Friday, October 3, 2008

At home again

Last Thursday we flew to Denver, the “Mile High City.” We stayed with my husband’s sister and her family. She She did everything to make our family feel right at home. Bean-girl had an absolute blast playing with her triplet cousins. And on Saturday morning, my husband and I got up and drove two hours to Vail for a wedding. We left the our girls in someone’s care overnight for the first time in their (and our) lives.

Some pictures from Vail. I should have taken more pics!
The wedding was beautiful—one of the last people in my husband’s circle of friends to get married. It felt so strange to be away from the girls; we kept talking about them, and I kept daydreaming of Legume’s fat baby cheeks. But of course it was also lovely to be alone together, in a romantic setting. That night, before turning in, we watched a bit of CNN. Now that doesn’t sound romantic, I know, but after a steady diet of children’s cartoons, I must admit that cable news is quite enticing. As was reading the New York Times in bed the next day. Of course, we did engage in other adult activities in between…

The bean girls did GREAT in our absence. I think Bean-girl scarcely even cared that we were gone, she had such a great time playing with her cousins. When we got back the next day she ran up to greet us, and then was gone a minute later to continue her play. Baby Legume was fine, too. Their aunt, uncle and cousins had tired them out the day before with a trip to the zoo, a trip to the mall, pizza and a stop at the mall’s Build-a-Bear workshop store (but Bean-girl politely declined an offer of a teddy bear. She can be weird like that). The kids were so exhausted that they quickly and without fuss fell asleep that night. . . for nine hours straight. My sister-in-law is gifted.

This week my Bean-girl asked me to please stop changing my work schedule. “I don’t like going to school so much,” she said. “I think it’s too much school.” Ouch. I cuddled her in bed and said that there would be only one more schedule change. I am starting full time in two weeks. Yes, ouch, five straight days a week of daycare/school. I explained that she would still have “mommy days”, two days a week. That two days of the week, Saturday and Sunday, would ALWAYS be mommy-days, no matter what. This seemed to satisfy her. Perhaps she was afraid that every single day would be a school day? It’s a lot for a little girl, I know.

I know that there are many people who would not approve of my choice to go back to work at this time. And it really is a choice for me—my family does not need my income (nearly half of which goes to daycare costs anyway). I was amused to get my first troll comment on this blog about it. More hurtfully, I sense doubts on the part of members of my own extended family. But I don’t do well staying home full time with young children. I just don’t. Things may change in the future; perhaps, as they enter the demanding pre-teen/teen years, I’ll feel the need to step back and make more time for them at home again. Maybe this gig won’t go well, and I’ll feel the need to step back or quit six months from now. Maybe I’ll be in a position to negotiate a work-from-home or flex-time schedule in the future. The truth is that the job is quite flexible right now—I haven’t given up the flexibility of research academia (nor the jeans and sneakers dress code!) But I was not happy at home, and I had to make this change now. My mother was not happy as a stay-at-home mother, and it was something that I could see even at an early age. My mother has confirmed this unhappiness to me herself. And my witness to her frustration and boredom has colored my own thoughts, my plans and hopes for motherhood/career from the very beginning.

Things at work have actually slowed now, and I’m a bit at loose ends there. My PI finally came to his senses last week and realized that he was in no position to submit an RO1 this grant cycle. We’ll submit it for February. He wanted to submit a big program grant for next month, but the program goals for this program grant had changed considerably since the last funding announcement, and his projects are no longer suitable for the grant. So. . . I guess it’s a bit of laid-back reading and polishing of the RO1 until the PI returns from his overseas trip and some more substantial projects come my way. Not a bad life, for right now.


ScienceMama said...

I recently got my first troll comments too. It was surprisingly hurtful. One of the comments said that I was a bad mother who didn't spend enough time with my child. Damn that pissed me off.

I think you're doing a wonderful thing for yourself and your family by doing what feels right to you. I don't think an unhappy (bored, lonely, understimulated, etc) mother makes for a happy childhood. I also strongly believe in how good quality childcare can be for young children. Bean is absolutely THRIVING in her daycare, and I would feel terribly guilty if she didn't have that.

I also think that you are being a great role model for your girls, showing them that you can be successful in your field while being a kickass mom.

I fully support you, and I know that you will always strive to find the right balance for your family. If other people can't see that: screw 'em.

You're an awesome mother. Your amazing daughters are proof of that.

Also, I am totally jealous of your romantic night away!

ScienceGirl said...

I am in Colorado right now - isn't it beautiful?

I heard the best piece of advice today: "what is best for you is also best for your children." So don't let those trolls get you down; you are a wonderful mother and human being!

Mimi said...

Ignore the trolls! If it was your husbands blog people would say, what a sweet concerned dad, but because you are a woman, they chastise you. We should break down those gender barriers. Do what is right for you. If you are depressed, your whole life will be even more miserable. You would be doing you family a great disservice by NOT being true to yourself. You are a fabulous role model.

ScientistMother said...

Ignore the trolls AND the extended family. A wise woman, by the name of bean-mom, once told me the best thing to do for your children is be happy. I find it extremely exhausting to be at school 5 days/week but I also know that I would not be happy at home either. When I get home to monkey it is it all about him and he knows it.
Plus the mr and I have a better relationship when I have something that is mine. We feel more connected to by having something to talk about other than the boy. It will be an adjustment but like sciencemama said, quality childcare is so good for kids.

Scientia Matris said...

Mother's guilt is eternal right? But guilt can be a pretty lame emotion. So when you second guess yourself (or, more to the point, when others make you feel like you should) then just remember how valuable your are to your children no matter what you choose to do. No-one EVER questions my husband's decision to return to academia full time...

The bean-mom said...

There is so much wisdom here in these comments. Thank you, everyone.

And did I really say that, Scientistmother? Funny to get my own words quoted back at me!

ruchi aka arduous said...

Hey Beanmom

I just caught up on all the posts of yours that I missed in the past month, and wowza! I missed a lot apparently. Congratulations on the new job. It sounds super awesome.

I couldn't exactly tell if your mom worked when you were a kid. It sounded like not, so I thought I would share this with you. My mom worked part time the whole time I was growing up. When I was younger, I sometimes resented it. When I became a teenager, I really didn't care as I was too busy hanging out with my friends and participating in school activities. But as I grew up, and became an adult, I've become primarily thankful that she did work. Because she worked, I think I became much more independent, much more self-assured and self-motivated than I think I would have been otherwise. And yes, now as I contemplate starting a family of my own in the not-too-distant future, I can feel secure that these things will and can work out for the best.

But beyond what it's done for me, I have to say, as a 29 year old adult, I am so thankful that my mom has her job in her life. As you might remember, my father passed away four years ago at the early age of 54. (My mom was 53.) I have *no* idea what my mom would be doing now without her job. It's not the money, she doesn't need the money (luckily my dad was a conscientious saver.) It's having something to do. Having a purpose. Having a reason to get out of bed every morning. My sister and I are all grown up now and neither of us live close to my mom. But if my mom didn't have a job, neither of us would have felt comfortable pursuing our own lives far away from her. Either one of us or both of us would have had to have moved back closer to home.

All this to say, trust me. In 20 odd years, Bean Girl will definitely understand.

Cath@VWXYNot? said...

Ignore everyone else, YOU know what is right for you and your girls.

EcoGeoFemme said...

I agree with what everyone else has said here. Do what feels right for you and your family and everything will fall into place. It's sillly to let one troll get you down when you have all these other people trying to lift you up (although I know that's easier said than done).

I kind of suspected you weren't super loving being a SAHM. I think I would get kind of depressed staying home, which would make me less focused on the kids I was supposed to be having all that quality time with. I guess I kind of thought you seemed to feel how I think I would feel if I stayed home. I think that's partly why I've found your blog so interesting. It's been kind of a window into a possible path. It's oddly reassuring to hear you say that you are happy to go back to work; it's like knowing that I too probably wouldn't like that path for long.

I also gotta say that I'm so impressed at your courage for both leaving your science job and going back to one. It must have been gut wrenching to give up your job knowing how detrimental a break in the cv can be. It's inspiring to have an example of someone who has been able to make taking time off work.

I hope you continue to like your job, feel good about your choices, and feel empowered to continue to make the choices that feel right, even if that means reversing course at some point. Actually, I hope we all feel this way.

The bean-mom said...

Awwww, thank you all. This blogosphere is an amazing place.

Ruichi and ecogeofemme--wonderful, thoughful comments. And thanks too, Cath!

And ecogeofemme said it perfectly--reading blogs is like peering through windows at other possible paths. That's why blog-reading is so addictive to me--to get a glimpse of what it's like to actually be a tenure-track research professor, or the owner of a small daycare (I could NOT do that job!), or a young woman poised for new adventure in London... =)

I can't say I really "chose" to leave science the first time around. It was more a matter of being forced out--being laid off, getting pregnant,and following my husband to his new job. The path of least resistance, really. But going back to work--that is something I chose to do. And I'm grateful that I could: that I had this opportunity to go back to work, and that it really was a choice, as opposed to a forced necessity (as I know it would be for many mothers, due to simple economic necessity.)

ophelia rising said...

Good for you, for getting away with your sweetie (she said a little enviously)! And, I know what you mean about dreaming of the soft, fat cheeks. I tend to do that, too, when I'm away from them.

You are the only one who knows what is right for you. No one else can make that decision or judgment. It is a personal decision, and one that no one should be commenting negatively on. It's too bad that mothers have to wage this whole battle between staying at home and working. We are all experiencing the same things, regardless of our choices, in terms of the love we feel and the commitment we have to our children.

I am looking for work (part-time) right now, and will likely experience some of what you talk about here. I just wish that we could all support and encourage one another, rather than take sides on this issue. Women have to make many tough decisions in their lives, and this type of negative response does nothing but cause unnecessary hurt and confusion.

Your children will be happy if you're happy.

mouse said...
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Cloud said...

Hi! I followed you back over from the post you left on my blog. Nice to meet you!

If it wasn't already abundantly clear from reading my blog, I'm not a mother cut out to be a stay at home Mom, either. I've gotten a few snarky comments from folks since going back to work when Pumpkin was 3 months old, but she's doing great in day care. I am 90% certain that she is doing better with this arrangement than she would be doing if I stayed home with her. They plan such good age-appropriate activities for her, whereas I'm constantly behind her developmental curve. She has made friends (really! at 18 months she already has a BFF) and really likes her teachers. Plus, she gets the added benefit of having a mother who has not been driven insane by her inability to get her toddler to nap.

By this time, the bean girl has been in full time school for a while. I hope it is going well! I suspect that having a settled schedule will help. I know that Pumpkin gets very concerned whenever we change the day care schedule, even if it is to have me pick her up early. She likes her routine, I guess.

Good luck!