kid is in big trouble.

The school looked adequate to me. Sure, there were 31 kids in the third grade class, but who can worry about 3rd grade? The kindergarten looked normal. We're going there.

Then I had 1/2 an hour to vacuum, clean the bathroom sink, wash the dirty dishes, and pick up toys, because my friend, Margie, was coming in from Long Island.

99% of the time I go about my daily business of living in New York City without thinking too much of it. But during those rare visits from friends in the suburbs, I realize that I am living out of a different century.

They never say anything, but their horror is obvious. What no driveway? What's alternative side of the street parking? I have to park my car in a garage three blocks away? Then put all the stuff in the stroller? Then, carry it all up a flight of stairs into the lobby of your building? After stashing the stroller, the kids and the stuff have to be carried up four flights? You have to wash dishes by hand? How does a drying rack work? What's all that noise outside?

It's a good thing I read all those turn of the century, New York City novels when I was a kid, like A Tree Grows in Brooklyn and All-of-a-kind Family. Life hasn't changed that much.


Wednesday, November 12, 2003

Blogging and Political Campaigns

I'm surprised that I haven't seen any blogs referring to an article in the New Republic on Joe Trippi, Howard Dean's campaign manager. The article explains that Trippi reinvented campaign strategies by creative use of the internet.

Trippi, a verteran blog reader, realized that the internet can be used to quickly identify supporters. It considerably lowers your campaigning costs if your supporters come to you, rather you having to locate them. You can get their e-mail addresses and even contributions from them. Also, by answering piles of e-mails and letting your supporters debate issues on a blog, then people start to feel like they own the campaign. It converts mild supporters into diehard supporters.


Nannies and Moms

I was at Borders yesterday, which I use as my personal bookshelf. Too cheap to actually buy books, I read them twenty pages at a time at the bookstore cafe.

Here's what I picked up:
I Don't Know How She Does It by Allison Pearson and The Nanny Diaries: A Novel by Emma McLaughlin and Nicola Kraus.

These novels both look at the mother/nanny relationship, but from completely different angles. Pearson's book is from the mother's point of view who is overwhelmed by work, home, and guilt. She feels guilty for not making meals for the kids, for her kids watching too much TV, for leaving her kids for days for business. She's so guilty about not having homemake cakes for her kid's Christmas party that she buys store bought mince pies and distresses them at 1:00 am to make them look homemade. Then she hides the boxes, so the nanny doesn't find out.

The McLaughlin and Kraus book is from the nanny perspective. It portrays the rich and idle mothers as cold bitches, who are too busy too hug their children and who live in beautiful but unchild-friendly New York City apartments. These women are too self centered to feel guilt.

Which portrayal is the most accurate? Well, I told you I only read twenty pages of each book, so I don't know. You read them, and tell me.

UPDATE: Thanks to everyone who caught my mistake re: mothers in nanny diaries.


Tuesday, November 11, 2003

Things to Read

Because I love lists. The Observer's 100 best novels of all time. (Via Sheila O'Malley.)

Because I love their meatballs. The worst Swedish album covers. (via Andrew Sullivan and Dave Berry.)

Peel Me a Grape

Jonah is reclining on the sofa with a pillow propped under his head while watching Elmo croon to his goldfish. Without diverting his eyes from the TV, the Roman lord shouts, "Juice! Now!"

Um. Hello? You talkin' to me? You expect me to drop what I'm doing and go into the kitchen and pull down a sippy cup and open the fridge and locate the juice and pour it into the cup and screw on the top and hand you the cup and get out your way so that you don't miss a minute of Elmo? How did I go from a smart, feisty woman with excessive amounts of useless education to a hand maiden for a four year old Roman lord?

You'll get the juice, Nero, only after a few niceties and perhaps some groveling and when I'm ready to get up.

Kids are naturally authoritarian and self centered. Their world revolves around them. And given the opportunity they can become toga-wearing tyrants.

I've talked about the old priorities that women had during the 1950s -- husband, house, and kids last. I've joked about Pamela Anderson's priorities -- kids, lingerie, and career. But I haven't talked about the modern mother priorities -- children, children, children, work (maybe), children, husband, housework.

Yes, we live like slobs. (A disturbing number of people have come to my blog by googling "orange mold in bathroom.") Nobody wants to do it. Women who work are too busy. Even women who are home are not there because of the housework. That would be too old school.

For most women their priority is their kids. Many quit their jobs because of the children priority. But there are a few cases where the children priority goes very, very wrong. I've seen some appalling behavior. "Oh, Sweetie, what do you want to do? You don't want to go to the pool today? OK, we won't go, Sweetie." "What do YOU want for dinner tonight, Sweetie?" Women who arrive to the playground with a supermarket aisle of snacks and drinks, just in case Sweetie is in the mood for milk or juice or goldfish or chips.

Not that I should get too judgy. I understand how fear of a temper tantrum can mess with your mind. Occasionally when I've been pushed around too much, I shout at the kids, "I have rights, too." OK, they don't know what that means, never having read Locke or Rousseau. But it reminds me that I am no one's hand maiden.


Monday, November 10, 2003

Things to Read

The Times has an interesting article on home schooling. It's not just for the Religious Right anymore. At least 850,000 kids nationwide. (I know one of the parents mentioned in the article.) One author attributed this trend to a standards backlash. Also, a "rebellion in middle class culture" to spend more time with their kids and more women opting out of their careers.

The salaries of college presidents are sky rocketing. 4 presidents were paid more than $800,000. How about throwing some of that extra cash towards the adjuncts? (The Invisible Adjunct beat me to the punch and has a post and comments on the topic. Go there.)

For all two of you out there who are interested in political science methodology, an article from Wilson Quarterly sums up the debate. I really don't want to get involved in this topic on the blog. Spent too much time talking about it in real life. Well, I will wonder how often quantitative researchers come across findings that fly against their biases. How often do pro-voucher researchers uncover (and publish) results from their data that shows that school choice has no impact on learning or results in creaming? Got to wonder how really "scientific" those numbers are. Got to wonder what scientific methods can be used to determine the initial questions.

UPDATE: Melissa said that she came back from the American Evaluation Association conference, and the theme was methodology.

One of the great things that made it a good and educational conference was that both "strains" of research, qualitative and quantitative were well represented. However, what made it a great conference was that the attendees were practioners (even the academics) who evaluate programs and policies for a living. Their sentiment, which I echo, is that you can't have one without the other. The qualitative portions of the evaluation give the necessary context and storyline to the quantitative outcome and output measurements. An evaluation only having one or the other would eliminate a whole side to the story.

Weekend Round Up

Steve often complains that weekends aren't relaxing around here. He has memories of his dad kicking up his heels on the barko-lounger for marathon sessions in front of the TV. His dad felt entitled to do absolutely nothing for two days, except maybe mow the lawn for thirty minutes, because he had put in a hard 35 hour work week. How much would Steve love to sit at his computer playing war simulations games for two days straight?

Well, tough. There's just too much to do. The relief pitcher is on the mound.

This Saturday, I blew a gasket. I was tracking down articles on the teachers union on the computer, but Ian kept climbing on my lap grunting uh-uh, which means Teletubbies web site. Telebubbies web site, Mama. Steve dragged him out of the computer room, but Jonah was at his little table here getting into trouble with Elmer's glue and a shaker of glitter. I ran out of the room to find shelter in the bedroom when I stepped on the cat. Ei-Ei-Ei. GET THEM OUT OF HERE!!

After Steve dragged the savages out to Van Cortland park, I was actually able to have some quiet thinking time. I ticked a few things off the work to do list.

Part of the trouble with being a part time academic is that you can't really do it part time. It's more than just the time spent lecturing or even the time preparing for the lecture or grading papers. There's all the time (and unpaid time) keeping up with the literature and preparing for conferences. All that has to happen over the weekend. Sometimes I think it would just be better to work part time at Pottery Barn. At least I would get a discount on cushions and towels.

On Sunday, after some feeble attempts to clean our apartment, we lit out for New Jersey. We still have some misguided hope that we can move the kids to the suburbs. We looked at some houses that we couldn't afford, but it was interesting that all the houses had been reduced in price. Maybe things are softening up a bit.

On the way back to the city, we stopped off at Trader Joe's. I had heard tales of this supermarket from friends in California where it originated. It's not your typical Grand Union or Shop Rite. In the first aisle were some specialty teas and coffees, their line of pita breads and bagels, and jams. Nothing too exciting yet. The center aisle was the heart of the operation. Giant freezers filled with frozen dinners. Not fried chicken and apple cobbler mind you, but pad thai, risotto with portobello mushrooms, and tandori chicken. Everything organic, ethnic, free range. The prices were reasonable, too. $1.50 for a vegetarian burrito. We quickly filled our basket.

Sometimes it pisses me off when stores get us down so perfectly. The minute I went in, I knew I fit the demographic. Busy and urban. I hate being so predictable. (see blog 9/11) My ornery self was tempted to throw down the basmati rice, and head over to Taco Bell for a nacho supreme. But instead, I grabbed a hunk of blue cheese and sulked over to the checkout counter. And, damn, those burritos were good.


Friday, November 07, 2003

Disjointed Thoughts and Links

I made to Friday. It's been a looong week. 9 innings. I've let the last three guys walk. I need a relief pitcher. Steve will be home tomorrow and has promised to watch the kids all day, so I can get work done. I have a dozen half finished work projects that need some uninterrupted attention.

One great change from 50s is the role of the husband in the family. Betty talks about how the wife was so worried about losing her husband that she would get all dressed up when he came home and would defer to him for all decisions. (Yeah, I'm still reading the Feminine Mystique.) Now, when Steve comes home, he has to help put the kids to sleep, do the dishes, and a load of laundry. How did women survive in the past without a relief pitcher? Oh yeah, cocktails and tranquilizers.

The plan for the afternoon. After I pick up Jonah from pre-school, we'll drive to Target to buy cat food, diapers, and other supplies. Then we'll blow some time at Barnes and Noble. I'll flip through books, while they're occupied with the train set in the children's section. Tonight, Susan and Chris are coming by with beers for pizza and a movie, which is good because I need some adult interaction.

(Via Crooked Timber), take a poll of your favorite Jane Austen novel. I chose Pride and Prejudice because I had the hugest crush on Mr. Darcy in high school. Other crushes I've had on fictional characters: Gilbert from Anne of Green Gables, Mr. Rochester in Jane Eyre, Peter Parker in Spiderman. E-mail me with your favorite fictional crushes.

Here's a quote for the weekend:
"There is no doubt that upper middle-class workign men and women benefit from hiring women to work as underpaid, exploited, domestic servants. As Audrey Macklin bluntly states, "The grim truth is that some women's access to the high-paying, high-status professions is being facilitated through the revival of semi-indentured servitude. Put another way, one woman is exercising class and citizenship privilege to buy her way out of sex oppression"." from Joan C. Tronto, The "Nanny" Question in Feminism, Hypatia, Spring 2002.


Thursday, November 06, 2003

Pay Attention to Me!

I didn't touch the blog during the day today. Tons of ridiculous little chores for my class -- find replacement articles for readings that didn't fly from last semester, xerox articles, put them on reserve, change the on-line syllabus.

Also, I've been feeling guilty about being the distracted parent. I've had a lot on my mind lately. Future writing projects. APSA proposals. Comments in the Invisible Adjunct's blog. The shopping list for Target. A cool pair of pants at H & M. Ben and Jen's wedding plans. The plight of the middle class. The aging population in upstate New York. My new black shirt from the GAP. When my kids try to get my attention, I'm often not quite there.

I think my 1-1/2 half year old is trying to tell me that I've been spending too much time on the computer. He's been bending down by my feet and turning the computer off while I'm in mid sentence.

OK. OK. I'm here. I'll play trains and blocks. I get the message.

I wanted to add some additional thoughts to the hyper-parenting discussion and the Annette Lareau book. (I'm beginning to smell a strong anti-family prejudice from academics.)

Middle class parents may have other reasons for over scheduling their kids. It's not only to push their children to Harvard at any cost. Sometimes parents are scheduling their kids for gymnastics and dance, because the parents are lonely.

My cousin, Jen, moved up to Stamford, CT a few years ago. She didn't make any friends, because she didn't meet anybody. The streets were empty. Her mother said, "have a kid. You'll make so many friends at the playground". She had a kid, and ooops, there's no playground in Stamford. She joined a Mommy and Me class, but in Stamford, it should be called Nanny and Me. Since then, she's joined one activity after another because it is one way to have some contact with adults. Because until evening, her town is a ghost town.

I didn't read the Lareau book, but I bet she has some issues with parents. I've been reading recent feminists talk about mothers, and I can taste their disgust and hatred. One author, Joan Tronto, wrote that the only reason that a mother would employ a nanny was so that their child could stay home amongst all their material possessions, that mothers were oppressing nannies, yada yada yada, evil capitalist mommies. BTW Joan doesn't have any kids.

That's it for today. Survivor is on. And the hubbie is home and now he needs attention, too.


Wednesday, November 05, 2003

Perfect Parenting?

My friend, Susan, makes a good point about the tyranny of parenting books. People are buying them. Therefore, editors like herself, publish more oppressive parenting books. And scientists continue to produce studies on how to make a smarter child.

Middle class parents are driving this movement.

Earlier in the week, I mentioned the Times Magazine article, Too Much by Margaret Talbot. Despite a flurry of articles in the press about excessive homework, a recent Brookings Institute study shows that homework levels have stayed constant for twenty years.

Then why do parents think that homework has increased, and their beleaguered children are overwhelmed? Turns out that it is probably only the middle and upper class that have a problem with homework, because these groups have so little time. After school, kids are whisked off to soccer practice or SAT drills. Parents also have little time to help them with homework, because their jobs have become more demanding. There's no time for homework because kids and parents are over scheduled.

In contrast, working class families practice less child-centered activity. Children play more with kids their own age in open-ended, unstructured activities.

Behind the seeming contradictions of steady homework levels and the anti-homework backlash, in other words, is the reality of social class. In her new book, ''Unequal Childhoods,'' Annette Lareau, a sociologist at Temple University, argues that middle- to upper-middle-class families today tend to practice a child-rearing strategy she calls ''concerted cultivation,'' which involves, among other things, frequent interventions at school on behalf of your children, active (and often opinionated) monitoring of homework and the organizing of family time around children's extensive schedules of team sports, lessons and performances. (One of the more striking documented changes in how children spend their time is the increase in hours spent watching siblings perform.) Children in working-class and poor families, by contrast, are more likely to be raised in a spirit of ''natural growth,'' meaning they spend less time in the company of adults like teachers and coaches and more with other children in the kind of self-directed, open-ended play for which affluent parents often profess nostalgia these days. The effects of these differing strategies -- which are not only a matter of resources but also of beliefs and habits -- are to reinforce class divisions, helping to prepare middle- and upper-middle-class children for life in the middle and upper classes by accustoming them to asking (and nagging and negotiating) for what they want, and giving them the sense of entitlement that comes from having so much of the family's life formatted around their activities. In this context, homework can seem like a burden because it interferes with other cultivating activities.

I talked with a friend about this article this morning. Margie lives in a upper middle class suburb in Long Island. Her three year old is in several activities even though Margie worries that the child is too tired. As she talks with the other mothers from her town about gymnastics and speech therapy, she's afraid that her daughter will be behind the other kids in kindergarten, because she missed out on an activity. Even though Margie grew up with unstructured playtime and she knows that it makes more sense, it is very hard to isolate yourself from the other hysterical parents.

Perhaps middle class parents are their own worst enemy. They buy parenting books, which promote guilt and anxiety. Later, they over schedule their children and themselves, which leaves little time for free play or even homework.

Why this hysteria about building the smartest child? Why is every family in my neighborhood rushing off to test their kid's IQ? Why has child rearing become so competitive? Have we forgotten that is better to have a happy child than a smart child? Can we blame it on the economic squeeze of the middle class?

UPDATE: Being Daddy has an excellent post on the subject. He thinks that society as a whole has become obsessed with perfect parenting, which explains all the busy bodies who criticize the parenting of total strangers. (Someone yelled at me yesterday that I was going to dislocate my kid's shoulder as I held his hand while we crossed the street.) He writes, haven't we all too-much become parenting experts of sorts?

I Love the 80s

No posts until late tonight. I'm escaping a rainy city for an always sunny suburban mall. I need some new GAP low riders. Chasing toddlers has shrunk me down several sizes, and my current jeans are in danger of falling off all together.

Got some time on your hands? Take the 80s song lyrics quiz. Your mom threw away your best _______ ________.


Tuesday, November 04, 2003

Spam Spam Spam Spam Eggs Spam

Sad because you can't earn enough money to pay for childcare? Well turn that frown upside down, because I've been getting all sorts of helpful e-mails about how I can earn serious cash in the comfort of my own home. I can stuff envelopes!

Yes, I've been receiving several e-mails a day since my first son was born telling me how I can be a part of the fast-paced envelope stuffing industry. (Thanks to the parenting magazine that shared my e-mail address with others.) Today's e-mail, "We Need Homemakers," was written by my new friend, Linda Applebee. Linda tells me that I need to buy her book on stuffing envelopes, because I guess it can get kinda tricky. Paper cuts and all.

Linda writes,
Hi. I'm Linda Applebee. I've been doing this kind of work for
over ten years- it's not very complicated. Mainly I insert sales literature
into envelopes, seal them, and mail them. It's called "stuffing envelopes"
for short. It's a wonderful way to make money. I really enjoy it.

My book is named "Secrets of Stuffing Envelopes." In it I show you the
secrets I use to earn up to $938 a week working part time as an independent
contractor. That means I get to do things my way. I work at home when I want
and at my own speed. I use whatever methods or shortcuts I like. Companies
pay me based on what I produce, and they do not take any deductions from
my checks.

( ) Yes, I want to learn how to get paid like you as an independent
contractor. Enclosed is $29.95 plus $3.00 for processing ($32.95 total)
for "Secrets of Stuffing Envelopes" with the Easy Home Paycheck
System and bonus listings.* I am protected by your genuine
no-nonsense money-back guarantee.

Who said that there were no great job opportunities for mothers?

Tuesday is Reader Mail Day!

I received a lot of mail this week related to the Opt Out revolution, hyper-parenting, and the gender genie. Here's a sample:

From fellow redhead, Warren:

First off, love the blog -- it's one of many things that helps me avoid grading papers. Which is good.
I particularly enjoyed yesterday's posting on hypercorrect pregnancies, etc. ("Gobs of guilt.") I was born in 1965, to a pair of two-to-three-pack-a-day smokers (Marlboros for Mom, Unfiltered Camels for Dad... grunt, snort). I am now 6'5" and a professor of medieval literature at a small liberal arts college. I have pointed out to my folks that, had it not been for their smoking (and the enormous amt. of secondhand smoke I have picked up over the years), I would now be about eleven feet tall and would have been named Galactic Emperor by acclamation. Oh, well... who needs that sort of pressure?

From Alice in Amherst:

Curiouser and curiouser. When I ran the Gender Genie on three samples of my own work, it only correctly identified me as female on a 500 word example of my fiction.
Both samples of my non-fiction (aka 'scholarly work') work identified
me as male, according to our Genie. Quote from the Gender Genie:
"that is one butch chick!" Highly flattered, I basked in the critical
accolade...until I paused to consider that the fragment in question was
philosophical in nature, and scored higher in "male" attributes, than
the other piece of non-fiction, which was a piece of literary criticism.
Hmmmm. Does that cast some worrying illumination on the way people
categorize gender, or am I imagining things? Not about to stop shaving my legs just yet.

From Martha Bullen, coauthor, Staying Home: From Full-time Professional to Full-time Parent:

One of the key points of Lisa Belkin's article, "The Opt-Out Revolution," is that the way the workplace is currently structured doesn't work well for parents or families. After writing about this issue for the last decade, we've learned that what you say "No" to is as important as what you say "Yes" to. Knowing that the prevailing U.S. corporate culture makes no allowance for family life, many women are saying "No." "No" to 70-hour workweeks, "No" to frequent moves, "No" to unremitting travel schedules. Clearly, more and better part-time, flex-time, job-sharing and work-at-home options (with benefits) are needed to accommodate workers with young children. We hope that Belkins' conclusion is right, and that women's search for balance will lead to better work/family options for everyone.

Things to Read and Heave and Chortle

See, I told you that I permanently destroyed my child by drinking that extra large gin and tonic at the Algonquin.

This Times Magazine piece on homework has a great discussion of middle class parenting styles. This will be probably become a longer post later in the week.

The Invisible Adjunct tells me that the new priorities are: kids, lingerie, and career, according to well known feminist, Pamela Anderson. In that order. Thanks IA for clearing things up for me. I'm putting down my books and running off for a triple E boob job and something lacy from Victoria's Secret. (My husband is liking this blog more and more.) Additional comments are on IA's blog.


Monday, November 03, 2003

The Academic Life

I found a new blog, Rhubarb. The blogger wants more academics to write about their personal lives, and more women academics to talk about combining work with family.

What I have found ... is generally a profound silence about the pressures of motherhood, tenure, and academic success until I started reading some of the weblogs out there by mothers in and out of the academy... We need to read more stories about the lives of academics outside of university settings. So much of our personal lives are eclipsed by our academic identities that we sometimes don't even know how to just act like people around our colleagues.

I couldn't agree more.

Why don't more academic bloggers write about their girlfriends or weekend vacations or what they ate for dinner? I could really use a break from all Iraq all the time.

UPDATE: Household Opera agrees and vows to write more personal narratives.

Father Knows Best

All this talk around here about the 50s housewife has gotten my husband a little nostalgic. He wants me to meet him at the door after a long day at the office with his pipe and slippers. The kids could give him the evening paper, and he would reward them with a pat on the head. I will have cast off my Gap low riders for a poofy dress and pearls. Salisbury steak, anyone?

If you are like my husband and miss the good old days, just take a look at these ads from the fifties that Lileks has collected. Then take a long take a long deep breath, and FINISH THE DISHES.

Hanging Out in Dives

On Saturday, Steve and I divided the day up. I got the 11:00 -3:00 freedom slot, and he got 4:00 until evening slot. We both needed fun, but we had to do it separately to save babysitter money.

I used my time to wander around the Village. I didn't have much of agenda -- looked for old parenting books at the Strand, got a slice at Ray's Pizza on St. Mark's place, and picked up a CBGB's t-shirt. Mostly though I just walked around. It was good to get out of my usual few block radius of the apartment and the university. I peered into my old drinking haunts -- the Grassroots Tavern, the Tile Bar, Phebe's, Great Jones bar. I spent most of my twenties hanging out in those dives.

Susan and Margie and Chris and Sue and Stu and Toni and Melissa and others would meet after work on Fridays or late on Saturdays. We would hunker down in a darkened booth for the night ordering pitchers and bullshitting for five or six hours at a time. Sometimes we would slip out for a slice, but quickly return. Eating wasn't a big part of the evening.

One recent book (I can't remember the name) advises women to have their kids in their twenties. By doing that, you can get your career going in your thirties after the kids are in school and need less attention. When women have kids in their thirties and take off several years, it's too late to go back to work. A forty year old can't start a new career.

Should young women calculate their lives so carefully? If they are sure that they want both a career and a family, should they think through which careers offer the most flexibility, which potential husbands will be the most accomodating, which parts of the country have the sanest lifestyle, when is the best time to have children? I didn't.

Having kids early on might be a more strategic move, but it wouldn't have worked for me. Sure I would have missed all my hanging out years at the Tile Bar and Phebe's and the Grassroots Tavern. Probably more importantly, I would have certainly married the wrong guy. I didn't meet Steve until I was thirty. No, that wouldn't have worked for me.

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