Friday, September 28, 2012

When I'm Too Old For Early Career Awards...

…I start to think, which is probably a bad idea.

I am approaching that academic age where I am becoming ineligible for many early career awards. For some, I only have one shot left. This alarms me because I think that my chances of getting funding from these agencies is more likely through this mechanism, rather than competing against big boys and girls in unsolicited submissions. I haven't gotten any appreciable funding in over a year, so I am beginning to worry about how to fund the new students I took on. (Why did I take two new students?? Why?).

So I find myself in that funny place where I don't yet have tenure, but my eligibility for early career awards is over or nearly over. To comfort myself, I've focused on getting my backlog of publications out the door. The chances of getting published are much higher than that of getting funded. And, publications lead to students graduating, invited talks, and perhaps -perhaps - more funding.

I was thinking about my constant unease over funding, when I realized that this problem would never go away - ever. As long as I do this job, I will constantly be writing proposals and feeding hungry graduate students. And then I thought about this in a larger context. The U.S. wants more domestic students to pursue graduate degrees in STEM disciplines. Professors use federal research grants to pay for these students' tuition and stipend. If the U.S. government remains stagnant in federal research dollars, then so does the number of graduate students we can take on. So why not just increase the federal spending on academic research? Anyways, my vote in this presidential election is going to go to whoever says they'll put the most $$$ into research.

Wednesday, September 19, 2012

How Late Can A Faculty Meeting Run?

Our new department head called a faculty meeting for 4 PM. In the past, these meetings have started at 3 or 3:30, which I find is just enough time to have a good meeting and then leave work to pick up the kids from day care. With this later meeting time, the faculty meeting bleeds into the last wee minutes of daycare. Any later, and social services would have to take my children so that I could attend the faculty meeting.

When faced with late meetings, the difficulty of being two-body becomes very apparent. Both of us need to attend, so who leaves early to pick up the kids? Does leaving early put one of us at a professional disadvantage? How will our colleagues perceive this? I am especially sensitive to this because I don't want to appear like a "mom" at work. I want appear like a "professor".

Mr. JP and I both separately emailed the department head, notifying him that one of us would be leaving early because of daycare. Mr. JP was the one to leave early to pick up both kids, since his agenda item was first. It was awesome. At 5:15 he stood up and announced to the whole faculty, "I now have to leave to get the kids from daycare." And he walked out. This action made me love him for bringing light to the issue to everyone. Next meeting, it's my turn to get the kids.

Thursday, September 13, 2012

Babysitters are Sometimes Not For Dates

With all these proposal deadlines coming up, I decided to lineup my baby sitter for extra evenings. She's coming twice per week, during which time my husband and I drive back to work to continue working on proposals. She will feed and bathe kids, put them to bed, and do their laundry. I never thought of this as abnormal - just a necessity, until I was talking to a friend about how I had a baby sitter so I could keep working at night. She was shocked and asked me, "You don't use your baby sitter for date night?" And I said, "Well, sure, when I don't have deadlines and all that." But it never occurred to to me our arrangement was odd. I somewhat enjoy working at night because I can combine it with alcohol, so I never thought of it as drudgery.

Monday, September 10, 2012

I'm Not That Kind of Mom

I get these weekly updates from on the status of my baby. They have inane lead-ins such as "Making things easier" or "How can I tell if my child has diarrhea?" I can answer the latter, "Umm… it's pretty obvious, especially when it is running out of his diaper and onto your thigh." Another one I think is dumb: "Is it spit-up or vomit?" Again, my answer is "Vomiting is pretty obvious when once you see your kid doing it."

So I've essentially stopped reading because I don't need any more advice on "how to organize my diaper bag." Have you seen my diaper bag? It's fully of random shit, and probably some dirty diapers that I haven't bothered to throw away.

I am nowhere near that Mother-Earth-Gaia-loving image that and many other magazines and sites like to paint. I'm busy and practical. I don't want to waste my time on fretting over whether or not I am mothering my children correctly. It amazes me when I talk to these new moms who have been agonizing over whether to make their own food or not, glass vs. plastic vs. pouch food, pacifier or no pacifier. Who cares? Just take care of business (TCB). If your kid is hungry, dirty, or pissy, just TCB. I don't think there is any right way to parent, and there is no magical cure for a baby's cry (which is why I get so annoyed when people try to tell me how to do it!!).

Everyday is different, but better than the last. I can't wait to sleep an entire night without interruption.