Wednesday, November 02, 2005

Reflections on Halloween

I've been so busy lately I haven't even had time to watch streams of the Daily Show. I've had a lot of things on my mind that I wanted to write about but I just haven't had time, so I am wasting the last 30 minutes of my day to post.

Friday night was a Halloween party at my son's elementary school. He also had karate graduation that night, making it a festival of fun for the whole family running from place to place, switching out of school clothes to karate uniforms to Halloween costumes, but that's another story. I was a little shocked at the party at some of the costumes the girls were wearing. His school only goes up to the 3rd grade, so these were 6-9 year old girls wearing sexy kitten costumes and gyrating to the pop songs that the DJ was playing. I'm so out of date that I didn't recognize most of the music. Was it Britney Spears or what? But the girls already knew all the moves and were swinging their hips around in alarming fashion. All I can say is, I'm glad I don't have any daughters, because I would dress them as nuns and not let them leave the house. When my boys watch Cartoon Network they see adds for those Bratz Babies. I find those totally offensive. They are sexualizing little girls. It is so wrong. I am as blue state as they come, but even I feel that pop culture is undermining my attempts to raise my children with healthy attitudes about sex and the role of women in our society. My roommate in college was sexually abused as a child, and I've seen what it did to her psyche. She will never lead a "normal" life. I'm not saying that eliminating sexual images on TV would have prevented her abuse, but I also can't believe it is a good idea to advertise dolls of babies with pouty lips and revealing clothing on TV, either.

Whew. It feels good to get THAT off my chest.

I also had my mentoring committee meeting on Halloween. I was stupid to schedule it at 1 pm on Halloween. That was my fault entirely. So the whole time I was in the meeting I was looking at my watch wondering if I was going to make it to my son's Halloween pageant. Generally the feedback on my CV was good. They told me a lot of things I already knew--I need to publish some papers without my post-doc mentor (so far he is co-author on virtually everything). I need to court my potential letter writers, which means more travel to conferences and to give invited seminars and stuff. I immediately pointed out that travel is very hard for me. And we talked about my need to get some bigger funding fish. All the grants I have come from state or local agencies. I have nothing from NSF or EPA. And although we did just get that huge grant from a federal agency, I am #5 out of 5 PIs on it. So hey, I'm working on it. What else can I say? I have no control over when NSF decides to fund.

When I first walked into the meeting, my dept chair (who is on my mentoring committee) asked me how I was, and I said I was a little stressed out because I have a lab class with 15 students, and my TA just had her baby over the weekend, so she's out of commission for the rest of the semester and the HPLC isn't working. After about an hour, the one male on my committee of 3 mentors had to leave for class. Then my two female mentors and I continued to talk, and dept chair asked what else the dept could be doing for me. I said, "you can pick up my kids when I have to go out of town." I was joking, of course, but then, damn it, tears started to leak out of my eyes. Where did they come from? I blame my hormones, which were crazy because my period just started that morning. I never really cried, I just dripped a little, but that was bad enough. I told my mentors that I'm having a hard semester and I worry that things are only going to get more intense in the next few years. I can handle things right now, but if they get worse, I'm not sure I am going to be able to balance everything. My dept chair says I need to get more help with childcare. That would be in addition to full time day care for child #2 and after school care for child #1. I need help for when I go out of town and I need a baby sitter so that my husband and I can occasionaly spend time alone together. It just seems ridiculous that the $13,000 per year I am already spending on childcare is not enough (and remember that figure is half of what I paid last year, when both boys were in full-time daycare). Plus I cannot muster the time and energy it would take to find someone reliable to care for my children. And I know that my husband would give me greif about not spending enough time with the kids.

Oh sh*t, I just realized that I missed my childcare committee meeting, which started 50 minutes ago. Oops. F***ing irony!

Well anyway, too late to go to the meeting now. On with the show. Maybe it was a good thing that I showed some emotion in my mentoring meeting. Recall that one young female professor in our dept just quit to spend more time with her family. So it's not such a bad thing for me to show my dept chair that I am under a lot of strain, too. This balancing work and family thing is hard. I buzzed out of the meeting to go to son #2's Halloween pageant. I missed the pageant but arrived in time for cupcakes. Then we went home, ordered Domino's, took the boys trick or treating, and managed to get them into bed, with scrubbed teeth, by their usual bedtime and with no major meltdowns. All in all, a good Halloween.

And during all this, it occurred to me: I am giving my boys a happy childhood.

So screw tenure. My life is pretty good.


Blogger MommyProf said...

Yeah, I have a daughter and I have to really wonder who buys their daughters dolls that look like little streetwalkers. But people do...

6:12 AM  

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