Friday, July 13, 2007

How Was Your Day?: Or, Non-Conversations Between Dissertating Spouses

Is it just me, or is it suddenly rare to have an extended conversation with ones spouse if both people are writing a dissertation? I find myself having the same conversation with my husband, day after day. It goes like this:

Me: How was your day?
Hubby: Good. I read. How was yours?
Me: Good. I read. What are you working on for tomorrow?
Hubby: I'm gonna finish some more reading, then do some writing. What are you gonna do?
Me: I'm gonna write.

Then a long silence ensues as we both realize there is very little in our days of mutual isolation and office hermitage that affords us the opportunity to have an interesting conversation. I'm a talker (I know, big shocker), so this is a particularly irksome new feature of my marriage, but I'm beginning to wonder if this is just something that comes with the territory of being married to someone who is also at the dissertation stage. It's one thing to be holed up in my office, reading and/or writing for hours, no longer part of the usual chats that take place before and after class when one is in coursework. But it's quite another cruel and unusual punishment that, at the end of said work day, I go home to someone who has also been holed up in the office, reading and/or writing all day, and by no fault of our own we have nothing to offer each other in terms of witty, interesting, or salacious banter.

At some point, though, I have to at least wonder if it's just the fact that we're both doing the diss at the same time? Or, if it's us, and other academic couples have no problem finding hours of fascination in each others' tales of research adventure and dissertation drama?

Tomorrow's my birthday damn it, and I want to have a decent conversation!...With someone *other* than my mother!

I think I may be more sensitive to this because H is out of town, visiting family in Home State. She's been gone for two weeks now, and isn't set to come back until a week from tomorrow. The pleasant peace and quiet has given way to the eerie peace and quiet, which is quickly turning into the it's-too-damn-quiet-in-this-house and I-want-my-little-girl-back-now peace and quiet. She spent the first week with Nana (my mom), she's with her (natural) father this week, and she'll spend next week with her other grandma (ex-husband's mom, who is fabulous by the way). Her dad took this week as vacation - a rare event for him as a ranch manager - and took her and the rest of his immediate family to a nearby water park, and she had a great time. I know she's having lots of fun and all of the family lives back in Home State, so they only have the summer to get these kinds of visits, but I miss her so much. She missed getting to see her baby sister crawl for the first time this week. And she won't be here to help me eat a birthday dessert tomorrow. Our home - our little family bubble - just isn't the same without her noise and laughter and whining and talking back, so I really hope these next few days go by fast.


mgm said...

Happy birthday, a day early, Academama!

I understand how that quiet can get eerie. When SuperDad and The Toddler went on their camping trip, I was about to go nuts by the time the third day came round.

And if it makes you feel any better, we have very similar conversations around here, and SuperDad is doing his BS.

supadiscomama said...

Don't fret--Supadiscodaddy and I have very similar conversations. Occasionally we talk about our project, but very rarely. It sucks when neither of you has a life, huh? :) At least we have Supadiscobaby to talk about!

Happy Birthday!!

M said...

Happy Birthday!

And the dissertation conversations come in spurts at our house. Lately the talks have consisted of lambasting C's advisor, but mostly we just focus on what is left to be done. Since our fields seem to be overlapping a bit (both of us dealing with architecture, although I'm dealing with representation of architecture in literature) we often bounce ideas off one another. Sometimes I find I have to figure things out for myself before I can discuss them with someone else. And when I do want to talk about my work, I often only want someone to listen, not say anything in return.

wwwmama said...

Hope it was happy!!!
And I hope you're not too sad about missing H. At least she's having a great time. But I know how long that is to not see your kid. My mom wants to take Free for two weeks and I just can't imagine not seeing her face for that long!

Stewgad said...

Hi AcadeMama - I just found your blog, so I'm late to this conversation, sorry!

Spousal Unit and I get into this a lot -- mainly when he asks me how my day was and I offer a very tight-lipped "fine." Somehow, I think a lot of dissertation work goes on inside our heads and we're afraid to let it out because if we do, then there it goes -- off into the ether, lost to us forever. At least, this is how I feel. So, often I just reply, "fine." When he's in good form, instead of asking HOW was my day, he asks, "what was the best thing and the worst thing about your day?" Or even "what was the most interesting thing that you thought about today?" Those questions always elicit a better response from me because I'm less afraid that the answer will reveal something about my work process that I don't want anyone to know about (usually the not-quite-so-productive parts). So, you might try those kinds of questions with your husband and it might open up conversation a bit more readily.

Anyway, great blog -- (it sounds like your in-laws suck! FYI I had zero good grandparents -- they weren't interested in being a part of my life at all --and I turned out just fine, I think.)

AcadeMama said...

Thanks to everyone...I do feel better knowing that it's not just us. Knowing that it's just a "temporary" thing will actually help me not to worry about it in the meantime.

Stewgad - welcome to the blog! Glad to have you, and thanks for the vote of confidence in children turning out well despite uninvolved grandparents.