Thursday, July 31, 2014

priorities and goings on

Hey. What's up?

Before I had kids, people would always tell me I should have kids. I couldn't then. I had to finish my degree. I was just starting my career. I had priorities, you know? The answer would  come back: "Oh, your priorities will change, these things you think matter won't matter anymore." I worried that these people might be right. I didn't want my priorities to change. I wanted to be successful in my goals. I was successful with finishing my Ph.D. And then we had a kid, and my priorities changed. (Go figure!)

The other day I was mowing the lawn. Suddenly it popped into my head that I have a Ph.D. I had forgotten. Well, not forgotten, but honestly my reality now is so far from the reality of 2012, when I graduated.  I don't think about it, and that's a little sad. I worked so hard.

I was going to publish. Haven't.
I was going to change career paths (from staff to faculty). Haven't.
I haven't been to a conference since I was pregnant (and I got so sick on that trip. yuck.).

I would still like to move forward with this, but at the end of the day, when all I want to do is sleep, I don't know where to find the time, energy, or motivation. Honestly, my motivation is devoted to much simpler things, like getting the laundry done or figuring out how to keep a toddler entertained for hours on end. There is a difference between spoiling a child and just being a good parent, attentive to the child's needs, nurturing their growth and wellbeing. To be a good parents, one simply can't continue on as one did before children were in the picture. They are little people. Watching, calculating, thinking, mimicking, demanding, needing, wanting, vocalizing. Not to be cast aside in favor of personal hobbies.

My husband's career has changed, too, and taken off in a bit of a different direction than expected. I'm so happy for him and for what it has meant for our family. But it does afford him much less free time, a bit more travel, and stricter working hours than he once had. He's continuing to write his dissertation, too, which is another big factor. Another baby, really -- one that also needs his time, attention, nurturing.

About 3 months ago, I was contacted and asked to apply for a job with a large, well-known corporation. It sounded like a dream. The pay was twice as much, I would be able to remain local, and corporate Instructional Design was something I was once very interested in. What a great opportunity, a great experience. Then I researched the position further and found out (among other issues) that this company expects long hours from its employees and gives little paid time off in return. Thinking back to last winter, when my daughter was sent home from daycare an average of 1 day per week with some kind of illness, I couldn't see how this type of position would work out for me. One parent needs to be flexible and for now, that parent has to be me.

This summer, I was honored to be asked to teach two summer courses. Each was a 6 week course. One was in my department, and was a masters level class about designing online learning. The other was not in my department -- it was a doctoral level class about assessment, accreditation, and the like.  I love teaching, so I was very grateful for the experience and the opportunity. But it was really, really hard to do with a child in daycare and a husband working long hours. First off, daycare kids get sick a lot. Over the course of the 12 weeks, I've had three illnesses. One was a normal cold, one was a terrible cold in which I lost my voice for a few days, and the third was Hand, Foot, and Mouth. (Supposedly, adults don't usually get this. Of course, I got it. I'm still suffering.) Second, my husband had to take two business trips, meaning I had to move a few classes, change a few days of the class meetings, and/or arrange for someone to pick up my daughter from daycare and watch her while I taught (my classes were in the evening).  And third, I had to teach on my daughter's birthday, which means I saw her for about a half hour that day, total. Sad. And let's not even talk about finding time to grade, provide advice and direction to students, and prepare course materials. This has been a hard, exhausting summer.

I will teach again. I love to, and it challenges me. But I'll be going into it with my eyes open to what kind of commitment it is. When I taught back in 2012, it was extra money and a lot of fun. Now it almost felt all-consuming, and at times insurmountable. Navigating a lot of life as a parent has felt that way. Where there used to be excitement, now there is the warning voice of practicality, reminding me to consider where I will find the time.  Food for thought.

Monday, March 17, 2014


(and a half...ish)

Believe it or not, I think about this blog a lot. I just don't have much to post (or time to post it). While I have a new home, I find I get a lot more home improvement done when I'm not pausing to take photos of it. I feel uneasy about posting too many photos or info about my daughter (almost 10 months old!) on a public space. My work/research life has been tame and uninteresting as of late. In browsing this blog looking for a link to help a friend, I realized that I forgot to blog on our anniversary. I'm only about 6 months late though, so why not now?

Year 4. We...
  • ... took one trip together (to the San Juan islands in November 2012), and
  • ... logged some time apart, as I visited Montreal (for a conference in October '12) and Idaho (in July 2013, with our then 7-week old, to visit family).
  • ... traded in my Honda sedan for an Acura SUV.
  • ... decided the answer to starting a family this year was "yes," then navigated a difficult pregnancy, even worse birth, painful recovery, and rocky newborn-hood.
  • ... became comfortable and happy as a family of three.
  • ... enjoyed a visit from out-of-state family. (We have the grandchild. They have to visit!)
  • ... gained (more)/lost (not enough)/gained (more) weight (always).
We're already half way through year five, and it has been a wild ride.

Sunday, October 27, 2013

move it move it

There are a few of you who have followed this blog through several renames, redesigns, new addresses, new handles. You've been with me since I started blogging 10, nearly 11 years ago. I lived in Oregon at the time, and I blogged with my real name attached. About 2 years into my blogging experience, I announced a crazy thing: I'd be moving to North Dakota to complete a master's degree. This would take 18 months and then I'd [by all odds] be moving back to the Pacific Northwest.

I mean, who would stay in North Dakota longer than they have to, right?

Well, plans change, don't they? A degree. A marriage. Another degree. A baby. A career shift (for husband). Prospects and decisions ahead (for me). Much reflection, assessment, and evaluation have my husband and I looking at our situation and overall lives and realizing, hey, "life is pretty good." We can complain about the weather and whatever as much as we want, but in reality, ND has been good to us.

We're thus selling our wonderful little old Craftsman first home -- the one many of you followed along as I rejuvenated. Because we've purchased another, larger home here in North Dakota, for the long haul. After over 8 years of wondering where home would be when we finally moved and settled, it turns out, we already are home. Or we will be at the end of November, when we move in to our new [late 80s] home with the jetted tub and the 3-car, attached garage and the walk-in closet.

What you really need to know is this: that jetted tub is pink.

Tuesday, August 27, 2013

post-doctoral career standstill and the serious baby

"So, are you teaching now?"
"What have you published recently?"

As the fall semester starts, I've been asked these or similar questions a few times by professors I've encountered. My answers seem to disappoint them, just a bit, before they try to cover up their concern that my current job is not what I'm supposed to be doing after finishing a PhD. Yes, I had a baby. But a baby (for me, at least), is not a career.

The transition to motherhood has been harder for me than expected. Babies are hard work without much reward. Our baby went from unbelievably fussy (colic/stomach problems) to now better, but very serious. You have to really earn a smile from her. Even her favorite toys provoke concentrated stares and scowls far more often than giggles or grins. She has little patience for lying around or being an observer, which is basically all babies are capable of doing for their first several months of life. So, taking care of her during maternity leave was mentally, physically, and emotionally exhausting for me.

Going back to work, even during our busiest time of year, has been like a vacation. When I think of all of the plans I had for maternity leave (publish articles, redesign CV, explore possible career paths, etc), all I can do is roll my eyes. It was an accomplishment if I got a load of laundry done or the dishwasher unloaded. And having been dreadfully sick throughout most of my pregnancy, I simply haven't done much in the way of advancement since finishing my degree. I'm OK with it. School and achieving my doctorate was my number one priority for a very long time. I do consider my work life to be a high priority, but something had to give, temporarily. So I let it slide, and I'm doing the same job I have been doing for years, since before I even finished my master's degree. It's comfortable and satisfying to go somewhere familiar and do something I'm good at in a time when it feels like everything else in my life has been turned upside down.

Speaking of priorities, my little girl is now 3 months old (as of today). She's learning to grab for things and put them in her mouth, and her eyes follow you around the room. She has discovered the TV and her favorite thing to watch is the opening credits of The Big Bang Theory. She is rolling front to back consistently, and has rolled back to front a couple of times too. She tries to sit up frequently, but of course cannot do it and cries to express the disgust of such an unfair lot in life. She is in her own room and sleeps through the night more often than not, which has been pleasant for us.

As I mentioned earlier, she's much more versed in expressing dissent than approval. It was even suggested by a friend that I start a Tumblr showing her scowling, screaming, or giving The Stink Eye to various "fun" activities, toys, and gear that "babies love." (I'm not going to do it, though I love the idea. Last thing I need is another blog to neglect.)

I went with my child on her first airplane trip and road trip at 2 months old, to meet her great grandparents on my side of the family. It was interesting, eventful, exhausting, wonderful, and terrible. She did not sleep on the plane as everyone assured me she would, even though I booked the flights during her nap times and attempted to giver her a bottle during takeoff. And the only thing I brought with me and did not use was the baby sling, which would surely make frequent appearances on that Tumblr blog that I'm not going to start. (I didn't bother to bring the stroller, as it retains the spot as Most Hated Device, thus far.) Still, it was a good trip, and timely since I knew once my maternity leave ended, I wouldn't have any time off for the rest of the year, basically.

I am looking forward to this fall, because it seems that she is developing much faster these days and almost every week brings something new that she couldn't do before. And maybe I'll find the time between work and baby-raising to start prioritizing career development again... but I've learned not to make plans too far in advance, since babies certainly don't. They live for the moment.