Do you feel any pressure to be a “super mom”?

whatever that is

I don’t.  The only time I even come across this concept is when I accidentally click on the NYTimes or spend too much time on blogrolls full of professional mommy-bloggers making their money pretending to be SAHM.  (Oops, hear that sound?  that’s the sound of us losing readership because we’re terrible horrible people who could never make it on BlogHer. Whoops!)

From what I can tell it has something to do with being Martha Stewart + Sheryl Sandberg put together.  Not 100% sure there.  And not having an equal partner in parenting and taking care of the homestead, despite living with an adult husband.  Having a sparkly clean house definitely fits in there as a measure as your worth as a person.  Thank goodness nobody I know IRL ever talks about that kind of thing.  We would have to get a house-cleaner or something.

Maybe this is why people get weird about how much responsibility we’ve piled on our elementary schooler.  Maybe I’m supposed to be taking care of all that stuff under the super-mom rubric.  Meh.

This is kind of like that post where we asked if baking was a *thing* in reality or just on the internet.

I was flipping through mommy blogs recently and felt like I’d seen every single topic before and had already posted a reaction post, like 2-4 years ago.  Some of my reaction posts though aren’t very polite to post on people’s sites who are clearly hurting because the patriarchy is making them believe stupid things.  Still, I kind of wish I could.  WTF is up with people’s entire feelings of value and worth being wrapped up in whether or not their house is clean?  Oh wait, we already asked that two years ago.  Oh and Choice feminism, we’ve addressed you (we’re pro-, but not for the standard, why can’t we all get along reasons).  Women feeling like they have to say they’re not perfect, check.  Why we can thank our mothers for not feeling guilty for working…  And what is UP with all that guilt in parenting nonsense in the first place?  If you believe the internet, all women hate each other, are neurotic about the state of their houses, and are wracked with extreme guilt about their parenting choices (or are super defensive about not being parents).  That just doesn’t mesh with our reality AT ALL.  The internet is a super weird place.

Am I just oblivious and is this super-mom pressure really a thing?  Or is it yet another way the patriarchy introduces anxieties to women in order to make money off them?

Things to be paranoid about part 2

Did you even know there was a part 1?

One of my friends from graduate school occasionally reminds me that the world is a very scary place.  Because it is.  I recently shared a hotel with her for a wedding and found out the following things.

Bed bugs are everywhere.  When finding a hotel it is important to check bedbugregistry to make sure that the hotel hasn’t had a problem with bedbugs.  Most hotels have.

This one we already knew:  Door handles are carriers for diseases.  Use a paper towel or kleenex that you then throw away anytime you have to touch one.  If you don’t have one, well, do your best with whatever cloth you have available that you’re unlikely to touch.  (After surviving the job market without a single illness using this advice, compared to the way I got sick every time I got on a plane before, I actually am a believer on this one.)

Glasses in hotel rooms… trust me, you don’t even want to know what she said about this.  In fact, I’ve blocked it out of my mind. LALALALALA.  Not thinking about it!

Your dryer can set your house on fire.  You should never leave them unattended.

MRSA … I may have to email her about this one…. Or maybe not because I probably blocked it out for a reason.

airborne mutant viruses on airplanes … I also seem to have mentally blocked this one…

Sitting down a lot.  It’s bad for you!  But we do it.

What things are you paranoid about?

What did we get people this year?

Shopping for DH’s family is sooo hard!

MIL:  This year we gave up and asked MIL what she wanted.  The answer?  The same luggage she got me for Christmas last year.  Not a problem!  We added a “Grandma” luggage tag because she seems to like things labeled Grandma.

FIL:  Another giving up year, a gift certificate to Cabela’s.  (Last year was an exception–we got him something he really wanted but he didn’t want to spend the money on that he still talks about.) This is probably still a good choice because he loves shopping at Cabela’s and MIL hates the way he spends so much of their money at Cabela’s.

BIL1:  games off his amazon wishlist

SIL1:  the first two books in the finishing school series.   She had the first on her list, but I know from experience that once you read the first you end up buying the second on kindle because you can’t wait for it to come in the mail.  So we got her that too.

Cousin 1:  Kid’s fun and healthy cookbook  Also one of the pigeon books from his wishlist, which seems kind of young to me, but whatever, it was on the wishlist.  And if we hadn’t had DC2 we might have gotten the entire set without the excuse of having a younger kid… (my sister loves those and she’s 30 years old!)

Cousin 2:  Three books off her wishlist, including a couple of elephant and piggie books and a knuffle bunny.  Maybe it’s mom who has the Mo Willems thing…  We were going to send her M R Nelson’s new book, but after looking at the heavily be-princessed wishlist (including 4 princess outfits), we decided that might get misconstrued.

SIL2: Her wishlist had been decimated, with only 3 things left on it (it had a tonne of stuff the week before, but we think MIL swept in and bought up the bulk).  Two books and a wish for “iTunes gift-card.”  We got her the two books, which were both kind of boring looking things about her job, one of which she’d put on recently, and the other something rated “low” that she’d put on a couple of years ago.  Oh well.

BIL2:  Was happiest the year we got him an Amazon giftcard, so an Amazon giftcard is what we got this year too.

Cousin 3:  A busload of pigeon books (it’s been a very Mo Willems year) and a couple of smaller books of hir wishlist.  Also we’ll be donating to the 529 plan.  We would do this for cousins 1 and 2 also, but BIL has never gotten around to setting them up, even though in his state they get a 20% tax credit(!) off their state income taxes.

Grandmother-in-law:  She’s now in a nursing home with early stage Alzheimer’s.  MIL didn’t have any suggestions.  She’s crunched for space, so no knick knacks.  MIL takes care of things like linens and clothing and so on.  She’s not really able to do her hobbies anymore.  Someone has already signed her up for fruit-of-the-month.  So we looked online for suggestions for people in nursing homes and people with Alzheimer’s and decided to make picture magnets, one for each of our little families (DH and his siblings and all our kids) with names underneath each person (the names part is the part suggested for Alzheimer’s patients).  Each family is color coded with a different color for the names.  We had an extra magnet leftover on the online thing and put a picture of DH’s mom and aunts on it.

My parents: I wanted to get them an air conditioner.  The two wall units they have are literally from the 1980s, inefficient, and ran out of freon before I left for college.  Every summer there’s a heatwave I worry about them dying like all those people in Chicago back when I was a kid.  Also I have to listen to my mom complain about how difficult it is to sleep in the heat.  Home Depot has a thing where they will install the a/c and take an old one away, so that’s what I want to do.  After much back and forth we decided to send them a giftcard to Home Depot for the amount we would have spent on a window unit, and they will replace one of their wall units in the summer.

My sister:  Well, for various reasons, I wanted to buy her that $369 automatic litter box, but the conversation kept going like, Her: “Why don’t you buy me a new washing machine for $369 instead?” Me:  “Because I don’t feel guilty about anything involving a washing machine.” “How about a stand mixer, I’d really like one of those fancy stand mixers”  “Would you ever USE a stand mixer?  Plus, I don’t feel guilty about anything involving a stand mixer!”  (Note:  earlier that evening she’d suggested we get her a vitamix, and I was like we got you an Oster hand blender a few years ago, and she was all, “You did?  Huh, I’ll have to check.  I know you got me that food processor that one year that I’ve never taken out of the box.  And that crockpot I never use.”  Note she’d asked for said food processor and crockpot.  She always wants cooking implements when she’s saving up money for something, but never actually uses them.)  So what did I get her instead?  $85 worth of cat toys and feliway.

DH’s relative with all the kids:  probably  money.  Daughter #2 is pregnant again…

As always, Target gift cards for teachers.

#2 says:  I have no income.  I am spending out of savings for Christmas, combined with not traveling, and not getting people extravagant gifts.   I’m buying used for people who are ok with that and looking for Kindle sales.  I also used the cashback on my Discover card to buy gifts.  I got my grandmother a box of pears.  There’s a group gift for the other grandmother, who doesn’t want a lot of Stuff.  But I’m trying to write her more letters and let her know I’m thinking of her.

I’m going in with my siblings on a lot of things.  Joint large gifts for mom, dad, stepmom (split between me and sis and our partners).  My brothers got stuff off their wishlists.  Stuff for my sister?  Well, I won’t say it here in case she ever finds this blog!

Did you get anything good or fun or interesting for folks on your holiday list this year?

Link love

This is cool.  We have a surgeon friend who often complains that surgery tools are all built for men’s hands.  There’s definitely an incentive for more women-sized medical stuff!

this is a great post on energy and academic work-life balance

Many thanks to the reader who sent us this verra speshul link

In which we violate the Geneva conventions

What are your thoughts on this cover letter?  Down with terrible cover letters!

A macabre twist

US Capitol staffers

Diane Feinstein on the CIA director’s defense of torture

An insurance dance.

The annual Hater’s Guide to the Williams Sonoma Catalog!  You won’t want to miss this!

beautiful!

Miser Mom takes down a chair.

Teaching Laura Ingalls Wilder

How not to shoot civilians

Soooo glad I quit teaching

Why women leave tech?  The answer may not surprise you.  Microsoft CEO tells women not to ask for raises.  Male tech leaders vs. feminism.

The entire novel

Best new show 2014

I think I’m going to try this out sometime.  Maybe February.  And maybe only one circuit worth.

Right wing lessons learned

This week in mansplaining:

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ugh

 

Ask the Grumpies: Questions about leaving academia

E asks:

I’m in my second year of a tenure-track position, but for multiple reasons would like to leave academia. Realistically, I may need to stick it out through the end of the spring semester, but my physical/emotional health has been greatly affected.

How much notice did you have to give? What kind of preparations did you take before giving notice? Do you have links to resources about others who have left t-t jobs?

You can, of course, quit your TT job mid-semester.  But generally it is best to do it at the semester break, just as a professional courtesy.  Bonus points for doing it at the year break and letting them know before the end of summer.  If you don’t have a job lined up, I would recommend, know for yourself that you are quitting in May — but don’t tell them until April or May.  (Or the latest you can get away with no longer lying.  That was a personal thing for me [ed: raised Catholic], I didn’t want to lie directly to their faces and say I’d be back when I wouldn’t, but I had no trouble letting them assume that I would.)  Don’t tell them right now, though, because the other faculty may treat you badly for the rest of the time you are there.  Try to go out nicely and politely, and protect yourself.

Don’t be a dick and leave them in the lurch mid-semester if you can possibly help it. But sometimes you can’t help it.  If you get the non-academic job of your dreams, then don’t feel guilty about leaving with two weeks’ notice if you can’t easily delay your start date to a semester.  In the absence of a rare job opportunity, giving 2 weeks’ notice is not unheard-of, but would be kind of annoying.  It’s legal though (Disclaimer: to the best of our knowledge… you may want to anonymously check with legal or with HR).

It’s perfectly ok to call in sick a lot for the rest of the year if you are actually sick (physically, emotionally, feeling awful, etc.).  Try to minimize the impact on your students, but take the sick days to which you are entitled.  See if you can put some classes online so you don’t have to go in as much, or give your students library time or whatever you can do to cut your losses and keep yourself sane.  Calling in sick also works with boring committee meetings.  Those are much easier to ditch than are students, and they probably will barely notice.  Show up to the high-visibility stuff.  Reduce the amount of time you spend commenting in detail on student work.  [#2 would still show up to all classes, assuming nothing communicable]

Before quitting, read this book, it provides things to think about financially in terms of your escape route.  Both #1 herself and #2’s DH took/have been taking a while to find new jobs.  You want to be able to have some time to be picky about jobs if you can (assuming you don’t find employment before leaving), rather than having to take something minimum wage right away, and in the best case scenario, you won’t go into further debt while unemployed.  It is important both to build up a savings buffer and to get your expenses down.  (Most likely you will not be getting unemployment payments because it is difficult to engineer a layoff from the TT.)  Just having an escape plan can often make the “now” seem more bearable.  Plus you can stop caring about department drama and say no to things more often.

What kind of job you should be looking for is going to depend a lot on the supply and demand in your field.  #2’s DH, for example, is working for a company doing exactly the work he was trained to do as a graduate student.  He’s also writing (and getting) more grants and doing more publications than he had time for back when he was teaching a 3/3 load with undergrads and going to faculty meetings once a week.  #1’s profession isn’t quite as marketable, but she’s still holding out for a research position related to her training and will likely be successful.  Update:  If you are in a tech field, check out Cloud’s book on the non-academic job search.

People in many humanities fields may have to get a job that doesn’t directly use skills from graduate school.  They may have to settle for a day job that, while using analytical thinking, organizational, and writing skills doesn’t involve reading novels, doing archival research, etc.  But, you know, also pays better.  #2 knows a couple of historians who still publish (and publish well), and go to the occasional academic conference (especially when it’s nearby) but have unrelated day jobs in consulting and finance.  One of them told her that even though he could now get an academic job at a university based on his publication record and had been invited to apply several places, he didn’t want to take the pay cut, so historical research remains a hobby.  Academia really is just a job, but there are other jobs too.  Research, like many things, can be either a job or a hobby.

Here are some other links:

Another person wondering if ze should stay or go.  With links!  This post has resources for people leaving academia (see comments for more links).

Good luck with everything!  Build that escape plan so that you can take a measured risk and remember that you are not trapped.  You will get through this.

Any more advice for E, Grumpy Nation?  Do any of you have links to resources about others who have left t-t jobs?

Should you battle feelings of inferiority by putting other people down?: A deliberately controversial post

Here’s our premise:

We don’t think people should feel inferior to other people.

Using feelings of inferiority to attack other people is not cool (even if they never know they’re being attacked).

There’s no point in negatively comparing yourself to other people because (with only a few arguable exceptions) someone will always be better on any dimension or set of dimensions.  Instead, focus on what you like, who you want to be, and how you can get there from here.

On personal finance sites, people will often say things like, “The Joneses may have that amazing house, but they probably have lots of credit card debt.  They probably have no retirement savings.”

But you know, some of the Joneses value housing or cars or what have you and although they are on track savings-wise, they’ve chosen to spend their money on the things you can see rather than other things you can’t.

And what’s really mind-breaking is that some of the Joneses got lucky and have high incomes.  Some of them made good choices when they were younger and are reaping the rewards of that now.  Some of them just have more money than you do.

And that’s ok.  (At some level we might want to argue about higher marginal tax rates and less corporate welfare, but for your average Neighborly Jones that’s probably not a first order concern.)

Yes, it might make you feel better to tell yourself that they have debt and you don’t.  Or they are stealing from their wealthy parents.  You can look down on them and lose all neighborly feeling.  And forget about learning anything from them.

And what happens if you find out that’s not true?  That they really are on track financially.  Do you go back to feeling inadequate and inferior?

The same kind of thing happens on mommy blogs.  The value-set is different than on pf blogs, of course.  Instead of houses and cars and retirement accounts, things like craftiness and cleanliness and “doing it all” (whatever that means) are the comparison sets.  But they say the same thing, well, this person with this pinterest page seems perfect, but there’s some area of her life that’s imperfect that she’s not showing me because she has to keep up her perfect persona.  (And the blogger saying this always posts the obligatory, “see my house gets messy so I’m not perfect” pic.  No offense to any blogger who has done this, but your house isn’t really messy.  Really messy is what you get when you don’t actually care if the house is clean.  And you shouldn’t have to pretend it is messy in order for people to like you.  You really shouldn’t.)

[Ah, you say, telling yourself that someone else has unadvertised weaknesses doesn’t hurt anyone… she’ll never know.  But the thing is, everyone else reading your comment gets the message that it’s not ok to succeed in all areas.  That we have to find and advertise weakness even where none exists in order to make people feel better.  It’s a way that patriarchy keeps strong women from achieving.  We’re always damned.]

We’ve posted on this topic before.   And I noted that I have work-friends who I admire who do everything I care about better than I do.  They’re amazing.  I could lie to myself and say their relationships aren’t as good or their kids aren’t as cute, but their relationships are good and their kids are cute (I do prefer mine of course, but that’s because I’m me and they’re my kids).  Heck, at least one of them is a great cook to boot.  For all I know they’re good at crafts too (who knows?  Not something we discuss at conferences.).  But I don’t have to lie to myself that they have hidden weaknesses.  Their amazingness about things I care about doesn’t diminish mine.  It just gives me something to shoot for (and means I have good taste in friends, and must not be completely obnoxious if they’re willing to hang out with me).

Finding our worth through comparisons of other people is never a winning proposition.  We are all amazing and growing in ways that are unaffected by other people’s accomplishments.  We all have our own preference sets that define what we care about.  We all have our own constraints that we’re working against.  We’re all different people with different starting points, different advantages, different preferences.  That’s a good thing!  There’s always going to be someone better at what we do, but that doesn’t mean we can’t be happy and proud of what we’ve accomplished or enjoy what we like.  Focusing on our internal locus of control is a much better way to lose those feelings of inferiority than trying to tell negative lies to ourselves about external things we can’t control.

The patriarchy wants us to feel inferior. We don’t have to listen to it. The first step is knowing that it’s ok not to. We don’t have to be worse than other people in whatever way just so they’ll like us.

Or maybe we do have to pretend to be worse than some people in order for them to like us… but maybe those people aren’t worth being liked by. Because who needs friends who want to tear us down instead of build us up?

So no, we don’t think that people should use feeling inferior as a reason to claim other people have weaknesses. That’s really only a band-aid solution to feeling self-confident anyway. It’s much better to stop doing the comparison to begin with, because there’s always going to be someone “better” at whatever it is you’re comparing yourself on.

Ok, Grumplings!  Do your worst (or best… whichever!). 

Do you ever have that dream…

If so, tell us all about it in the comments!

The last one I had, I had to go back to highschool with #2 because we were both missing courses for our high school degree.  Mine was PE!

(My partner reports that everybody has that dream.  But probably everybody doesn’t dream about getting their PhD taken away due to a high school mishap!)

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