Monday, October 27, 2014


IMG_6972august 2014demillemoving in and getting settled

I don't know how much longer I can keep up this facade of functionality.  Being constantly overwhelmed by a steady string of deadlines from school/thesis stuff, while managing a family that is consistently losing it's ability to be patient with their only-partially-present mother; it's using up all the me that there is.  It's like I'm splitting myself into two competing halves.

On the one side, there is the part of me that wants to get all of this over with as soon as possible.  Let's get back to a place where I can put more energy into my parenting and homemaking and not be a constant hairball of deadline stress. Sounds good, no?

On the other side, there is the part of me that is actually deeply interested in my thesis, and really genuinely enjoying the research process and having a hard time imagining going to live in a place where being an academic is back in the past tense again.

So I'm wondering, more with curiosity than with angst, because I've none to spare, where I'll find myself once I've got this thesis defended.  How will I find to exercise and retain this mental muscle I've built?

Mostly I think, I'm going to find myself writing more, and turning to the internet for an outlet.  I haven't unleashed much of my research and findings on the internet yet, mostly because it all incorporates feminist theory, and people who choose not to identify as feminists can be very quick to pre-judge anything feminist-flavored.

Luckily for me, I've found some terrific examples of women scholars who do identify as feminists, but who also very carefully take the time to value what women already do and already have done.  Laurel Thatcher Ulrich is lovely, and Neylan McBaine is always thinking in the most critical and kind way I've seen. Plus there are people like Valerie Hudson who only express opinions that they can back up with exhaustive research. (Truly, the scope of her research is mind-blowing and this podcast was worth every second of it's 81 minutes) So there's hope for me to be braver and to find a comfortable way to voice my research, insights, and consequent opinions. I will never be thick-skinned, but I do anticipate getting to a point where I'm confident enough about the quality of my research to not fear criticisms so much.

My personal approach, as I tackle the topic of "mommy blogging" - one that I find everyone already has strong opinions about - is to try to figure out what it is that is happening (phenomenologically) before I even consider placing any kind of a value judgement on it.  I'm not likely to arrive at radical conclusions that way, and I don't intend to find myself making a call for earth-shattering or subversive  behaviors.  I'm hoping to identify small paradigm shifts that women can make so that their blogging habits better meet their needs.  This will likely include small subversions to hegemonic norms, but not likely subversions to entire systems.  I really and truly land on the "moderate" portion of the spectrum no matter how you want to frame me.  Unfortunately, this sets me up to be masticated by liberals and conservatives alike.  It also makes it rather hard to find relevant conferences to present at.  Most conferences covering social media or technology and society aren't terribly interested in the activity of middle-class women, and most conferences dealing with women's studies are coming at it from the very liberal end of the spectrum.  So far nothing is a perfect fit.

So while I squirm under the stresses of deadlines and sabotaged study sessions, I'm also dealing with an uncomfortable identity shift.  I'm not likely to be able to go back to being a housewife and give up being an academic altogether.  But I also know I cannot feasible keep up my current pace of participation and production.  Something a little kinder and more flexible will have to evolve, which is ironically the precise problem with higher education for women and is addressed really well by Laurel Thatcher Ulrich herself.... come to think of it.

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