Dr. Mom, My Adventures as a Mommy-Scientist

Discussion of my journey from grad school to postdoc to tenure with two kids, a husband, (and a bit of breast cancer) in tow.

Friday, January 20, 2006

I don't know how she does it

I'm reading this book right now (okay so I'm a bit of a bookworm) called I don't know how she does it, which is basically about a working mother in a high powered job. The plot is straightforward. Kate is an investment banker who travels constantly. Her colleagues are men or childless women. Her husband also works, but is only modest help at home. The kids miss her constantly, and the house is almost, but not quite, falling apart because of Kate's inability to keep it together. And, everyone thinks she is remarkable in her ability to do everything that she does.

I don't know whether this book made we want to laugh or cry. I hear so many echoes of my own situation, though hardly as dire as Kate's. But, I think at last I have a decent handle on things. I work pretty much 8:30-5:30, no weekends, no overtime, a couple of trips a year. I get home about the same time as my husband, and although he by no means does an equal share of the work, he is improving constantly. My kids seem satisfied. They really only object when I have to go on trips, and honestly, I don't blame them, I miss them too. And yet, there are some things that I just can't find time for, that just escape me.

It may sound trite, but I desperately want a day at the mall sans kids. I informed my husband of this last weekend. I had wanted to go shopping in the morning while my son slept and return around lunch. Unfortunately, last weekend was my husband's birthday and he was not entirely supportive of my venture. See the problem is that the only time I can really be away from the kids is when I am at work. On the weekends, if I go to the mall then my husband is alone with both children. Rarely would we wish such a thing on each other. It can be quite exhausting. So usually I try to plan trips around their nap schedule. Unfortunately, my wardrobe is in serious need of improvement, especially as I am starting my Asst. Prof in a few months, and many, many days of shopping may be required to bring it up to speed.

My husband suggested that I take a 'sick day' and blow it off to go to the mall. I was appalled by this idea, thinking it a bit unethical. As a grad student I might have done something like this, reasoning that I was only delaying my own graduation, but as a post-doc I am paid to work a certain amount a week and feel guilty if I don't achieve that. Also, as I already work less than most postdocs, the idea of blowing off a day to go to the mall is just a little gauche. So, here I am, trying to plan a trip and faced with a couple options.

1. Mad dashes during my lunch hour. There are stores close enough to make this possible, but it wouldn't be relaxing.
2. Go to mall with 1 or both kids in tow. I am cringing thinking about it. My son wants to run around and touch everything, whines incessantly about being left in the stroller. My daughter, a veritable fashionista, wants to try everything on and play dress-up.
3. Beg husband to take both kids so I can go shopping. I will owe many, many favors for this one, and hubby will be in sour mood upon my return.
4. Go shopping during nap. This gives me only two hours to get to mall, shop and return. Unlikely that I can get everything done in less than 4 trips.
5. Hire a babysitter. Seems a little weak to hire a sitter so that I can go shopping, but this is the leading option right now.
6. Begrudgingly use the sick day or vacation. Vacation would be the ideal solution, but we are getting ready to take a week long vacation next week, and I need all the rest to prepare for my faculty position as we are buying a house, getting my daughter and son in school etc.

So in response to all those awed people who keep saying, I don't know how you do it? The answer is I don't, at least not completely. I am just holding two strings of an unraveling sweater, while frantically knitting more at the bottom. And although I have found some measure of peace, and free time, I have to wonder if this is really the ideal solution. It seems far superior that everybody cuts back a little. More time with the family, more time to keep the house in order, just more time. I know there are those who have it far worse than me (check out single mother Mad Scientist), but I still can't help wishing for more.

4 Comments:

At 5:32 PM , Blogger ScienceWoman said...

I read that book a few years ago. I started reading it while stressed - and it was definitely not the book to read then. But in the end I found it enjoyable.

As for your shopping situation, can you just trade your husband for equal time with the kids? Say, I'll take Saturday morning if you take Sunday morning (or whatever). if trading favors with your husband isn't feasible, I think it's entirely reasonable for you to hire a babysitter.

Good luck holding your sweater together.

 
At 6:17 PM , Blogger IrrationalPoint said...

Hope you don't mind me dropping by...this post jumped out at me.

I always wonder how/when/if mothers get that "me time" we all need to "re-center".

good luck.

IrrationalPoint

 
At 6:02 AM , Anonymous Anonymous said...

Babysitter definitely!

You're worth it!

 
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