Thursday, March 05, 2015

You'll never run out of insecurities

#powerofhighheels for #stylemefeb. My nude heels apparently have the superpower of being able to blend in with beige carpet. Oops. @drrennegade and I are headed to see #altonbrown live tonight. It's his long awaited birthday present and possibly the best

2015 has been brutal so far.  Thesis-writing is an ethereal mistress, and she is requiring me to spend an alarming amount of my time swimming inside of my own head.  Usually I'm stuck there wondering whether anything I'm doing will make sense to anyone else once I find a way to spit it out in words. I am really good at thinking (overthinking) things through until I am less certain rather than more certain about any conclusions I might draw, and the only thing I sometimes feel safe being conclusive about is that the world and people in it are complicated. 

I want and need so badly to just muscle my way through this process and arrive safely at the other side, and that may be all I can manage to do, but on a number of levels people expect me to have, or to be establishing, a plan of what I'm going to do next.  How am I going to use this degree after I finally procure it? I think I am supposed to have an answer for that.  I do not. 

I have come up with approximately 50 possible plans for establishing a long-term career for myself.  I have a number of skills with which I could be constructive, but which ones would be the most flexible with my family life, and which ones I would find myself least-drained by are not very answerable questions.  I am very lucky, and privileged to be in a position where I do not absolutely have to work in order to provide for the needs of my family.  I just need to be making compensated contributions somewhere for my own emotional health, and so I need to be very picky and find a way to onramp into an incredibly flexible career at a snail's pace.  I have no template for this, and it terrifies me. 

I waffle between entrepreneurship (the bookkeeping might kill me) and trying to convince someone to hire me to do something I might be good at.  Like a lot of stay-at-home-moms, my resume has some gaping holes in it. I sort-of committed resume suicide when I took a soul-sucking desk job 11 years ago last month, then quit it after Sir O was born.  

But, although I make it sound like I want a full-time career, I really don't right now.  If I could spend only half of the hours I've been spending on Grad school on something that paid me back in cultural, social, or fiscal capital (preferably all three) I suspect that'd be tremendously helpful in patching up my sense of self-worth and identity.  But since I live with the cost of spending time (and brainpower) away from my kids, I know that I need to be very picky about it.  I need to minimize the quantity of time and maximize the effectiveness of that time.  I need to be doing something that fills my cup, because I must not be going back to my kids with an empty cup, and I need to feel like my time is valuable.  The more valuable I believe my time to be, the more productive I will be able to be with it.  

I think that's the danger and the hardest part of stay-at-home-parenting.  Being your own boss when there is no value being placed on your time makes it incredibly hard to stay productive.  Trying to function in your own home where there are a million things screaming at you with their un-done-ness leads to the sort of "housekeeping ADD" that births those horrible "what have you been doing all day" questions.  To my knowledge, very few people have institutionalized training for stay-at-home-ing.  Some people have enough internal rigidity to keep impeccable homes, but most of us flounder. 

I have accepted that I will never excel at homemaking, my rarely contented and frequently emotionally unstable sides will always make it hard.  I will always procrastinate mopping the floor.  And the overachiever in me is not entirely okay with devoting so little of itself to things I'm actually good at.  I'd like a small corner to turn to for validation, and for fun.  But it does need to be small, for the foreseeable future. 

All of which is to say, even for the very, very lucky, womanhood can be infinitely tricky to navigate. 


Susan said...

Oh boy I can so relate to the feelings you describe -- both in the present as I grapple with being underemployed and what to do about it, and also remembering those frustrating seemingly-unproductive days of dissertation-writing.

I hope you don't mind me sharing the one change I made in my balancing homelife and dissertation writing that helped a ton. It's almost silly to mention because it's so simple, but it made a world of difference for making progress. Every time I would finish working or was interrupted, I would write a quick note indicating where I was leaving off and what I needed to do next (something like "Finish reading chapter 3. Check on p. 57 quote."). I felt like I had to often stop writing just as I was getting somewhere, and this helped tremendously to keep momentum and avoid wasting previous time getting up to speed. Again, it's silly, but was a game changer.

Em said...

Not silly at all Susan! It's amazing how much common sense goes out the window when you're trying to do too many things. I'm going to make sure I'm doing this!

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