How to get something accomplished December 22, 2016Posted by mareserinitatis in family, humor, teaching, work, younger son.
Tags: children, Driving, parenting, productivity, younger son
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I’ve been wondering why I felt like I got little of what I wanted done the beginning of the year, but the past four or five months have been amazingly productive. Part of that is, of course, due to the fact that I have been regularly employed since August, and having a job to go to makes you feel productive just because you show up not wearing pajamas. At least I haven’t yet… (And I must’ve had an exceptional class because I don’t think any of them did, either, despite our class meeting at 8 a.m.)
I think I realized the other thing that helped: I moved to another town. You may laugh, but I’ve been back home a couple days now, and it’s kind of hitting me that driving my offspring around really chews up my day. (No wonder I was under a lot of pressure to get a drivers license when I was in high school.) Doubly unfortunate, we are down to one vehicle because someone ran into Mike last week and his vehicle is waiting to be assessed by our insurance company, so I’ve been responsible for driving him around, too. However, he begins his vacation tomorrow, which means he gets to play chauffeur, even if only to himself. Conveniently, there’s no activities for the offspring to go to, starting tomorrow.
My next goal is to get him to do all the cooking…but I already failed that one since I promised to make meatloaf.
Anyway, the gist of the story is that people are more productive when they have a lot of time to themselves. That being said, I am glad I get to spend some time with the family, even if some days it feels like it’s mostly in the car.
Annoying parenting advice May 16, 2016Posted by mareserinitatis in personal, societal commentary, younger son.
Tags: children, discipline, parenting
A couple days ago, for some odd reason, I came across a LOT of parenting advice online. The funny thing was, so much of it was contradictory. Half of it was, “pay attention to your kids and have rules and structure,” and the other half was, “Let your kids make mistakes and learn from them.”
I have to laugh because I think the approach you use as a parent is probably somewhere between these two extremes…or maybe sometimes one extreme is appropriate and, at other times, you want to swing to the other extreme. There is no ‘one size fits all’ style of parenting: our parenting has to be as unique as our kids and, as the adult, we need to be the ones who adapt to the situation.
Let’s take an example: my younger son was a climber. Within about a week of learning to walk, he was climbing. At 13 months, the kid could kick my ass at climbing anything, due in part to the fact that he hadn’t developed a healthy fear of heights, and I have an overdeveloped one. I’m seriously in awe of his climbing skills, especially now that he’s gotten into a bit of rock climbing. How much climbing I let him do when he was younger depended on where he was doing it. If he was climbing on my exercise bike to sit down, I didn’t worry about it. However, sometimes he liked to stand up and try climbing the handle bars. In that situation, I would hover so that I could catch him if he fell, and if he got too high and/or unstable, I’d take him off and say he’d gone past his limit. If he was climbing a very low rock wall at the local shopping mall with big pads underneath to cushion any falls, I’d sit back and do some reading. If he was climbing the 8-foot wall and the playground surrounded by pea gravel, you better believe I was standing there so that I could catch him if he did lose his grip (which never happened, though there was once a bad incident with a trampoline).
Another thing I learned was to try to mute my own reactions to situations and watch the kids reactions when they got hurt. I basically would ask if they were okay and then let them tell me how they felt about it. Sometimes they would get up and dust themselves off while other times they would grab on to me and start sobbing. If they were crying, I let them cry. Maybe they weren’t physically hurt, but they will cry if they get very scared as a reaction to something bad happening, just like most adults do. It’s perfectly okay for a kid to cry and ask a parent for reassurance in that situation: emotional hurts are just as real as physical ones. Of course, you also need to get them to learn to talk, even if they are upset, and explain what’s wrong. (If the event was particularly stressful, after things were done, I would need to take break and have a good cry myself just to get it out of my system. Sometimes parents do it, too.)
I don’t believe in letting kids do things completely independently so that they can “learn from their mistakes.” Sometimes kids DON’T learn from their mistakes, or the path they choose ends up resulting in just as bad an outcome. I do think it’s reasonable to let them fail, though, and then let them know that if they’d like some ideas on how to handle it better, you’re always there for advice. People in general are good at realizing they’ve made a mistake but they’re not always so good at figuring how to do better next time, and I think it’s unrealistic to expect kids to figure it out without a little guidance from people with a bit more life experience. (Of course, they have to be open to hearing about that experience.)
The gist of this is that you have to do what works for you and your kid and there’s no “right way” to parent. One tactic that works one time may not work another, and you’ve got to learn how much space to give your kids. It’s a balancing act that takes practice, and you’re going to make mistakes yourself. Any article that tells you that they’ve discovered the best way to deal with their kids is taking all the nuance out of parenting.
Scientific Status Quo July 12, 2015Posted by mareserinitatis in career, family, feminism, research, societal commentary, work.
Tags: career, family/work balance, marriage, parenting, research, work-life balance
A couple days ago, @katiesci posted this opinion piece from Science by Eleftherios Diamandis on getting noticed. I was rather frustrated with the article because the way to get noticed was apparently to put in a lot of face time (which is probably decent advice) and to publish like crazy (also not bad advice), even if it means you have to work unrealistic schedules and foist all of your childcare duties onto your spouse.
It was this last part that got under my skin because it’s so much a recapitulation of the status quo: you can’t do anything else and be a scientist, forget balance if you want an academic career.
I have to admit I jumped to a pretty lousy conclusion when I read the following:
I worked 16 to 17 hours a day, not just to make progress on the technology but also to publish our results in high-impact journals. How did I manage it? My wife—also a Ph.D. scientist—worked far less than I did; she took on the bulk of the domestic responsibilities. Our children spent many Saturdays and some Sundays playing in the company lobby. We made lunch in the break room microwave.
I can’t presume to know the dynamic between the author and his wife, and it may be that she was perfectly happy with this arrangement. Academic couples tend to understand better than others how frustrating this career path can be, and I know there were several occasions where either my husband or myself was bringing the other dinner/microwaving in the lobby or lunch room to help ease the stress of deadlines along with an empty stomach.
But what about the people for whom this is not an option? Most of the people I know get very upset if their spouse is putting in more than 60 hours per week. Are they just supposed to give up? What about people who are physically unable to work those types of hours? Even if you are physically capable, it’s bad for you in the long run and turns out to be rather useless.
If anything, this just reinforced that to make it in science, you don’t have to do good science, you just have to be willing to give up any semblance of a family life and turn into a squeaky wheel. I’m not sure what the author intended to convey, but reading this piece was rather disheartening.
Instead, I’d rather have heard about how the author’s wife did it: how is it she was able to work less hours than him, raise their kids, and still manage to have an apparently successful career? At least, that’s the implication at the end of the piece. To me, it sounds like she was able to handle a very unbalanced load successfully, and unless it’s, “don’t sleep,” I would think she may have some advice worth sharing with the rest of us mere mortals. If you happen to be from Science magazine, could you please let her know?
Mom, could you homeschool me? December 15, 2014Posted by mareserinitatis in education, gifted, homeschooling, younger son.
Tags: acceleration, gifted, gifted education, homeschooling, parenting, school, younger son
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I knew we had to do something when, early in the school year, the younger son asked me to homeschool him. When I asked him why, there was the range of answers that included he’s not looking forward to losing recess when he gets to middle school, he’d like to spend more time with me (obviously we’re nowhere being a teenager right now), and even wanting to finish college at 14 or 15.
All I could think was, “Aren’t you supposed to be the easy one?!”
He is. Honestly, homeschooling him would be emotionally easy, but I’m not so ready to quit everything and become a full-time mom again. Or maybe ever. Not sure, and hope to never find out. The fact of matter is that he’s involved in so many activities that homeschooling him would involve me becoming a full-time chauffeur, and I know it would make me crazy.
On the other hand, he’s said he’s not sure he wants to leave school because he likes it and would miss his friends. After several discussions, he told me:
I think I need to write a pro and con list.
In the meantime, I’ve done a list in my head. First and foremost, he likes school. To me, that is the prime reason to keep him there. If he’s got a good thing going, don’t mess with it.
Beyond this, however, we’re discussing some academic acceleration for a couple subjects at school. I honestly do think that he’s better off staying where he is, but it’s also clear that the standard curriculum is not going to cut it. At a couple points, I contemplated whole grade acceleration, but I’m now opposed to this idea. I spent a lot of time reading through the Iowa Acceleration Scale material, and he has a couple things going against him: he’s already one of the youngest in his class, he’s small, and he’s athletic. Participation in sports is a major no-no if you’re going to bump kids up entire grades because this can have very real implications for the physical development and ability later on. I’m now certain that this would be a bad idea for him, and so subject acceleration in a couple areas seems to be the best solution. Fortunately, the school is, so far, open to discussion.
The other thing I’ve come to realize is that there’s really no hurry in getting through school. Is it really any better to go to college early and find a job early and lose that much time from your childhood? I realize that, for some kids, this is the only way to deal with the gap between mental ability and typical school pacing. Or maybe they are really that driven. I am fortunate in the fact that my kid doesn’t seem to require that level of acceleration, and I’d like to give him as much time as possible to explore his options.
I think, most of all, I want him to understand that there’s no reason to hurry up and get there, despite the fact that a lot of people think that’s somehow a sign of competence. I guess I’m starting to realize that no one really will care if he finishes high school in two years or four…just that he get there and finished. If he finishes in four, though, there’s the opportunity to explore more interests and do other things without the stress and expectations of adulthood weighing him down. Given the opportunity, there are a lot of other things I wish I could’ve done in my teens that aren’t an option now. I therefore hope he understands the value of taking his time: maybe he can learn to enjoy the journey.
How to be condescending when you’re trying not to be February 9, 2014Posted by mareserinitatis in career, family, societal commentary.
Tags: career, children, mommy wars, parenting, SAHM
I thought it undermined its own point.
Let’s start with the first paragraph:
It’s happened twice in a week, and they were both women. Anyone ought to have more class than this, but women — especially women — should damn well know better.
The opener disgusted me immediately, and I almost quit reading. Let’s start with the fact that I agree with his main point: that women who choose one path over another (in this case, motherhood or career) are not necessarily superior to one other. However, the whole tone of the post was condescending toward women (and men!) and did ultimately end up being judgemental of working women.
But the opener set the tone, and the tone was that women are held to a higher standard than men. It’s okay for men to say stupid things about stay-at-home mothers (but not parents?), but women somehow have this innate, caring response that ought to be the first thing out of their mouths.
Sorry. It doesn’t work that way. I’ve been a SAHM and a working mom. People’s response to this is always one that comes from their perspective and takes no account of whether you’re doing what you want to or why. When I wanted to be a SAHM mom, people told me I needed to be supporting my family. When I didn’t want to be but was, people told me they were so jealous that I got to be at home. When I was working, people told me I was selfish and needed to pay more attention to my kids.
At all of these points, I was also told by other people that I had made the right choice. It’s funny how few people ever asked me what I wanted to do or if I was doing it. The reality is that, in each of these situations, I was doing what needed to be done for the good of my family, and each response had nothing to do with me and everything to do with the perspective of the person speaking those words.
When I find out someone is staying home or working, my response is, “How do you feel about that?” If they’re enjoying their current situation, a good response is, “Glad it’s working out for you.” If they’re not, I wish them luck in getting things sorted out so they can be more comfortable. It’s really not my place to say what’s best for them.
The post that started all this, however, didn’t. It came down firmly on the side of women needing to be stay at home moms.
Of course not all women can be at home full time. It’s one thing to acknowledge that; it’s quite another to paint it as the ideal. To call it the ideal, is to claim that children IDEALLY would spend LESS time around their mothers. This is madness. Pure madness. It isn’t ideal, and it isn’t neutral. The more time a mother can spend raising her kids, the better. The better for them, the better for their souls, the better for the community, the better for humanity. Period.
No. It’s not as cut and dried as that. Some moms really don’t want to be home. Some moms are better being around other adults: being the sole caretaker for children with no adult interaction makes them depressed or anxious. (I believe this was covered in the 60s in Friedan’s Feminine Mystique.) I wouldn’t doubt that having mom home all the time may be advantageous for some kids, but I don’t know that it’s always the best choice for the whole family.
If mama ain’t happy, ain’t nobody happy.
If mom is going nuts staying home with the kids, I seriously doubt that’s the best situation for the kids, either. Having a depressed or anxious mom who views you as a toddling, diapered impediment to her happiness isn’t good for anything. What do we tell people to do if they’re unhappy with their job? Quit and find another because it’s not good to be in a stressful situation. Obviously, quitting being a parent isn’t an option, but finding time away from parenting certainly is.
The other thing that irritated me about this post was this:
Yes, my wife is JUST a mother. JUST. She JUST brings forth life into the universe, and she JUST shapes and molds and raises those lives. She JUST manages, directs and maintains the workings of the household, while caring for children who JUST rely on her for everything. She JUST teaches our twins how to be human beings, and, as they grow, she will JUST train them in all things, from morals, to manners, to the ABC’s, to hygiene, etc. She is JUST my spiritual foundation and the rock on which our family is built. She is JUST everything to everyone. And society would JUST fall apart at the seams if she, and her fellow moms, failed in any of the tasks I outlined.
Moms don’t need to be SAHMs to do this. In fact, what’s most irritating about this that you don’t need to be a mom at all: dads do this, too. This paragraph basically went back on the whole “I respect the choices that other parents make comment” and went ahead and tried to put those SAHMs up on a pedestal…doing exactly the thing to working moms (and ALL dads) that the writer was originally complaining about. In fact, he even says so.
The people who completely immerse themselves in the tiring, thankless, profoundly important job of raising children ought to be put on a pedestal.
No, I disagree. Parenting is a tiring, thankless, profoundly important job. And a lot of people have tiring, thankless, and profoundly important careers, too, although they at least usually get monetary compensation. Also, many people have jobs where they are greatly appreciated and are not easily replaceable. Okay, maybe someone who is only looking at your payroll may think so, but chances are that many of your coworkers don’t think that…even if you do get on their nerves.
We get a lot of things wrong in our culture. But, when all is said and done, and our civilization crumbles into ashes, we are going to most regret the way we treated mothers and children.
No, I don’t think that mothers and children will be the only victims. I think the problem is simply how we treat other people in general. In general, we tend to be caught up in the “grass is always greener” syndrome without a realistic view of what other people are dealing with. Most people are really just trying to get through their day and don’t realize that they may be simultaneously in worse and better situations than the next person.
I once was very jealous of a friend because of all the academic honors he had achieved. He was so accomplished, and I felt like a failure next to him. One day he told me he felt the same because I had a happy marriage and a wonderful family. That was the day I realized that we all picked our own paths and had our own priorities. We always have to give up something to get what we want because no one has infinite time and resources. We almost always find the path of our lives takes unexpected twists and turns. And if people could respect and understand that, we’d all be in a better place. We’re not going to get there, though, by saying we respect all those paths and then telling someone they chose the wrong one.
She loves me more… November 22, 2013Posted by mareserinitatis in older son, pets.
Tags: Gigadog, older son, parenting, pets, teenagers
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Tonight, the older son jumped over Gigadog. I asked him to please step over her carefully. If he jumps over her, he could slip and miss her, and he’d fall on her. Having someone fall on her would likely freak her out, and she would bite him. This would leave me in a dilemma: I have an injured dog and an injured child. Who do I bring for medical care first?
I told the older son that I would likely bring Gigadog because she loves me more. He looked stunned.
“It’s not that I love her more, but she loves me more. She sits and pants and wags her tail when I get home. You do none of those things,” I told him.
“It’s not that I don’t love you, it’s that I just express it differently,” he responded.
“I don’t recognize the way you express it. It would be much better if you panted.”
I’m not sure *anyone* recognizes the way teenagers express affection toward their parents. Dogs are so much easier to read.
Scientist, with kids February 19, 2012Posted by mareserinitatis in career, education, engineering, family, feminism, grad school, homeschooling, older son, personal, physics, research, science, societal commentary.
Tags: feminism, gender equity, kids, parenting, role models, sexism
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FSP has a post asking about the Local Mom Effect. That is, she wonders if being in a department with more women professors who have kids affects the outlook of younger women in the field. I find this post interesting…but also, I hate to say it, irrelevant.
Let’s put it this way: what women?!
When I started school at Caltech, I knew of two women professors out of all of math, physics, and astronomy. I only ever met one of them, knew she had no kids. I knew nothing about the other professor. When I decided to go back to school a few years later, I ended up in a physics dept. where the professors were all men. Later, I ended up in an electrical engineering department where the professors were all men.
I guess that, in my mind, the notion of being one of the few women in the department was no different than being one of the few women with kids in the department. When I went back to school, I had a kid already, so it wasn’t like I really had a choice about whether or not to be a childless woman in physics or engineering.
I will say that when I originally got pregnant as an undergrad at Caltech, I was told by my advisor that women couldn’t do calculus while pregnant and that I should drop out. Of course, he was a guy, so I seriously doubted he understood how women’s brains work while pregnant. (And it turns out that I can do calculus great while pregnant…I just can’t speak a full sentence coherently.) However, I guess I never took it as a message that women with kids don’t belong in science…I inferred that he meant it more personally, and that I myself was not a good fit for science. (Fortunately, major hopping got boring after a while, I ended up back in physics.)
When I went back to school, however, I felt that being the only woman or one of a few was very advantageous for several reasons. First, if I was the only woman or one of a very small number, I was already an oddity. A woman with kids is probably not much more odd than a woman without, and there was really no one to compare myself to (or say that I was doing it wrong). Second, I went back to school in North Dakota, and it really seems like people here more or less expect you to have kids no matter what you’re doing. I know that grates on some people, but for me, it was a blessing: having kids is just another part of life, and most people here learn to do their jobs while having them. (Also, I can’t recall anyone having a fit if I said I couldn’t make it to something because of kid-related issues.) Third, I was older than the average undergraduate or even grad student, so I think people assumed that it was pretty normal for someone my age to have kids. The fact that the younger students didn’t have kids was simply a function of age and never made me feel self-conscious that I did have kids. Finally, when I started my MS, my advisor was fine with the fact that I was homeschooling the older boy and would only be doing my degree part-time. He said this was really no different than other students in the department who were working full-time and pursing their degree part-time, as well.
I have been told, especially when doing my PhD classes, that it was “really cool to see a woman in science with kids”, especially by some fellow grad students. Until I started my PhD, I really hadn’t expected it to be a big deal. It had never occurred to me that I might be a “role model”…but I keep hearing it more than I ever expected to. I also suspect it’s because I often had kids with me or family issues that were more apparent to fellow grad students. Many professors try to maintain a more professional relationship with their students, and it doesn’t surprise me that many grad students don’t see how having kids affects the lives of the professors or that they don’t realize some professors have kids at all.
Realistically, I only got here because I didn’t really know that what I was doing was unusual in any way. If I had been surrounded by women who had kids but never let it on or didn’t have kids, I might have felt self-conscious about being a mom already. With no one to compare to, however, I just assumed that it wasn’t any more abnormal than a woman without kids.
Long work hours February 16, 2011Posted by mareserinitatis in career, family, societal commentary.
Tags: disabilities, parenting, part-time, work
I’m not going to spend a ton of time belaboring this point, but there is something that gets me about the notion that one must spend around 60 hours/wk (or more!) to succeed in academia and even some industry jobs.
I know tons of women and a few men who would love to have part-time job when their kids are small and/or in school. And honestly, it makes me insane to see people who are working enough for two people when it would benefit everyone to break the work load down and give some of that to someone who would like to work part-time.
However, it’s not just parents who would like to work part-time…or even have jobs that really are full-time, not full-time and a half.
My husband gets to be my unfortunate example for this one. He has rheumatoid arthritis, and one of the side-effects of this is chronic fatigue. Unlike osteoarthritis, rheumatoid doesn’t just attack joints, it causes the immune system to go after the whole body with a focus on joints. This is exhausting for the whole body, and within a decade of diagnosis, about 2/3 of RA patients end up on permanent disability. While my husband has been very fortunate because his condition isn’t that severe, he has spent a lot of the last decade exhausted.
At one point, he was working 60-80 hour weeks shortly after our son was born. This was so wearing on him that when we all got a stomach bug (which was gone in a few hours for the rest of us), he ended up in the hospital.
It was completely unnecessary. One month in delivering the product was probably going to make little or no difference except that the company could post just slightly higher profits for that year rather than the next.
People who have medical issues or disabilities are perfectly capable of making a contribution, yet it seems like they need to be given special dispensation to work “normal” hours. It makes no sense to force people into these situations to begin with, but honestly, people with need not be singled out. No one should really have to work that hard to prove themselves or keep their jobs. All that does is push people to burn out. In some cases, I’ve seen healthy people end up very sick with all the stress and time they put into their job.
I know I’m dreaming, but it would be really nice if people could have a healthy work life balance and that the workplace was able to understand that the balance point may be different for everyone. It seems like there is no getting away from the notion that a “good, serious” worker is one who puts in more hours than everyone else, while anyone who can’t do that is slacking.