Wednesday, August 8, 2007

A Balancing Act

Wow - I only published one post and already I took a hiatus. Thus is the story of my life - it seems like I'm always taking a break from something to take care of the thousands of mini-mommy-crises that happen on a daily basis. These happenings are not all negative, but most are exhausting. Right after my maiden voyage post, my family took a week long trip to New York City. Ebo had to go to NYC for some training, so we naively thought that this could make a great family vacation. Though we had a great time and the kids (for the most part) handled everything well, we decided that New York City is a vacation we maybe should have saved for when the kids are older, or at least old enough to be out of a stroller. Then, after a week of recovering from the vacation, Destructo Boy caught some heinous stomach bug, which he eventurally shared with me (he loves his mommy!). All of this, added to the fact that I haven't done any real work for a few weeks, just made me want to vegetate and watch Law and Order reruns instead of being the dilligent dissertation writer I set out to be when I started this blog.

So right now I'm committed to getting my butt in gear. The past week I have searched the city for all the cafes with free Wi-fi. Unfortunately, the kids are out of "school"/daycare until the end of the month, but I have found a great economical alternative to the unreliable babysitters I seem to find. The newest phenomenon in childcare seems to be drop-in babysitting, or "Playcare" centers. A couple of times a week, I drop the kidlets off and they are able to play on the giant indoor playstructure, explore the hundreds of toys we don't have at home, or just run around like crazy while supervised by staff who have had background checks. They are even provided a meal if I order one, which means two less lunches I have to fix that day. Now, I usually don't leave the kids for more than three hours at a time, but I'm hoping this gives me a chance to get a few things done while it is still daylight out.

Though I really don't have anything tangible to show for myself, I have had a chance to catch up on some reading for a paper I would like to write. Many articles have been written about the challenge of being an anthropologist and having a family, but most have been written in the perspective of the anthropologist's work being a career priority and a significant source of the family's income. This is not the case in our family. Though my research was fully funded, my life as an anthropologist did not come even close to covering our mortgage, living expenses, or fertility treatments. I still brought home a good paycheck from teaching and other research, but Ebo clearly has been the one with the stable income. Before Ebo and I decided to become parents, I mistakenly thought that I would still have some time to finish graduate school. It would just take more time than I originally thought. However, what I have found is that yes, there is time if I seek it, but my priorities have shifted and I no longer seek to use my free time to dive into my work like I used to. It's not that I don't have an interest in my research anymore, but certain circumstances have formced me to compromise and re-prioritize how I am to spend my time and energy.

In an edited volume entitled Children and Anthropological Research, Barbara Butler and Diane Turner (1987) described how anthropologists with families have tried to separate their academic and personal lives even through their spouses and children are very visible to the groups they research. This assertion depends on the assumption that the anthropologist considers her work to be "professional," which they define using W.E. Moore (1970): A professional is a person who earns most of his income from a full-time job for which he has been educated; joins others like himself in the occupation's organizations; enjoys a sense of occupational autonomy; views his work as providing a services to his clients; and most signficantly, he treats his occupation as a 'calling' with an 'enduring set of normative and behavioral expecations.'" My question is, what if it is virtually impossible to earn most of my income as an anthropologist? What does that do to my status now? I cannot work full time as an anthropologist. Even before children, I did not earn enough to live without Ebo's income. Most of my fellow graduate students survived on loans, working odd jobs, or living off of what we called "The Lunch Box," or our code for "spouse of anthropologist."

The fact that I didn't earn enough money didn't affect me before Sassy Girl and Destructo Boy came along. Sassy Girl was born early and had a myriad of health issues, so day care was out of the question for the first six months of her life. Ebo and I decided that I would put my work on hold not because I was the woman, but he was the one with the higher paying job. (Well - I guess I was the lacatating one, too...but I am trying to make a point) Her well-being consumed me - I has worked so hard to be a mother that I wasn't going to screw it up by not making my beautiful daughter a priority. Crises and events came and went (including the wonderful arrival of Destructo Boy), but it became increasingly difficult pick up where I had left off. I had changed, my life had changed, and my perspective on my career had changed. I was encouraged several times to get a nanny and just finish, but my reluctance wasn't just about the money. Deep down inside, I am a control freak. I didn't want other people raising my children, especially when they both had health issues.

I hope to turn these ramblings into an informative paper about academics, family, and gender to present at some conference. Perhaps I have found a new research interest, or maybe I just need some therapy. Either way, I just need to get it all out so I can move on.

References Cited

Butler, Barbara and Diane Michalski Turner (1987). Children and Anthropological Research. New York: Plenum Press.

Moore, W.E. (1970). The Professions: Role and Rules. New York: Russell Sage Foundation.


Daria said...

Good post.

Finally writing it said...

Let's stay in touch,

Diane Michalski Turner

Finally writing it said...

Let's stay in touch,

Diane Michalski Turner