Thursday, December 27, 2012

Depressed Grinch

Maybe it's the time of year, or the school vacation (AARGH), or the horrible colds, or something, but right about now, I hate humanity, my life as a housewife, and the inevitable changes brewing in the year to come.  I stop sleeping, and then I'm tired, so I don't exercise enough, so I sleep less and worry more and sleep less and become homicidal over Dr. S drinking a half-cup of my coffee. For example.

Dr. S has been interviewing for academic jobs... for a year and a half.  Bug is slowly decompensating on account of there's no school.   We get fancy holiday cards in the mail from relatives and friends who are - unlike me! - using their expensive degrees.  I am thrown into a spiral of despair about my worthless life, in which I only deliver peanut-butter-based value-added.  I miss my college roommate, my friend from preschool, and my friends from grad school, and I miss all the thousand and one fun things I used to do.

Digression: Every so often, I read some piece that runs "Did you have ANY IDEA that staying home with your kids has an opportunity cost?"  No, that never occurred to me, you lackwitted, useless offspring of a goat!  

Then I start obsessing over whether I can even handle the idea of a third child, and the huge time investment that I personally would have to make,* and should I sell all the baby clothes or haul them 1000 miles just in case, and will I ever work again?

And then I realize that I am sublimating my insecurity about everything (Where will we live? What will I do? Will I make new friends that I actually like?  Will I ever again have a nice dinner with my oldest childhood friend, whom I've known for 29 years, and his partner?  Will we hate living in the South?) into the only thing about this that I can control:  whether I, personally, choose to be pregnant again.

(Second digression: The Snooty U student newspaper would run a (different) piece every couple of years, written by yet another rich, entitled, trust-fund, privileged brat, on the lines of "Surely NO ONE could POSSIBLY get a good education while working a paying job!  I mean reallyIt's completely impossible!! They must not really learn anything, especially here!")

*  Dr. S and I want someone to be home with a baby for at least a year and a half; many people have different desires (for example, to get out of the bloody house and let the baby scream at someone else already).  Although Dr. S is fully willing to stay home with the children, once he steps off the academic train, there is no re-entry.  So he would be committing to working in industry, and I would be committing to working until that happened.  


  1. Sell it all. If you decide to have another child, buy more on Craigslist after you move. I still haven't decided on the third child issue (though at last I've stopped pining for one), and I'm probably going to sell all our baby stuff just because I'd like the closet space. Also, a lot of it was second-hand before I got it.

    I was really worried about the working post-kids thing, and then I realized lots of people have long, fulfilling careers after staying at home. Nancy Pelosi. Your mother. Also, I went to the Garden Show in February 2012 and realized the average age of attendee was about 60 yrs. old. My yard will be amazing in 30 years! Ruth Stout, the queen of mulch and my gardening hero, got married at age 50, learned to garden, disproved experts left and right, wrote articles and books, andlived to the age of 96. You're young, is what I'm saying.

    Also, you'll love living in the South. It's cold here, it does bad things to your skin and asthma. You start your seedlings too early and they get killed by frost in May. You'll be close to your mother and can get rid of your children for whole weekends!! Now, that might be enough to make you want a third child. Or not. Besides, I'm looking forward to visiting the South someday. Perhaps Patrick can hike the appelacian trail and I'll hang out with you. We'll make applesauce.

    And on the friends front, just pull up your handy dandy checklist! I'd make a spreadsheet and keep track of everyone's answers. That wouldn't be weird at all.

    And Dr. S. needs to stay away from your coffee. Or go make you more.

    1. Oh, your comment made me laugh out loud.

      Yes, there's hope, and I'm young, and TODAY my spouse did not drink my coffee ration. It's true that my dad's garden (about... 25x100 ft plus several beds and a blueberry patch) is amazingly productive - how much okra can two people eat, anyways? - you'll have to come see it someday. And Maymont (huge estate turned garden-and-park). Also pretty amazing. And the giant swamp mallows on Belle Isle.

      Why yes, frost DID kill my seedlings in May! However did you know? (Hah.)

      And yes, we will visit. :)

      The spreadsheet would... probably not weird out anyone I'd really like anyways, riiiiight?

      Your yard will be completely filled with plants (and also amazing) in 30 years. If you still need a lawnmower by then I'll fall over in shock!

  2. Arg, I wrote something and google ate it. Mostly - vacations/routine changes are tough and I hope it all seems better when things are back to somewhat more normal. Raising small people is hard and my coworker who has 8 and 10 year olds is always telling me about how life is so much easier now - so there is time for it to all get better still, and like Nicole said, G-d willing, there are many years ahead for jobs, etc. The academic job circuit sucks.

    1. Sara- sorry about Google. I think it will seem better when the child is not in my hair all the days there are. "Academic politics is the most vicious", etc.

  3. Anonymous4:45 PM

    Well, you've already figured out what's wrong with you, so I can't offer any wise insight. Just hoping Mr. S gets a great offer this cycle and you can begin to realize some of your dreams.

    1. Well, one way or another, we're moving on from 'impoverished postdoc' to 'someone pay me a decent fucking salary already' at the end of this academic year. So! Something to look forward to!

      Who needs a therapist when I have my own inner dialogue going 'And why do I feel this way? Because I lack control over my circumstances.'

  4. Oh, Jenny...

    We should talk. Yeah, I know, I haven't even commented on your blog in quite some time.

    I just got done thinking about you when I read this:

    after reading this one:

    I love my three daughters, and that third child is a great blessing to me...but it further delayed my career plans in the science field (they were all unexpected, but I was planning to go for my Master's degree after I quit my medical genetics lab supervisor position.

    Now, I substitute teach and also work with special needs kids. I'm not even sure where to go from here. Still reeling with insecurity, self-doubt, and more than a little bit of frustration and dealing with stupid family drama.

    Should you have the third child? I don't know. I do like Dr. Karen's summation in the It's okay to quit thing.

    "Either way, proceed armed not with self-delusion and blind hope, but with knowledge and a plan."


    1. Casey - thanks for the links, they're interesting. As you know I've long since left academia, and I do think (however much stress the process causes us) that Dr. S and I have reasonable boundaries on the whole academic-job thing. I don't talk about it much because it's BORING, but he works no more than 45 hours a week, participates in all our family life, and has several alternative job strategies in mind. He only applied for jobs where we want to live, and if he doesn't get one, industry, here we come (well, one of us at least). Basically we did this all on our terms, and if it works out great, and if not, fuck 'em all.

      I think the third child question needs to wait a while, and that having my (non-crazy, wonderful, supportive) family near would be a great help. (Here, Dad, take my kids! See you Monday!)

      I'm sorry that your family drama is causing you grief.

      In grad school we used to repeat 'long term deprivation for long term gain' and I think that's definitely the case with kids too. Bug is almost old enough to be a human; he has moments when I can see a little person inside the screaming little child. Three-to-four is my LEAST FAVORITE AGE IN EVER including the waking-up-every-2-hours newborn phase. I'm hoping he'll get over it soonish. Right?

  5. Darcy9:37 AM

    I miss you, too, and all of the graduate school minyan gang. I just had a little reunion with some old friends (early New York era rather than graduate school era) and it seems like no one's life, with or without spouse, with or without children, having prioritized lifestyle and location or having prioritized career, is going quite as well as could be desired. I tell myself that the 30s are just a very difficult decade, and that eventually we will all turn a corner . . .

    1. I think you're right - it's a time of getting things established, whether they're professional circumstances, personal circumstances, or circumstances with two little feet.

      As much as I hated Snooty Town, I have this deep longing for that kind of community again. There was something really special about having a bunch of smart interesting people all in the same place, and the way that our lives could intersect in all kinds of ways. (Of course, there was also an extra helping of entitled spoiled brats of all ages, but...) There was the minyan gang, there were people I climbed with, people I saw plays with, people I baked cookies with, and some of them were the same people but some of them weren't. There were a lot more people who got my jokes. There were fewer children around to influence my view of their parents (FERAL CHILDREN! You don't vaccinate your kids, so you're an idiot! Your parenting makes me scorn you!), who I might otherwise like. I don't know what's happening next, but *we* (I and spouse) have definitely reached a make-or-break decision point, where things ARE going to change. Hopefully for the better.

      And! We WILL be on the East Coast again and we WILL come see M&B and hopefully meet you up somewhere and so on. And my kids will eventually be older and drive me less crazy and... something....

  6. I had a similar conversation with Dr. Man on the drive up from his parents' house the other day-- we stayed with them for 4 days to celebrate a belated Christmas.* I'm happy with Kiddo-- although he can be exhausting-- and reasonably happy with the acquaintances I have in town, but I'm missing having really good friends about. Also, we need to decide when/if to have a second child. I'm sort-of terrified to go back to the land of no sleep.

    I also have no idea what I want to do career-wise. I was certain I wanted to stay in academia, but I refuse to do so at the expense of my family. So, yep, I need to figure out a plan B sometime soon. Sigh. I'm 30 and I have no idea what I want to be when I grow up.

    *This may not ever happen again-- although his parents are usually sane. I'm lobbying for a hotel room next time. There were ~12 adults, 2 toddlers, and 3 dogs in one (admittedly large-ish) house. We could not convince everyone that the toddlers had to be in bed by 7:30 at the latest to avoid SIMULTANEOUS TODDLER MELT DOWN and they refused to eat dinner prior to that every night we were there. Then, they were miffed when I had to skip going out to dinner to put Kiddo to bed. Apparently, parenting my child is rude to the other people. /end rant

  7. We went around in circles re The Third Child. As you may know, it happened ALL BY ITSELF (see for more info...) Anyway, the wonderful thing about it having happened - apart from having a big fat lump of love in the house - is that I no longer have to have the conversation, either with myself or with my husband. WE ARE DONE. It feels great.
    On the down side: 3 children is so shockingly time-consuming, and it's only going to get worse. There is no chance of me doing anything resembling a working day for at least another 4 years. Instead I literally run from parenting to my computer, do as much work as I can (often 15 mins), back to parenting, back to computer etc. I know that others are more organised than I, and have decent childcare etc, but three kids - one of whom is v young, none of whom are in proper school - is generally too much to leave with one minder, so even with nursery for 2 of them, and an au pair at home, I am struggling.
    But I still have my lump of love, which - for the next few months at least (until her unhinged siblings pass on their habits to her) - makes up for it.
    I do wish I could get a decent night's sleep tho.

    1. I live in TERROR of 'all by itself', let me tell YOU. (I did read that one, and, I'm afraid to say, laughed my ass off.)

      (Getting it all over with all at once appeals to me intellectually if only if, fortheloveofCthulhu, I could sleep.)


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