Having it all

Wow!  I just read this article from the Atlantic* that is sweeping the interwebs, and my head and heart are so full.  First, I am so thankful to Anne-Marie Slaughter for saying publicly that she wants to be home with her kids.  When I say that I would like to work part time when I have kids in order to stay home with them to most people in science, this declaration is usually met with one of two responses:  1. Polite nodding, frequently (though not always) backed up by a slightly incredulous look or tone of voice OR 2. “I can’t imagine not working full time” (this second response more often comes from other women).  What Slaughter’s piece helped me realize is that these responses are less about me and more about a system that values hours worked over productivity and devalues parenting over other pursuits.

Second, I feel profound relief in knowing that other, smart, ambitious, high-powered career women (like Slaughter and other women she mentions, such as Mary Matalin, who worked as an assistant to President George W. Bush) have achieved high ranking positions while also having families, have not been forced out of these positions, and have still chosen to leave these jobs in order to be the mother and partner they want to be.  In spite of reading the very encouraging Professor Mommy and following the blogs of several tenured female scientists, I still can’t see how having to be on the tenure clock at a Research 1 institution is going to allow me the freedom to be the mom and partner I want to be.  This is absolutely about how I feel, and not about other women who choose to go into academia.  Slaughter points out, in fact, that the flexibility of her schedule as a tenured professor and former dean makes it infinitely easier to achieve work-life balanace than her job in government did.  I am just glad to see female role models that have prioritized their families in the way that feels best for them.

Finally, I am elated that this conversation is happening and that smart, driven people everywhere are reading this article and responding to it.  Slaughter’s message is twofold.  In addition to being about the expectations women (and men) of my generation have regarding work-life balance and why they can be really difficult to fulfill, she delves into how we can change the current climate for everyone by revaluing family, redefining the arc of a successful career, and encouraging the pursuit of balance and happiness.  As Hubs and I explore plans for our future, I pray that we can keep these things in mind, too.

*If you don’t have time to commit to reading the whole piece, watch the interview video that is included with it.

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Dream dream dream

I have homesteading fever!  From downloading books about chicken and bee keeping from the library to searching for rent houses and land in any of several places we might move, I can’t get enough.  I’m not sure whether it’s the hot sun or the fresh food at the farmer’s market or the friends that have defended their dissertations recently (two in the last week), but I feel ready for a change that would involve more time making a home!

I love the idea of an urban homestead, within walking/biking distance to the farmer’s market/co-op.  Ducks and chickens in the backyard, kitties in the house, and the pup wherever I am.  Lovely, medium sized garden and maybe one of these prefab sheds at the back of the yard for science writing/editing, screen printing, crafting and sewing.  A basement for Hubs to brew beer and a lovely large kitchen with a gas stove and plenty of space to make cheese.  Eventually (like 2+ years), this imaginary awesome homestead might even have a baby or two living there.

My current idea goes a bit against the idea of cohousing, but maybe there could be good alternatives (like this).  We also have these amazing friends from college who have always [sort of] joked about starting a commune where everyone that they love would come live.  As I meditate and pray about my calling, as well as continue on my current path, dreaming about all of this stuff is REALLY fun and inspiring.

What are you dreaming about lately?

Three Songs to Get You Through Grad School (or anything that you often want to quit)

The soundtrack to my life is widely varied, encompassing everything from 80s favorites to Broadway hits to Common and Old Crow Medicine Show.  Different music obviously fits different settings, but the most common type of songs I’ve needed to listen to in grad school (when I’m frustrated to tears, feeling like I should have left with the Master’s degree about three and a half years ago) are equal parts inspirational and good to cry along with.  Here are three of my grad school survival favorites (the links will take you to youtube versions):

1. Timshel, Mumford & Sons:  sweet acoustic guitar/banjo and perfect harmonies make this one at once validating and encouraging.  Many a time, this song has come on in the car and I find myself crying and then taking a deep calming breath, convinced that I am “not alone in this.”  When Hubs and I saw Mumford & Sons at the Ryman this spring, they stood at the front of the stage in a semi circle and sang this (almost) a cappella.  Incredible.

2. Be Here Now, Ray LaMontagne:  ethereal strings and quiet guitar make this one a perfect cry along song.  I woke up to this song the entire first semester of grad school and all the stuff that was hard about that makes Be Here Now very cathartic for me.  I listened to it a whole bunch before I really heard the lyrics, but since then the song isn’t solely cathartic, it’s also a reminder that “inside you there’s a strength that lies.”

3. Go the Distance, sung by Roger Bart from Disney’s Hercules (not the Michael Bolton version):  combine the soaring French horn (gosh, I love heroic French horn music) with the lyrics and you really can’t go wrong with Go the Distance.  Cry along with Hercules at the beginning when he “has often dreamed” and then feel convinced that “every mile will be worth [your] while” in the end.  I recently had a period of three weeks where I put only this song on my iPod Shuffle, so I could listen to it over and over.

What songs get you through?