In retrospect, it has been a tough couple of weeks.
As usual, neither BioMom nor I saw it coming. The FYO was just a couple of inches past normal. A little hyper. A little wiggly. A little cranky. A little grumpy. A little TOO excited.
Finally I got it: she's nervous about school.
Sure, she's been in heavy-duty Montessori for two years now. But Montessori pre-school is not KINDERGARTEN!
Kindergarten feels like a much bigger step. As one school parent told me -- she is now in the public domain.
Strangers find out that she is starting to school and they come over to congratulate her. She's getting phone calls and post-cards. We bought a new backpack and filled it with pencils, crayons, a pencil box and other first-year accoutrements.
Of course it was a big step for us too, and we were not immune to our own fits of hysteria in anticipation.
Last night over dinner on the porch, the FYO devised a plan to skip school days in order to sleep in and live the Ferris Bueller's proverbial day off.
This was curious as she had not even had a single day of real school in her life.
Nor has she seen the movie or even HEARD of Ben Stein despite being the daughter of an economist.
Nor does she know the song Danke Schoen.
Her plan was to send a look-alike-doll to school in her place.
When queried about what would happen if the doll was called upon by the teacher, the FYO was at a loss.
We ultimately got her (and not her alias) off to school without a glitch. A few tears were lost in the transaction. But you can bet they weren't the FYO's!
BioMom and I have recently discovered this well known local hot-spot.
It is the home of one "Mr. Little Guy" a prolific "elf" who responds to notes left in its home, a conspicuously befloraled tree located on the south edge of our nearest little lake.
This guy either has a serious complex (I am currently in the middle of John Irving's new book Until I Find You, which makes nearly constant references to the main character's penis, called "Little Guy.") or just a lot of time on his hands.
At this visit, we found two zip-locked baggies of 2x3 inch cards with type-written, personalized notes to every Tommy, Dickie and Johnny who had apparently ever written.
The FYO wrote a lovely little questionnaire to who we thought was a troll. It went something like this (oh, and it included a depiction of said troll on the back):
Dear Mr. Troll.
What is your name? Are you going to kindergarten? I am. Do you have any pets? I have a new cat. Penelope.
As of a week after leaving the note we had not yet heard back.
When these setbacks happen in Iraq itself, the administration punts. But when they happen at home, there's a game plan. Once Ms. Sheehan could no longer be ignored, the Swift Boating began. Character assassination is the Karl Rove tactic of choice, eagerly mimicked by his media surrogates, whenever the White House is confronted by a critic who challenges it on matters of war. The Swift Boating is especially vicious if the critic has more battle scars than a president who connived to serve stateside and a vice president who had "other priorities" during Vietnam.
. . .
True to form, the attack on Cindy Sheehan surfaced early on Fox News, where she was immediately labeled a "crackpot" by Fred Barnes. The right-wing blogosphere quickly spread tales of her divorce, her angry Republican in-laws, her supposed political flip-flops, her incendiary sloganeering and her association with known ticket-stub-carrying attendees of "Fahrenheit 9/11." Rush Limbaugh went so far as to declare that Ms. Sheehan's "story is nothing more than forged documents - there's nothing about it that's real."
But this time the Swift Boating failed, utterly, and that failure is yet another revealing historical marker in this summer's collapse of political support for the Iraq war.
. . .
The public knows that what matters this time is Casey Sheehan's story, not the mother who symbolizes it. Cindy Sheehan's bashers, you'll notice, almost never tell her son's story. They are afraid to go there because this young man's life and death encapsulate not just the noble intentions of those who went to fight this war but also the hubris, incompetence and recklessness of those who gave the marching orders.
The article "Stopping the Clock--Without Asking" about Princeton's new policy that extends the tenure clock to parents automatically has raised quite a stir on an online discussion group that I frequent.
What is "stopping the tenure clock"? The idea here is that a university or college usually gives new professors only a certain amount of time (usually six or seven years) to get X number of articles published (sometimes in particular journals), a certain quality of student evaluations (however impossibly measured), and a certain amount of service to the department, college, university and profession. In some cases, the quantity required of these activities is known ahead of time, in other cases, it is unknown to the tenure-seeking professor. Worse yet, sometimes, the requirements change along the way.
"Stopping the tenure clock" entails giving the tenure-seeker extra time for some particular reason.
Maternity/Paternity, it has been argued, is a good reason to stop the tenure clock.
Academia, like the law profession is unique in how it can affect women's careers.
Let's do the math.
Jane goes to college (18) Jane graduates college (21) Jane takes a year off to travel/save money/decide what she wants to do with her life (22) Jane can't get a job, so she goes to grad school (22). Jane graduates with an M.A. in science/literature/economics and decides to go for her Ph.D (23) Jane takes her classes and writes her dissertation in record time (5-6 years so she is now 29 years old) Jane is lucky enough to land a tenure-track job that will provide tenure after 6 years.
Okay. So now, Jane is 29. She may or may not have gotten married along the way. She may or may not have had kids. If she had, she most likely would not have finished her dissertation. So let's assume that for this scenario, Jane is currently childless.
Now Jane has a choice: have kids pre-tenure (ages 29-35) or wait until she has tenure (> 35).
It doesn't take a Harvard Ph.D. to realize that such a vocation would have a differential effect on women.
As it turns out, the numbers reflect this story quite directly. Approximately 55% of students in 2- and 4- year colleges and universities are women. The same is true at the graduate level. "According to the NCES, in 1974, the 526,000 women students accounted for 44% of graduate enrollment. By 1994, that number had increased by 80% to 946,000 students" (Syverson, date unknown).
In 1972, for example, women earned 11.7 % of Bachelor's Degrees and 7.6% of Ph.D.s granted. That year, 8.8% of Assistant Professors, 3.7% of Associate Professors, 2.4% of Full Professors, and 4.5% of all tenured/tenure track professors were women (Blau, 2003).
Now, jump to 2003. Here we see that 34.1% of Bachelor's Degrees were awarded to women while 29.0% of Ph.D.s were granted to women.
Now, 26.5% of Assistant Professors, 20.1% of Associate Professors, 9.5% of Full Professors, and 15.% of all tenured/tenure track professors are women.
Sure we see an improvement (over the course of THIRTY YEARS!!!) but still, how do you explain the drop off?
There is a plethora of research that shows that women who have children lose ground professionally to: men without children, men with children, and women without children (see, for example, Crittenden, 2001). So, THEORETICALLY, stopping the clock is a direct benefit for parents (read: women) that attempts to bridge the gap between men and women when it comes to parenthood and career. It is part of the many "family-friendly" or "work/life" type of policies that help to make having a career and a family possible.
In theory, this benefit [clock stoppage upon request] lets new parents devote more time to their children without fear that it will hurt tenure reviews. In practice, many academics are afraid to stop the clock and feel that taking advantage of this benefit will stigmatize them and hurt their chances.
Now along comes the Princeton Policy: Automatic clock stoppage for new parents.
This has spawned at least two negative reactions which I will describe via other's words:
NEGATIVE REACTION #1
This sort of thing, which happens far too often, is blatant discrimination against those who choose not to have children. Reproducing is a *choice*, not an unforeseeable accident which requires consideration by the employer. People who *choose* to put their careers on hold should take the consequences- - even if those consequences are diapers, formula, and first steps. What compensation will these universities offer those who have chosen *not* to breed? Paul Watson
Cheers to Paul Watson. Both my wife and I are sick of excuses why people can't come to committee meetings etc. The refrain, "I have child care duties" is getting a bit much, of late. We (those that choose to be child free) end up doing their (folks with young children) work. We chose not to have children. Why should I pick up the time for others who choose to have kids and know what academic life is like (and don't start writing in as if you don't know what academic life entails *especially* as regards tenure). Extension of tenure should also come with higher standards, period. You want eight years, I want eight years of work that fits the standard of a college or university *at* eight years. Andrew Grossman Academia is NOT family friendly, nor should it be. Let's stop pretending it is! Tom
NEGATIVE REACTION #2
Princeton announces will stop the tenure clock for a year for new parents, male and female, without their requesting it. I'd bet the women will use their year to care for the baby and the men will use to pad their CVs, so beating out women faculty. A better solution: give members of two-earner couples a term off from teaching and the tenure clock with pay, provided each takes 6 months at home alone with the baby while the other works. Also provided they don't hire a nanny. Barbara Bergmann
The problem with Paul Watson's argument is that it is not people who face the consequences of parenthood. It is women. I am somewhat sympathetic to the child-as-consumption argument. Sure. It is a choice. And while children are, to some extent public goods, parents can just as easily eff up their kids as not. So while I would definitely benefit from someone's darling HONOR ROLL STUDENT ON BOARD who goes on to find a cure for cancer, I certainly pay for the hooligan who steals the quarters out of my accidentally-unlocked car parked on the street last night (yes, that really happened). But the data shows that it is FEMALE parents that pay more than MALE parents and that inequality deserves some attention.
The problem with Bergmann's argument (which is similar to how I feel about many of her arguments) is twofold. First, she is usually so defensive. Why wouldn't a woman be just as likely to pad her cv? Second, she is all about function over form. We can't have the state (or university) telling families how to raise kids. This change (getting dads more involved with direct parenting) has to come from the bottom up.
Lastly, I find it interesting that so many arguments come down to the idea of choice. If some consequence was due to someone's CHOICE rather than caused by some unforeseeable event, then we're supposed to feel differently about it? I've always been frustrated with this excruciatingly simple dichotomy with the gay nature/nurture debate. In my opinion, individual choice is a sacred right and good economic policy. No matter what choice we're talking about.
Saranna Thorton, who is doing research on what she calls the STC policy (stop tenure clock) says Yes -- having children is choice.
But, so is smoking and getting a pulmonary disease or overeating and getting diabetes. Yet, I don't see complaints that university-provided group health insurance discriminates against people who try hard to stay healthy. Choosing to retire (rather than work until you die) is also a choice, but I don't see the same vehement complaints about phased retirement that I see about work/family policy.
In it, she distinguishes between the feminist stance on abortion and that stance taken by the group Feminists for Life, of which Jane Roberts, wife of Supreme Court nominee John Roberts, is a donating member.
In my opinion, she is right on. "Feminists" recognize not only the constraints placed on women's choices (to me, that is the avenue that links feminism and economics, which is all about examining constraints), but also the fact that women are moral agents who do not need the State to interfere with their decision making process-at least not differently than the way that it interferes with men's choices.
Here is the last, eloquent, paragraph:
Exposing the constraints on women's choices, however, is only one side of feminism. The other is acknowledging women as moral agents, trusting women to decide what is best for themselves. For FFL there's only one right decision: Have that baby. And since women's moral judgment cannot be trusted, abortion must be outlawed, whatever the consequences for women's lives and health--for rape victims and 12-year-olds and 50-year-olds, women carrying Tay-Sachs fetuses and women at risk of heart attack or stroke, women who have all the children they can handle and women who don't want children at all. FFL argues that abortion harms women--that's why it clings to the outdated cancer claims. But it would oppose abortion just as strongly if it prevented breast cancer, filled every woman's heart with joy, lowered the national deficit and found Jimmy Hoffa. That's because they aren't really feminists--a feminist could not force another woman to bear a child, any more than she could turn a pregnant teenager out into a snowstorm. They are fetalists.
Your baby is now 11 inches from head to toe or about 20cm crown to rump and hovering around the one pound (500g) mark. Your baby's lungs have begun to develop surfactant, a substance that will help his or her lungs to expand after birth. The fingernails are now completely formed.
It is all going too fast now. I am wanting each day to go slower. I can't believe we almost have only three months left.
Of course, BioMom isn't quite as comfortable. It is all about comfort now for her.
Since its her second pregnancy, she is feeling it much more in her joints and ligaments. And she feels the heat faster than I do.
Last night I made her the perfect brownie sundae. She usually wants a snack around ten so she doesn't wake up in the middle of the night STARVING. And, ice cream seems to hit the spot.
Anyway, I made it unusually chocolate-y.
Itsy LOVED it!
Or hated it. I'm not exactly sure. But about 15 minutes after she ate it, we could SEE the baby kicking from the OUTSIDE of her stomach. An overused metaphor, for sure, but it was certainly like Alien.
I once read a short story (long before I contemplated family-hood) about a guy laying next to his VERY pregnant wife one evening toward the end of their pregnancy. Essentially, the story was about this moment that the soon-to-be dad was having with his child while the soon-to-be mother was sleeping. He was savoring the last moments he would have with the baby still in her belly, feeling it kick. The baby got quiet and he was recognizing that those moments would be coming to an end. Knowing that Indian food would generate a response, the short story ended with the dad contemplating take-out Indian.
I can't find the story now, but would LOVE to see it again.
Its funny. Lately both BioMom and I have noticed how people (particularly lesbians) are treating she and I differently with regard to Itsy (our name for the baby-in-utero borrowed from a colleague of mine).
Specifically, they see the baby as my first, and her second, which, strictly speaking, is true. But feels far from the facts.
Here are some excerpts from a recent conversation at the park:
Her: So, what are your feelings about becoming a MOM? (Emphasis hers).
Me, confused: Oh, you know. We're starting to stress out a little about the LOGISTICS of it all. (Emphasis mine. At the time). Our life is just so EASY now. We can just drop of the [FYO] at a friend's if we need to go out. We can easily pick up [the FYO] and [Sidekick] in our car. With both of our new babies [Sidekick's parents are adopting from China) we're thinking of *gasp* a different kind of car!
But that's not what she meant. And BioMom noticed it too. Its just so strange that they don't see me as a parent NOW and that having the baby would make all the difference.
I am beginning to feel like the villain in Poe's "Tell-Tale Heart".
Each monthly doctor's visit, it seems that it gets increasingly easier for the doctor's doppler to find the baby's heart. And each month it seems to get louder. More persistent. As if to say: I'M COMING!
Yet the sound increased--and what could I do? It was a low, dull, quick sound--much such a sound as a watch makes when enveloped in cotton. I gasped for breath--and yet the officers heard it not. I talked more quickly--more vehemently; but the noise steadily increased. I arose and argued about trifles, in a high key and with violent gesticulations, but the noise steadily increased. . . . It grew louder--louder--louder! And still the men chatted pleasantly, and smiled. Was it possible they heard not? Almighty God!--no, no! They heard!--they suspected!--they knew!--they were making a mockery of my horror!
But in our case, instead of the heart of our victim lying under the floorboards, insinuating itself into its murderer's conscious, it is our future. All of the change, hope, wonder, concern, anxiety and expectations pounding out its persistent beat beat beat from the middle of BioMom's swelling belly.
We have recourse, however, where Poe's villain does not: the doppler turns off. On our last visit the doctor reminded us that we only have a few short months left in which to take advantage of the on-off button!
With a couple of friends doing Match dot com, we've gotten hooked on "Hooking Up," the new ABC reality series about "real" New York women experiencing online dating.
It is hilarious. Highly recommended. So far, we hate Amy and love Sonja.
In that vein, we found out yesterday that our new little kitty, Penelope, apparently, hooked up.
Yes. The kitty's a whore.
I found myself regretting the decision to expand our little family yesterday, when, wallet a hundred clams lighter, I found out that she had fleas, needed shots, another appointment in a month, and left, in some alley somewhere, a brood of little ones who, hopefully, won't come asking for child support in the form of milk and tuna.
All of this, however, is small beer* compared to seeing the FYO hold her new little kitty.
*small beer \SMAWL-BEER\ noun
1 : weak or inferior beer *2 : something of small importance : trivia
Example sentence: The player was fined $10,000 by the league for his comments about the opposing pitcher, but that's small beer when you consider his $15 million salary.
Did you know? "Small beer" dates from Shakespeare's day. The Bard didn't coin it (he would have been just a child in 1568, the date of the first documented instance of "small beer"), but he did put the term to good use. In Henry VI, Part 2, for example, the rebel Jack Cade declares that, when he becomes king, he will "make it felony to drink small beer." In Othello, Desdemona asks Iago to describe a "deserving woman." Iago responds by listing praises for ten lines, only to conclude that such a woman would be suited "to suckle fools, and chronicle small beer"; in other words, to raise babies and keep track of insignificant household expenses. Desdemona quickly retorts, declaring Iago's assertion a "most lame and impotent conclusion."
*Indicates the sense illustrated in the example sentence.
The FYO had a fever last night and, being that her favorite song is "Snow Day" by Bleu, we pretended that it is a snow day in August and are hunkering down in the basement watching Alice in Wonderland.
We always learn about the fevers after-the-fact. Last night we were at dinner with some friends and their 3YO, whom the FYO adores, and she was just not herself. She fell asleep in the car on the way over, and then kept slouching in the dinner booth. Slouching over even with my new birthday Star Wars action figures laid out on the table for all to enjoy! Sleepy eyes even after her favorite special crunchy spring rolls arrived!?!
But still, we pushed her. I mean, hell, we were out in the first place. But secondly we kept pushing: Sit up!
Eat your dinner!
Ugh. Obviously we needed hammers on our heads to realize she was "98.6 and rising down by Boulder down that day."