Problem at work: seeking advice

Two faculty meetings ago, I raised my hand while a (large white male Southern) senior full professor was talking.  He immediately turned on me and started yelling at me about interrupting.  I responded that I had only raised my hand and had a clarifying question.  He yelled at me that I talked too much.  After this exchange was over, nobody let me ask my question.

At the last faculty meeting I actually did interrupt him.  One of the (female) professors who was not at the meeting wanted feedback on how to deal with our power hungry IT department (she asked another faculty member to collect feedback).  The senior professor started on a long rant about how she was going about it the wrong way and the first step is to… do essentially what the female professor was planning to do.  Which I pointed out.  Then he turned on me and started screaming about me interrupting.  Since the meeting time was over and it had devolved into complaining, I got up and started to leave.  He then yelled at me that I was not allowed to leave and he had more to say to me.  I told him I did not like being treated this way, let the door close, and went back to my office.

Our previous chair is on an extended sabbatical.  Our current chair was in both of these meetings and did nothing.  I do not feel comfortable discussing this problem with our current chair.  The senior (male) full professor I would normally look to for protection is in a feud with this guy– they both started screaming expletives at each other during a search committee meeting last year that they then both removed themselves from.  (The replacement committee did a great job.)  There are no other full professors in the dept.

This senior professor (the one who yells at me) has become increasingly erratic during the passing years and frequently engages in long angry rants about another group in the department having too many talks, and other bizarre things.  Usually he apologizes after saying something directly awful to me or another faculty member, but as is indicated by his second rant at me, he does not think he was in the wrong and still blames me.  Any time he sees me now, he glares or frowns.  I have not been meeting his gaze, and I go out of my way to avoid him.

I am a small female, though I do talk a lot, especially when a meeting is run poorly.  (I’m the person asking what the action items are.)  I do not feel comfortable talking to this professor directly as he is a big crazy person and I am small.  My chair has done nothing and I suspect that my department may think that as a female I should keep my mouth shut more and let the men take care of things like the majority of my other female colleagues do.  (That is to say, the women do the majority of the service, but the men do the majority of the talking.  Standard fare.)

Assuming that I am tenured, what should I do?  What are my options?


Sometimes the IRS is awesome

I don’t know if I should be so excited about this, but kudos to the IRS…

We’re paying one of our mother’s helpers more than the maximum for under-the-table income.  Because I might someday be appointed to government office (and also because I was “brought up right” and am naturally a rules follower) that means I have to figure out the whole nanny tax thing.

The calculations for taking money out of the paycheck hurt my head, so we’re going to figure all of that out later.

However, the first step is to fill out an SS-4 to request an Employee Identification Number (EIN).  The form is really icky and hard to understand.  But!  Now the IRS has an online version that asks a few questions and makes it super super easy!

So yay easy!
Still not looking forward to the I9 and W-whatever and actually paying the taxes and so on, but any streamlining is appreciated.

Have you paid the “nanny tax” before?  Any tips?

Link Love

Oil and garlic asks if a blog comment has ever changed your mind IRL.

Miser mom ponders normality (not the statistical kind).

Leightpf with a gameplan for what to do with future moneys.  Do you have one?

The blog that ate manhattan notes that the pope kills people when he plays doctor.

Nwedible does a taste test:  is a heritage turkey worth it?  Do want.

I love it when my non-pf blog-reads discuss personal finance.  Give Hush’s rich friend advice on how to stop going broke each month.

Kittens watching tennis.

We were in this week’s carnival of personal finance.

Ask the grumpies: Developing confidence

Liz asks:

How does one develop confidence after-the-fact? Specifically, I’m coming from a perspective of having grown up being called “perfect” all the time, yet having a mother who nit-picks and tells me what I like/don’t like and is passive-aggressive… I’ve found it’s hard to develop confidence coming from these two positions (afraid to not be perfect, afraid to do anything because it will be wrong). Any advice would be great.

rented life adds:

Riffing off that, how do you develop confidence when you’re good at things other people expect you to do but your true goals lie somewhere else. ex: if I’d rather write fiction and/or be a stay at home mom, but have parents that I love but put “Jobs that make a difference” ahead of everything and haven’t expressed much confidence in my ability to parent –no kids yet, but somehow how I treat my cats reflects how I will parent???. I know it’s easy to say just do it, but that advice falls a little flat.

#1:  I got nothin except “Your parents might be jerks”

#2: Many of us grow up wanting to please our parents.  When we’re adults it can be hard to let go of that.  Especially those of us who skipped the traditional teenage rebellion stage.  (I suspect #1 worked through this dilemma as a teenager.)

At some point you have to divorce yourself from caring about your parents’ opinions of you.  For me that happened in graduate school when I was clinically depressed.  At a point I realized that a. all the stuff I thought my parents expected of me, they really didn’t.  I exceeded their expectations.  I wasn’t disappointing anybody but myself.  That was kind of a revelation.  (For DH it was the night of our rehearsal dinner when he overheard his parents telling mine how proud they were of him.  He’d had no idea.)  b.  my parents have their own faults and their own misperceptions (some of which I can enumerate…).  They’re just flawed people like everybody else and they don’t know me as well as I know me.  So when my mom nags my sister to get a law degree or a masters degree, well, that’s just silly given how much money she’s making without either.  c.  You’re living your life for you, not for them.  That’s true whether they’re wonderful but smothering parents or nit-picky passive-aggressive types (I actually have one of each, but don’t tell my mom I said that, and she’s not really as smothering in reality as she was in my head).  They have their own lives to live, and if they’re not busy enough, suggest that they start training guide-dog puppies.

Cognitive restructuring, which is a part of cognitive behavioral therapy, is a great way to build confidence in your reality and thus in you.  There are a lot of different techniques to change how you feel by changing how you think.  The general idea is to force yourself to replace an untrue thought with a true thought, or a negative frame with a truthful and positive reframe.  One technique is to get out a sheet of paper, divide it in half lengthwise, then on the left put the negative thought.  On the right next to it, put the truth.  “I can’t do X” on the left, “I don’t know if I can do X unless I’ve tried it, and I’ve shown that I can do Y.  Even if I can’t do X, the world won’t end” on the right.  The negativity jar we talked about earlier is another technique.

Part of that cognitive restructuring can be towards giving yourself a growth mindset.  If you’re not the person you want to be, you can become that person.  Or you can change who you want to be.  Everything in life is only for now, to quote Avenue Q.

Moving away also helps.

As does leaving the Catholic church.

Grumpeteers, How do you build confidence, especially when your parental situation has undermined that ability?

Going early and slow

Back when I started this article, people were talking about Race to Nowhere… one of those movies about pressure cooker parents messing up their kids.  (Note:  neither of us, despite our elite circles, has ever actually met someone whose parents pressured them thusly.  We believe they exist, otherwise Amy Chua wouldn’t be, but are by far the minority… or at least don’t actually end up at the elite institutions with which we are familiar… maybe they go to Princeton.  No wait… one of us met a first gen Chinese girl with one of those moms, but she didn’t go to an Ivy for college… just grad school.  The other one of us remembers a couple of pre-meds on her hall in college, also of Asian descent.  But they seemed perfectly fine, except for the not really wanting to be doctors part.)

Of course, on the mommy forums, folks were taking this documentary to mean that kids should not be allowed near a written letter until they are 5 years old at the absolute earliest, and that’s only if you don’t get into the local Waldorf school, in which case age 8 or 9 is better.

The argument seems to be around whether you’re providing your kids with an advantage by “hothousing” them (or as some like to put it, “enabling them to reach their potential”) or by letting them “enjoy their childhoods” (or as I like to say, “be Rosseau dream-children”).  Proponents of the anti-learning model argue that we’re stressing out our kids with all the pressure.   Arguments in the other direction (that I haven’t actually heard made by a real person, just by articles against hot-housing) seem to focus on children getting into ivy schools later in life and becoming successes, whatever that means.

What the arguments seem to ignore is that when you start something early instead of late, the learning can be more leisurely and more fun.  There can be LESS pressure instead of more pressure.  Deadlines are far away and nobody expects a child to show genius at such a young age for task X, Y or Z.  The time can be spent focusing on the learning and the joy, and when it stops being fun, you can take a break and come back to it later, no harm, no foul.  Plus there’s the meta lesson that even if you don’t get something right away, with practice and time you will get it eventually.

We’ve seen the positive aspects of starting early and going slow across several aspects of DC1’s life.

Potty training

Unlike most parents, we found potty training to be pretty fun.  Unlike most parents, we started pretty early.  15 months.  We would have started earlier but before reading the research I thought you had to go all or nothing.  Ze wasn’t completely trained for many years (went a week without accidents right before age 2, was mostly dry before 3, was dry at night before 5).  The joy of starting at 15 months is you feel a bit naughty doing it– people who find out will be more than happy to provide their opinion of why you’re torturing the child or you’re the one being trained, etc.  (To which I would say, “Did you know that before disposable diapers the average age of potty training was 18 months, and in cultures with infant training, the average age of being completely trained is 12 months?  It’s really interesting, the potty readiness signals were created by Barry T Brazelton who was working for Pampers at the time.  They seem to coincide with the worst time to start training.”  You can see I have the speech memorized– as a professor I use people not minding their own business as an opportunity to educate.)

Potty training for us went much like all the other skills.  It was fun watching DC1 get better and better at this new skill.  Very relaxed.  Whenever it wasn’t relaxed we’d just stop.  And that would feel fine too, because the feeling of naughtiness would go away while on break.  Then we’d go back later.


Reading isn’t quite as good an example, because we didn’t deliberately start training DC1 to read (I did read  a couple of books on how to teach infants to read via flashcards, but decided that wasn’t fun and only taught sight reading which isn’t phonics.)  We did, however, read a lot to DC1, and I tend to run my finger along the words as I read children’s books because that’s what my mother did (possibly from her Headstart training).  And we have literally hundreds of children’s books to flip through and chew on, many at baby height.  We also introduced the Leapfrog CDs long before DC1 could decode because DC1 was really into frogs at that age.  The side effect of that was that ze knew all the phonics rules (in verse form, “The A says ah, the A says ah, every letter makes a sound the A says ah”) so that as soon as hir brain was ready for phonics, the inputs were already there.  On top of that, we have some great simple puzzles that attach words to pictures or letters to words and pictures.  These worked so well that we hope to do the same for DC2 even if ze isn’t as into frogs as hir older sibling.


I love math and I love teaching math, so math is something we start right away, counting baby lifts and baby fingers and toes and ears and eyes and noses.  Numbers are everywhere and we point them out.  Following that, any kind of manipulable can teach simple addition (two raisins plus two raisins is one two three four raisins).  Skip counting is also a lot of fun.  We practice these kinds of games when we’re waiting for things, even if it means I occasionally get dirty looks.  Better dirty looks for “hothousing” than for my kid getting stuck in the slats of a chair yet again.  Later on we added workbooks and money games from Scholastic books.

We’re totally Boicing our kids.


There are some disadvantages besides the occasional dirty look and accusation of doing horrible things to your children in order to win at life or something.  Sometimes the whole point of learning something new is learning to overcome a new challenge.  When learning is easy and happens over a long period of time, and doesn’t have those frustrations that a deadline will bring, the child may be missing that important lesson.  Additionally, when a child knows something that hasn’t yet been taught in school, that can lead to boredom when it is finally covered.  Though perhaps the boredom is a societal problem, not because of us.

[Disclaimer:  We do not recommend trying CIO-style sleep training or solid feeding earlier than what doctors recommend– baby brains and baby tummies aren’t ready for those until about the date the AAP recommends or they show signs of readiness.  Of course, anyone knows that trying to feed a baby who doesn’t want to be fed is not fun for mom and dad, and CIO generally isn’t ever fun.  So if you keep to the rule of only doing things early if they’re fun for all, you should be ok.]

Anyway, my point is that introducing something early doesn’t necessarily lead to pressuring.   In fact, sometimes it keeps you from ever having to pressure.

How do you make choices about when to introduce new concepts?  What did your parents do?

Typical professors

I asked my students what they expect typical professors to be like.  (In the first week of the course I had asked them about their expectations of me.)  These particular students are mostly seniors.

I keep asking them this question for the sole reason that their answers make me LOL in the coffeeshop.

A lot of people think college professors are extroverted. Which is funny because I think the exact opposite. My act must be fooling them.  Also a lot of people don’t include research in their description of what professors do all day, whereas it’s one of the first things I think about in my description.

A lot of them think that professor is synonymous with teacher, though there are a few who imagine a professor “tirelessly researching”.  Does it count if I’m tired?

Wow, this person is deep: ” I know that I have been shocked by the lack of passion/critical thinking in the [redacted humanities] department, and of the awkward social interactions that I have had in the [redacted STEM] department, so my prototype is only relevant to my limited and most common experiences. While some of my professors are producing research that exposes certain systems in the university, some [redacted] professors are working hard to mask and solidify these systems.”

When you were an undergrad, what did you think your professors were up to all day?

#2 says:  my mom was a professor, so I always thought professors were always super busy doing IMPORTANT things and I should be very careful of their time.

What the allowance does

We’ve talked about our families’ experiences with allowances before.  But here are some more meta thoughts on the subject.

An allowance is a mini-budget but looser.  An allowance can be greatly mentally freeing, even as it constrains.

Like a budget, it gives you a budget constraint.  That forces you to make choices and to prioritize.  However, this prioritization is only for the set of discretionary purchases.  The regular non-discretionary purchases are set separately and hopefully automated.  That focus on a smaller choice set makes the allowance much less overwhelming than a budget, and since allowances are generally only over fun money (what you *can* spend rather than what you *have to* spend), they can even be kind of fun.

Weekly allowances are also helpful for people with time inconsistent preferences.  It may be difficult to wait a month until payday to purchase something, but most people can wait a week.  And a week’s reflection can help decide whether a potential impulse purchase is worth the impulse.

Allowances are also good for people who have a hard time spending money.  If you have a specific allowance, it allows you to spend a certain amount guilt-free on whatever you want.  You know you can’t go over a certain amount of money and this money is the money that’s earmarked as ok to spend.  It allows people to loosen up those tight chains a little bit to buy little luxuries (or whatever else it is that money can help ease).

Still, allowances aren’t for everyone.  We don’t really feel like they add to our happiness, but they definitely add to many people’s, including at least one of our partners.

What are your experiences with allowances?  If you’ve used them, have they helped, and if so, how?