After Ecstasy, the Laundry

Yeah, so you know it has been way, way too long since you’ve last posted on your blog when the only comments you’ve gotten in months are spam advertisements in unknown Asian characters.  Worse, you know it has been way too long since you’ve blogged when you’re insanely happy that some Asian automated spam program found your blog since you assume that just about everybody has given up checking it for new posts, except for perhaps your Mom.  (Hi, Mom.) 
So, in the interest of returning you to the state of Stewgad, I’ll give a little update on my world. 
Hi everybody, I’m Stewgad.  I’m an x-th year grad student, a 2.5th year untenured professor, and a new mama.  I’m working on raising a kid, staying married, teaching classes, finishing a dissertation, and having a life.  (Pretty much in that order.)  I’m finding that my new life with baby involves a lot of cross-identity stuff each day.  I’m never just a Mama, or a Wife, or a Professor or a Writer at any given moment, I’m usually trying to be all at the same time. Like Professor Mama Writer Wife.  And I’m finding that it doesn’t usually work all that well. 
Well, maybe that’s not true. I guess after 7 months of this juggling act/highwire walk/escape artist trick (or pick any other arcane and never seen circus performance metaphor you would like, I mean, are there still circuses, anyway?) I am getting a little better at managing all that I have to do in a week, at least better than I was at the start of this semester.  But, I do feel like I always have 10 things to do and that I’m really only able to do about 5.5 of them, and only 4 of them well.   I’ll let you guess which ones I opt for. 
Anyway, things here in Stewgadland have settled in to a pretty nice little routine if I really think about it.  I get up, I feed the Gadlet, I pack her up, I drop her off at Darby’s Fabulous Home Day Care, I go to work, I teach, I come home, I pick up the Gadlet (on most days, some days Spousal Unit fetches her), we cook, we eat, I feed the Gadlet, I go to sleep.  I wake up, I feed the Gadlet.  I sleep.  (Repeat the last 5 steps 2-4 times a night, depending.)  So we’ve got things down a bit.  And if I’m a little jealous that Darby gets to spend most of her time with my baby, that’s reasonable and normal, right?  And if I’m a lot jealous that she has the time (and Magical Martha Stewart-esque skills) to do things like whip up some homemade felted Babylegs from an old sweater when my kid poops on the ones I sent her to daycare in, then that’s just my own cross to bear as I suck it up and am deeply happy that the Gadlet has someone so absolutely amazing in her life. 
Right now, there are only 5 weeks left in the semester, and although I haven’t even graded my midterms, (and I’m supposed to be doing that RIGHT NOW) I think I may survive it.  Really much to my own surprise. 
I spent the first half of of the semester agonizing about how terrible I felt that I had to go back to work and how all I really wanted to do was be at home with the Gadlet.  In fact, I bitched about it a lot to anybody who’d listen.  (Except, oddly enough, the blog… perhaps the most appropriate forum for such feelings.)  I was unhappy to be back at work, I felt so behind on all things academic and/or intellectual, and I hated leaving my daughter every day.  But mostly, I think I was annoyed that I HAD to work at all.  I mean, isn’t there a life somewhere out there where all I had to do was be with my baby and play with my great new Mama friends and read novels and buy stuff?  Couldn’t I have that life if I wanted it? Well, yes.  Maybe.  But Spousal Unit made it clear that if I wanted that life, which incidentally required us to give up half of our income, then I’d have to first finish the dissertation and then give teaching another year before I made a decision.  Damn him and his reasonableness.  I guess I’d kinda hoped that giving birth got me out of that whole dissertation thing.  Well, the man called my bluff.  So, I trudged along for a while being pissed at my whole horrible situation.   
Yes, you say, horrible?  Come the fuck on, Stewgad, you spoiled princess, you.  And, yes, I finally came to this realization myself, after probably spending far more time complaining about having to work than I was actually working.   A few things helped me snap out of this self-pity spiral.  
First, I was bitching and moaning to another friend of mine who is also a professor and who is also on maternity leave with her first baby.  She listened politely, smiled, and then said, “Stewgad, honey, this is the best job you could ever have with a baby.  You only teach 30 weeks out of the year, and you only have to go to campus 2 days a week.  The rest of the time is your own to work on what you love and to be with your family.”  Hm.  Well, since you put it like THAT.   
And while I was chewing on this idea, a different friend of mine reminded me about Buffy.   No, no… really, wait… don’t go away yet.  Hear me out.  She said that Buddhists have a saying about the return of normal life after amazing life changing moments: “After ecstasy, the laundry.”  She pointed out that Buffy, who dies in the 5th season and is sent to heaven, returns in 6th season to feel that her world is hellish — that the normal stuff of everyday life is torture, compared to heaven.  But then the Truthsayer on the show, Spike, reminds her that everyday life isn’t supposed to be bliss, it’s just supposed to be lived.   I think for me that having a baby and getting to stay home with her was the ecstasy.  It was this amazing, transformative time when I was so happy and felt so fulfilled.  But, it couldn’t last forever.  There is still work to be done.  My own intellectual laundry.
So between Spousal Unit reminding me that I still had work to do, my friend reminding me that of all the work I could do, this one is great, and my other friend reminding me that life isn’t always bliss and that I still had some laundry that needed seeing to, I started to feel better about my job. 
Then came Spring Break and I spent a week at home alone with the Gadlet.  I was totally psyched to spend the week hanging around and staring deeply and adoringly into my infant’s eyes.  Well, she apparently, had other plans. 
Funny thing about infants.  They start to become real little humans — babies — and they stop wanting to gaze into your eyes all day and start wanting to do things like gnawing on anything dangerous they can get their tiny little hands on.  And it turns out, the Gadlet is developing actual Opinions and Ideas.   These Opinions and Ideas render her somewhat less adorable at times, actually.   For example, she does not like to put on clothes.  Naked is her ideal state. And, in fact, if you attempt to put a shirt on her without giving her something to do with her hands while you do it, she bitches and moans and wiggles and does this funny thing with her hips that is a spot-on imitation of Elvis as she attempts to squirm away from the torture of clothing.   Likewise, she engages in substantial bitching when I sometimes attempt to do something personal in the bathroom in the morning for which I would rather not have company, ahem, and so put her down on the play mat in her bedroom and walk 2 feet away into the bathroom.  Bitch, bitch, bitch is all I hear the whole time.  My response?  “PLEASE calm down, Honey, MAMA HAS TO POOP!!”  She’s usually unimpressed by this argument and grumpily continues her bitching.
But the Gadlet reservers her top quality #1 bitching for mornings when I’m trying to get her ready to go and to pack up the 10,000 things that are required for a baby when you leave them with someone else for a day and to get ME ready to go and to pack up the 10,000 things that I require to be a professor in a different city all day.  That’s when she really lets it rip.  Like this morning.  I think that kid griped at me for a good hour because I couldn’t hold her AND pack the frozen breastmilk, (a.k.a. The TitMilk as a friend of mine calls it), fold the cloth diapers, pack up an extra set of clothing for Poop Explosion Emergency Contingencies, track down the diaper rash ointment, the snowsuit in case it is cold, the sweater in case it is only a little cold, a sun hat in case it is sunny, a warm hat in case it is snowy, pack up the breast pump that tediously extracts said TitMilk, find the million tiny parts belonging to the breast pump and clean them (I think Spousal Unit is afraid to touch that thing and since he’s The Cleaner in the relationship, those darned parts are never clean), find the papers I was grading, pack up the laptop and the book I was reading for class, find extra pads to insert in my shirt so that the TitMilk won’t leak and make an embarrassing stain that reminds my students that I have Tits that make Milk, make green tea so that I can drive without falling asleep, prepare toast so that I have sufficient calories to produce the TitMilk, and stuff all of the above into the car, all the while listening to an ever-escalating chorus of baby bitching.  And what does baby bitching sound like, you ask?  “NNNNGGGGGNNNNN!!!!!!!”  Or occasionally she varies the consonant sound to “MMMMMMM!!!!”  But the Gadlet mostly sticks to the NG range of things.   
Don’t get me wrong, I love her more than I ever thought I could love anything.  But, lately she’s more interested in exploring her world than in being adored by me.  Which is all right and proper and good and will only increase with time.  Which makes me heartily grateful that I didn’t quit my job in February when I really, really wanted to.   
And, um, so what about the dissertation?  Oh, That.  The whole raison d’etre for this bloggy business.  I finished (almost … like I’ve got one paragraph or so and a little tidying to go) a chapter over break, but haven’t had time to return to it since then.  I’m hoping that by the end of May I’ll finish this one (really finish) and revise the next one.  Then, by the end of June I will have finished drafting the next one and revised the last one, leaving only a conclusion.  That’s the rough plan, anyway.   
I guess in general that I’m just trying to do the laundry of my life.  To remember the ecstasy, and to treasure it and my time with the ever-changing Gadlet, but to also work on enjoying the work of my life and to appreciate the process of getting things clean, both metaphorically, mentally, and literally.  So, now I’m off to wash some diapers.   
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10 responses to “After Ecstasy, the Laundry

  1. Ha! I have been checking *every day.* I’m not kidding, firefox has this “open all in tabs” option where you can put some bookmarks into a folder and have the option to open them all at once. Your blog and about 4 others are in my folder labeled “acad blogs, daily.”

    I’ve missed you. And I’m still not pregnant.

  2. Hey! Nice to see you back (you’re in my bloglines and it tells me if you’ve said anything new …)

    The prof life ain’t bad, so far as mothering goes, really. But that new-baby and back to the ‘real world’ transition is really hard. For me, it got easier.

    Anyhow, hi!

  3. Hi from Mom. Of course I check every day. Welcome back!

  4. Welcome back! I’m too sleepy to say anything more, but, thanks to Google, I always know when you’ve posted–and I always read it 🙂

  5. I like the portrait. Congratulations on settling into some sort of schedule. The things is that just when you start to feel like you’ve got it figured out a little, Gadlet will go and hit the next stage of development, shifting the schedule back into confusion. Nonetheless, being able to have a schedule and recognizing it is, I believe, a step towards being able to more readily create another one when necessary.

    Glad you’re doing well. I look forward to congratulating you on the completion of your dissertation in June.

  6. Hey! Good to hear from ya. I do enjoy your writing style. You do a great job of describing what you are experiencing. Very entertaining.

    Also, thanks to my feed reader, I know when you’ve posted. 🙂

  7. Your blog and your good points about the ecstasy and the laundry make me happy. Thanks for the good insights.

  8. I’m so glad you’re back — even if temporarily for one post! You’re right, the blog is one of the best places to post all things academic-mommy-disserating-wife-balancing act kinda stuff. I’m always surprised by the great ideas others have for solving (or dealing with) some of the most common problems that come with this crazy life.

    P.S. I know price may be an issue, but having 2 of some things might help reduce the load you have to take to Darby’s each day. Leave one at home and one at her house (if she’s amenable), and that’s one less thing you have to remember 🙂

  9. Welcome back! I, too, check your blog at least every other day…even when you’re gone. Just in case. The Gadlet is adorable.

  10. Just in case you want to make your next post a brief one, you can play along with the meme I tagged you with 🙂
    all the details are on my blog

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