Coming together

Things are starting to come together. The endless meetings…well, I’m sure they will be a part of my life for a long time now. But I’m getting used to them. One of my computers is scheduled to be delivered to me tomorrow AM! Yay!! I am so excited about this!

I feel it like a kick in the gut when people mention other people (former students for example) getting jobs that pay so much better than what we make. I definitely still have a personal issue to work out on that front. I never realized money was so important to me. Maybe it’s kind of like how a starved person, once given food, values that food beyond anything and wants it all. Clearly I’ve never starved. I think actually it’s just immensely frustrating that making ends meet has been a big concern for most of my life…and because of the job I chose…will continue to be. There are compensations for that though (quality of life, for example).

I have one syllabus more or less prepped. One class website pretty much set up. 2 more to go!

One realization: I’ve never been formally trained in curriculum design, assessments, pedagogy. None of it. That…might have been helpful in my new line of work. I did a teaching demonstration as part of my interview, and one of my new colleagues (who was on the search committee) made a comment that from my demonstration it was clear I was aware of some of these principles – he wanted to know if I was self-taught or where I’d picked it up. Glad to hear I’m doing the right things, despite no formal training!

First Impressions

Update on the Pukegate: my husband did stay home. It seems it was, in fact, okay. There is some question if he might have to fore-go pay for the day, but that’s fine if that’s what it takes. It turned out to be the right choice having him stay home – he texted me midday saying he was “managing fine” but could I please come home at my earliest convenience? He thought he *might* have a slight fever. Since he’s the kind of man that doesn’t go to the doctor until he’s deathly…I was pretty sure it was serious. So I left after my required activities and took over while he napped the entire afternoon away. It *appears* (knock on wood) that we’re back on track as all parties of the Academic Dream family have gone to their respective schools today. Fingers crossed.

So, First Impressions.

I’ve now had the opportunity to interact with other new hires, more established faculty and staff, and to interact in “workshops” put on by the University highlighting various programs and support options available on campus to students and faculty alike. This has led to the following impressions, in no particular order:

  • Everyone seems very friendly and happy to be here. It does seem to be genuine. This is a new feeling for me to witness and potentially experience.
  • It’s becoming more clear that I was definitely trained to be an R-1 Professor. I earned my Ph.D. at an R-1, and while I sought out extra teaching opportunities at community colleges that certainly will help me in my new job at a small teaching school…it’s just becoming clear to me that I was very much trained and prepped for a different pace and style of collegial participation. That’s my confusing way of saying…I never really thought I had it in me to be an R-1 Professor, despite my advisor telling me so several times. Now, I see that I am probably quite capable of performing at that level. Does that make me disappointed in my current position? No! Hell no. I came back to get my Ph.D. because I do, in fact, love teaching. And I’ve heard from many quarters that my new position should afford me the opportunity to have a family AND a career, and not have a total stressed out meltdown attempting to do both. I’ll be busy, sure, but I can do both. Work/Life balance is good here. I am optimistic. If true, I definitely made the right choice for me. It’s just…flattering I guess. An ego-boost? To realize I am probably capable of a level I hadn’t previously thought I was capable of.
  • Because most of my teaching experience took place at the community colleges on my own time…it felt kind of like a hobby and kind of like a dark secret. Much like having a family felt in my old department. While everyone knew, it was not to be spoken of. (it was technically against the “rules” to take a position at the c.c. while also working as an RA or TA. However, it was encouraged behind closed doors because: great teaching experience.) It’s a new feeling that my ACTUAL JOB. The main important part is teaching. Prepping classes is no longer some dark weird hobby I’m harboring in a closet. It’s my job!
  • I found a neighborhood I want to live in. Pretty sure. Also, pretty sure it’s too expensive. Life is hard sometimes.

Double Ugh

Puke. Lots of puke. From my son. After my daughter had it the end of last week.

What does this mean?

Well, when my daughter was ill I rescheduled my meeting with my Dean and a meeting with a new colleague and a meeting with HR all to this week. It wasn’t ideal, but it was quite manageable. Yay extra time with a cuddly baby! (silver linings, right?)

Well, at the end of today my son threw up at school. But you see, tomorrow I really NEED to be on campus. They’re doing faculty head shots and the President is doing his State of the University address and they’re introducing all the new faculty. Kiiiiiinddaaa a big deal.

But you see my husband just started his job last week – and supposedly he doesn’t get sick time until he’s worked there for 30 days…so…that’s complicating. A bit of a pickle really.

So instead of thinking about what to wear for my head shot and formal introduction to my future academic community (no pressure)….I’m scrambling trying to figure out if my husband can stay home without costing his job (though he realllllly hates the idea so soon into the school year and after starting a week late), or….if we should have my mom drive out leaving her house at 4:30am tomorrow.

Neither is a great solution.

Or…should I see if I can miss the fanfare? Seems…really frustrating. And unprofessional.

Double Ugh.

The end is always the hardest…and seems to drag on and on…

This article really speaks to me.

Especially as I’m trying to wrap up my revisions…9 days later than I said I’d have them wrapped up. In fairness, I’ve been a bit busy with Important Life things. Like finding daycare for my kids and sorting out our apartment and…did I mention my office remodel isn’t done yet? And the computers promised by the university have supposedly been ordered but no one knows exactly where they are? And that we requested keys for me over a week ago and it was supposed to take “2 days” but still no word on that either?

It’s starting to feel a bit like a circus…

But back to the article – #17. I’ll go ahead and lay it out there – I went to see a counselor back in June. So in the middle of my 4 month final push. I took a few assessment thingys that don’t officially “diagnose” me, but basically I scored the highest possible for anxiety and moderately high for depression. The depression one surprised me. I knew I was anxious and having trouble controlling it – I didn’t realize I actually qualified for depression. If I’d wanted to, I could have started medication but…they say it takes a month to start helping and it has the possibility of exacerbating your symptoms. 2 months out from when I was supposed to defend…it didn’t sound wise. My hope is that after things “settle down” a bit (they will…right?), I can re-assess and see where my needs are at.

Unexpected twists and turns

Ah the twists and turns of Life. The unexpected boons and banes of our brief, uncertain existence.

Folks, my husband done got a job!

We thought, him being a school teacher, that the start of the school year meant his prospects for full-time employment were none for this academic year. He planned on being the stay-at-home Dad and subbing when he could – I have no class Fridays so was going to see if I could work from home if he had a subbing gig.

Turns out – it ain’t over ’til it’s over, and sometimes not even then.

They interviewed him for a middle school social studies (his preference!) position the afternoon of the first day of classes. And he started a week later.

Life is bizarre sometimes.

He’s happier. I could see it as soon as he came home from that interview – the hope. And when he landed it for sure – he a weight was off his shoulders.

And I tell you, it is pretty damn nice to be able to go buy groceries now without cringing at the bill (we coupon and make good choices and use a list, but still).

But. Now the kids are in full-time daycare. The baby for the first time. The boy at yet another school, in his growing list of schools.

It’s a transition. Transitions are hard.

And while my husband is clearly happier with this arrangement, and I feel that should make me happy…the truth is…I am not happy.

I hate surprises. Especially the life-altering variety. And while my son needs the social interaction of a child care setting – I’m not keen on the daycare center we chose. Nearly ever center in our reasonable radius had no room in their baby rooms. And we wanted both kids to go to the same school. Which left us with 3 centers to choose from. All more or less identical. We chose what seemed the best of the 3, but…I don’t know.

So far. I am unhappy.

Money isn’t everything

But boy, does it feel like it sometimes. Here’s the thing about my new job. I love the location, the school size, the department, the job description – with an emphasis on teaching, and the benefits are pretty great. The pay? Not so much. I knew that going in. They warned me the salary was “embarrassingly low” – and it did give me pause. No lie. But in the end I thought all the other things balanced it out.

And I was never supposed to be our only source of income.

But here we are. Staring down the start of the school year – and my husband did not get a job. Bad luck probably, and not having any connections yet with the school districts. But shoot. It’s going to be hard.

And then I read a recent article that said roughly 1/3 of Americans are on some form of government assistance. So I took a look.

Y’all. We qualify for WIC and SNAP. Food stamps. I just took a job that requires a PhD, and the salary is so low that my family of 4 qualifies for government assistance.

What. The. Hell.

But hey, that should help a bit. I’m not too proud to take it. Now, would I qualify if I was a single person, or even a couple? No. We’re right near the edge for a Family of Four. But still. It just seems…wrong. That a job that requires a PhD, could pay so little that my family of 4 (a very regular family size I think), qualifies for government assistance.

I don’t even know what to think.

Maybe this whole thing is a big mistake?

Revisions

Another reason to move well after one defends – you might be less distracted when it comes time to finish those revisions. I’ve had a week now, and despite my best intentions…I’m almost done revising one of three substantive chapters.

It doesn’t help that we’ve all taken turns with a cold, my husband decided to take his turn twice, and I’m being eaten by a mystery bug that leaves me with itchy bites all over. We even had a pest “expert” out today and he was stumped. He thought it seemed like bed bugs, but could find no evidence of such little devils on my bed or in our suitcases. If he doesn’t know, I’m not sure how we’ll figure it out. Seriously contemplating getting rid of our bed and buying a new one. At least we could shop a Labor Day Sale…

How do you do it!?

I despise this question. Strongly.

Maybe it’s meant as a compliment? But whenever I hear the level of incredulity makes me want to smack people.

Honestly. How do I do it? I just do. When  you have a kids, you learn quickly how to roll up your sleeves and suffer through anything. Labor teaches that right away. Pregnancy too, if you ask me. Because you’re quite stuck and you have no other option but to keep moving forward.

And that applies to all aspects of my life. Just keep. Moving. Forward. It won’t always be pleasant or pretty. But, that’s life. As long as you keep moving, you should wind up alright.

Whirlwind

In the last 2 weeks I have moved to a New State and successfully defended my dissertation, in that order. Which means I moved, and then flew back for roughly 48 hours to Old State, defended, and am now back “home”. It was stressful, and chaotic, and I do not recommend it. It worked out fine, I passed and all’s well that ends well I suppose. But if you can at all manage to defend and then move, I think that would work better.

Truthfully, I recommend defending no later than May, so that you can have the whole summer to scheme and plan and move and explore your new surroundings.

But, Life. And all that, I suppose.

Onto revisions and then starting my new life as a Professor. For real this time.

You will feel like a Social Pariah

The thing about being a mom while completing your PhD is…you may well feel like a social pariah. Or maybe not. In fact, I hope you do not. But I certainly did.

Until recently, I had a collection of “mommy friends” who had kids roughly the same age as my own. It was great! We could bond over similar phases our kids were going through, swap war stories, offer advice. If we were talking about our kids – it was fantastic. But as soon as conversation would drift toward work…it got awkward fast. Maybe I just happened to be with women who were intimidated by someone getting their PhD. Maybe I’m a bad explainer of my work. All I know is it would get really uncomfortable. And I felt so completely misunderstood. And like I had to hide my intelligence, or lose my friends.

No one wants that.

On the other hand, I have my friends in my department. Colleagues sure, and a handful of people I think of as friends. And we can talk about the “work” stuff – no problem! Except…they often would go out for happy hours and drinks (weekly events) to do what graduate students do and I would hurry off to daycare to get my son and head home to do dinner and bedtime rituals. So I missed out on most social opportunities. I’d go about once a semester. Which was fun, but – definitely made me a bit of an outcast in the group.

And that might be similar to other “working” moms. I imagine it is. But I don’t know many other “working” moms (I mean working out of the home) with kids my age, in my area. (so picky, I know). In my department, exactly 0 other women students were pregnant during the same 5 years I worked on my degree. And I was pregnant twice. A small handful of students were already parents – but their kids were already a bit older. So while we could certainly relate on the “parent” issues – we weren’t in the same place. And they hadn’t had to deal with a department that wouldn’t grant maternity leave.

And they were mostly male.

So maybe it was just me. Maybe I’m just difficult. All I know is that I wound up feeling like I had one foot in three different worlds, and never fully belonged to any of them. I was a “working” parent, but also a graduate student, but also a “stay-at-home” parent at times, but also none of these things. Like a rolling stone. If I may.