Thursday, June 04, 2009

Not SAH Material

That's not a typo. I'm definitely Mother material, but I'm most certainly not Stay-at-Home Material, mother or otherwise. I like to say I'm Stay-at-Home-More-Often (SAHMO) mother material. Regardless friends, I am ready to once again participate in some sort of life outside this house. I love my new baby, and I love the time we've had together, just she and I. I know that she likes my voice, face, and touch better than anyone else's in the world. I know her better than anyone else, and I can comfort her when nobody else can. These are all wonderful things. Unfortunately, they do not satisfy my need to feel like I am making any sort of professional progess, either toward course prep for the fall or revising the dissertation (which I've been advised to shelve until I get settled in overseas).

After an argument with Hubby on Friday, in which I explicitly detailed *my* list of to-dos and compared it with *his* list, I think he finally gets what I've been telling him for weeks now: I'm fucking overwhelmed! While his comment that, "I've never seen you so overwhelmed??" made me want to rip his head off, I pointed out the obvious---I never HAVE been so overwhelmed. This is my first go around with three kids, a dissertation, and an international relocation. Some nights, I've stayed awake until 3:00 a.m. thinking about all the various plans and backup plans we need to have for random issues (travelling in the airports, vehicle arrangements in Qatar, teaching schedules, etc.). While I was in for my full medical exam on Friday, I talked to my doctor (the family physician) about the anxiety and insomnia, and for the first time in my life, I'm on anti-anxiety medication. I'm embarrassed about it, and I don't like needing medication to help me cope with my life, but things have reached a point where I had to do something. It's a mild sedative, which I'll only take in the evenings and only as needed in the lowest dose. In addition, Hubby and I have now worked out a division of at-home care with Amelia, which begins tomorrow. I'll work at the office on M/W, he'll work T/Th, and we'll split Friday in half. This comes after he met with his committee and they told him there are more revisions they'd like to see, and he won't be able to defend this week as he'd originally planned. They don't want anything extensive, just nit-picky things. He's confident he can finish the revisions before we leave in July, and then he'll defend in September via video conference.

Between the medication and getting some time in at the office, I think things will improve. My goal is to use my office days to work on course prep for the fall and use my at-home days to box things up for storage and garage sale. I'm hoping that if I can have those two categories of boxes completely taken care of, this will make it easier to relax and know that the moving company can handle all the other stuff we're taking with us. Part of my stress has come from simply looking around my house and seeing all our stuff everywhere. I don't feel *ready* to move with all my things still in their place, so then I start feeling anxious and unprepared. I can much more easily tolerate looking at boxes in the garage or stacked neatly in a corner than I can handle the stress of feeling like nothing has been done.

For now, I've gotta make use of the little time I have while the baby is asleep.....check that, she's awake now...didn't even make it 20 minutes.


Anonymous said...

Not SAHM material here, either. I was 2nd year tenure track when I had #2 (#1 was a 3yo). My husband had a major depressive episode the week the baby was born, and the entire first year of her life was a living nightmare of not being able to leave the kids alone with him while trying to negotiate his care and the demands of the tenure track. I sometimes think that people like you and I should be in charge of everything -- we should be the most empowered people in the universe, because we've been to hell and back making things work out for our families. The good thing is, it does usually work out. In my case, it involved finding a therapist for ME, and a very brief bit of drug therapy for the anxiety, too (made me gain a lot of weight I'm still carrying, which sucks, but you do what you have to do). I literally plodded through it all one day at a time and about a year later realized we were out of the tunnel and back into some kind of twilight. Six years later, I have tenure, the baby just graduate kindergarten, I'm working on my book, and still doing too much around the house. DH is on better meds and a better routine in general, so life is good. But man, it has taken so much longer than I ever thought it would to be able to say that!

I guess this is me sharing my "light at the end of the tunnel" story as a way to give you hope that it all gets better. I know I'm a better mom for being a working mom, and I know they are healthier kids for some time away from me and with other kids and other adults. People can scoff at the whole "it takes a village" thing, but it really does. It always did, before we got so crazy isolationist and developed this nutty cult of motherhood that insists we are supposed to be everything and do everything.

My biggest mistake (learned over these six years) was not leaning on all the people who would have gladly come forward to support me -- women friends, women colleagues, people who would have gladly helped if I'd put up the white flag and surrendered my guilt over not being able to be 100% perfect and in control all the time. I needed help! I suspect your DH is healthier and can help more, hence the argument and the frustration. The other thing I've learned is to ask for what I need from DH, and be really explicit (because he's a depressive and his mind goes in loops). So I have to say things like, "it is YOUR job to get these kids to bed tonight. It is YOUR job to take out the trash, etc." It sucks to have to be the nagging pita, but that's what he needs, and that's what works for us. It took a long time for me to relinquish the fantasy that he'd just figure this all out and pitch in at the level I needed.

Sometimes I swear I'm going to have baby #3 just so I can have the postpartum depression next time. Honestly, though, I was lucky -- healthy babies, no baby blues of any sort, and I was able to negotiate most of the harrowing early years of tiny kids and an academic life. You will, too. This blog is such a testament to your ability to make good and healthy decisions for yourself, your family and your career. I'm very excited for you, going on this international adventure! It's all going to work out. I developed a lot of mantras when I was the most stressed out about it all -- "this, too, shall pass" "all shall be well and all manner of thing shall be well" and, my perennial favorite, "I'm doing the best that I can. I'm doing the best that I can." Somehow it really helped me through the worst of it.

I don't comment often, but man, when I do, look out! I could NEVER "tweet", right? It is so not an English prof's medium!

AcadeMama said...

Lisa: What encouraging words! Thank you so very much for sharing your experience; it really does help me to hear from other women who've negotiated the demands of motherhood and academia, especially in the early years of both. I have a great deal of respect for your input :)

I'd never thought of weight gain as a possible side effect for the meds!! Agh! Unfortunately, the medicine my doc has me on right now doesn't seem to be doing anything. It helped the first couple of nights, but after that, I don't feel any more calm or any less anxious. We may need to tweak the dosage, I don't know.

I wish I had more people I could call on for help, except that all but one of my close female friends are pretty much in the same boat (graduate student moms finishing the PhD and just as busy as myself), and we don't live near any family members. You're right that I'm very lucky to have a husband who is completely competent and generally does the things that need to get done without having to be asked. With this move, though, there are quite a number of things that we just aren't seeing eye to eye on. For example, I want the garage sale items to all be priced as we box them up, so they'll be ready to the night before the sale. He thinks he can just wait until the morning of---WTF? And instead of just helping me by pricing his stuff, he's decided he'll just throw it all out. Not so much of a help anymore...

Anyway, I love the long chatty comments! I just feel better knowing that I'm not talking/writing to myself :)

Anonymous said...

LOL! I'm glad you like the long comments! Garage sales are such a total bitch; I swore after the last one that I'd pay someone $100 to haul the stuff away rather than attempt to make money on it ever again. We've never successfully made money on one, given the work effort and aggravation to payoff ratio. I hope your's goes better! I'm completely with you about pricing as you box. The morning of you will be plenty busy without all that hassle!

We've been offloading stuff to local consignment shops here and there (took in My First MLA Suit today, which I didn't wear to my first MLA in the end because by then I was way too pregnant). I've made a bit of money this way, esp. with the kid clothes. We have a decent place to offload the clothes we aren't handing down to others, and I usually break even with the stuff I buy from them for the coming season. The general household stuff has been less successful, but when I realized what decent tax deductions I could take from taking the junk to goodwill or wherever charity, I started offloading more vigorously. It is shocking how much junk we have in our lives. I know at some point I must have been responsible for letting it all into the house, but it still always shocks me. I really hope you are able to make a bit of money without wanting to rip anyone's head off; I'd imagine that an overseas relocation might yield more than your usual stuff to divest. I can't imagine doing all that you are doing with a newborn and two little kids; if you WEREN'T anxious about it all, there'd be something wrong with you.

I figured something out for the thousandth time this morning, leaving the gym (for the first time in three months) -- when I work out, I feel much more in control and less anxious about everything, and the feeling lasts a long time. And yet I still have to learn that lesson over and over again. If you can make time for some exercise, you'll definitely feel better. But I look at what I've had to do these past few months and compare it to what you've had to do, and hell, I didn't make it to the gym -- how on earth do you find the time?! I know it works, though. Ugh. I wish the pills were working better for you.

Gotta run to a summer teaching meeting, but wanted to say good luck and be well!