How to hold down a full-time career, get a graduate degree, participate in a social/charity group, and grow a fetus in your uterus all at the same time. The working woman's guide to pregnancy.

Friday, March 23, 2007

Superwoman Complex?

I've had pretty much the same plan in my head since I found out I was pregnant: that I'd stay home with the kidlet during the day while taking graduate school classes at night until I finish my degree.

As you saw on the blog earlier this week, I have been able to arrange this plan with my work.

I got a lot of support for this plan. BD is behind it 100%.

But now that I actually have to enroll in the courses for next semester, people are coming out of the woodwork advising me to reconsider taking classes. These people are all moms, all smart, all accomplished, and they come from my family, school, and work life.

People, I'm already leaving my career. The kid will be about 6 weeks old when I start classes again... over 4 months old during finals. Do I really need to be at home 168 hours every week? Am I really going to be so tired and so frazzled, that I can't handle 6 hours of class-time plus an additional 6 hours of study time a week?

And if your answer to both of these questions are "yes," then I'd love to hear your advice on how I should sell that to my bosses. "Oh by the way, when I said I was coming back in January 2008, it'll probably be more like January 2009... is that okay?"

I know it won't be the easiest route...but I have never taken the easiest route. So, I'd love to get some more feedback: Am I really not the superwoman I seem to think I am?


Your mother said...

Your still-exhausted-from-raising-you mother KNOWS firsthand that you can do a bang-up job of motherhood, graduate school, work, community service, political activism, and belly dancing lessons, while straightening everyone around you without missing a beat. For me, at least, that ain't the point. You only get to savor your first child's first few months once in a lifetime. I guarangoddamnteeya it'll be more fascinating than any graduate class. How fortunate you are not to HAVE to earn your daily bread or conquer the world for just a little while. So if we old, accomplished ladies counsel that you might want to take it a little slowly, it may be out of wistfulness (and perhaps a touch of envy) for the joy and delight (yes, and fatigue) that is just around the corner.

Lynanne said...

My assvice? Give it a try. It may be harder than you think but it is certainly do-able. If it turns out to be too much you can always re-evaluate later.

You may find you are too distracted by the new baby (they grow so quickly that first year!) to concentrate on your studies. On the other hand, you might need the intellectual stimulation of doing your own work for a few hours a day. There is no right answer.

As for as my experience: I had two kids while in graduate school (MS degree). My first son was born during winter interim. He was a week old when classes started. My second was born 10 days before I graduated. I had a 4 1/2 hour thesis defense while 9 months pregnant. In addition, I went back to work full-time 12 weeks after my first was born. I quickly realized the insanity of that situation (at least for me) and dropped to part-time.

You should find out if your school has a ‘grad students as parents’ support group or resources. Ours was wonderful. We had monthly outings, free childcare during finals week, etc. If nothing else, you can talk with other students and see how they juggle graduate school and parenting.

the greatest scientist ever (for today) said...

in the words of ice cube, "you can do it, put your back into it". seriously... i have full faith in your superwoman abilities. and besides, i bet the baby isn't going to give you As like your classes will.:)

Kathryn said...

you thrive on outside stimulus and BEING superwoman. i know this is nothing like mom-hood, but leaving my full-time job and nice title threw me for a whirl. if you can still keep some sense of your old life, maybe it will help the transition.

your non-mom-and-thus-advice-compromised-but-still-loves-you friend,

Chrissy said...

I went back to grad school when Ryan was 2 1/2 months old. It was tiring and tough to write papers when you're holding a baby (as you'll be doing non-stop until at least Christmas) As far as the "enjoy every second of your baby" theory, you know my take on babyhood. It sucks. Yeah, they're cute but they generally do the same thing all day and night, especially the first few months. I think it will be a welcome break and help you maintain your strong sense of identity to complete your studies. The superwoman complex becomes much worse once you're a Mom. You'll start to compare yourself to every Mom out there and wonder why you can never seem to live up to the ideal you had in mind. This led to pretty severe post-partum in me and talking to other moms it seems we're all ducks; calm on the surface and paddling furiously beneath the water. I'll support you whatever you do!

DarcyLaine said...

Thank you, Chrissy. I love the duck analogy.

Shanley said...

If not now, when?

Shanley said...

I saw two ducks in Rock Creek today! It was the first time I've seen anything alive in that polluted water. (Super exciting - and hopefully a sign of cleaner things.) The lady duck was paddling against the current, mostly staying in place but sometimes drifting downstream. The man duck was sitting on a fallen tree for a while, until he decided to jump in and join his duck spouse. True story. I was totally captivated by the ducks. It was like being at the zoo.
I suspect that BD's going to be in the water with you, paddling along just as hard to make things easier on you and more equal between the two of you. It's his baby too! Go Daddy Go!

gs said...

Whew, I hardly know where to start…there are several complex issues here. This seems to be getting to be way more stressful than it should be right now. I’d suggest taking a deep breath and focus your energy on staying calm these next few final formative weeks of your baby’s progress “in utero”. If it makes you feel better, sign up for your classes…can’t you opt later on to cancel them (if you feel like it, when the time arrives) & can’t you get your money back if it’s by a certain deadline? That way you’ll have a choice when the time comes.
Then I would suggest that you disregard TOTALLY any thoughts of being “superwoman”…it’s a myth…no, it’s a crock of shit. No one is a superwoman…everyone just does the best they can. Don’t compare yourself to others...don’t put expectations on yourself. The bottom line is this…you are about to become a mother & that will be the most important job of your entire life...nothing will compare to that. Yes, you can have a career or many jobs throughout your life that have great challenges & rewards, but none will compare to being a mom. That’s not to say you have to be a mom to have a rewarding life. But if you have chosen to be a parent, that’s the way it is. That’s a fact.
My best suggestion is: DO NOT OVERTHINK THIS. What’s going to happen, will. The early part of a baby’s life is not a series of controlled events…things just happen, regardless of whether you want them to or not. Some people try to establish order during this time because up until this time, order works. Attempting to put a baby to bed at a certain time, or nurse or feed them at a certain time (while they are infants) will only drive you crazy. A baby should be nursed when they are hungry...not when the clock says so or when a doctor says so. It’s simple…feed them when they need to be fed & held…even if that is every 2-3 hours in the beginning.
Babies are not about order. (Repeat this 20 times a day). They are about flexibility…and delight! Don’t even attempt to try to change this. Enjoy all of this as it is…don’t be upset that your sense of order is upset. Don’t let your expectations of maintaining order get in the way. If you do, this will just frustrate you. Probably most of the cause of post-partum problems is due to this simple fact. Better to just go with the flow. And remember, you’re not the Lone Ranger here…fathers are every bit as important to that baby. This role of parent is a shared role. And I know this baby’s father will be a very involved one.
Sometimes it’s good to step back from your own perspective and look at things from a baby’s: Right now, she/he is enjoying the last remaining weeks in this nice warm place and very soon will know (somehow) just when the right time is to come out. When this baby does join this outer world, all she/he needs is 1. to be loved 2. to be fed 3. to be held 4. to be kept warm. That’s all. It’s simple from a baby’s viewpoint. It’s more complex for the mother, who’s been out in this chaotic world for some time now & has learned many things about surviving in this world, and rules, and expectations… but up to this point hasn’t learned about being a mom. That will very quickly change.
As to the comment on babyhood “sucking” & that babies do the same thing every day & night…not so by a long shot! Babyhood is a miraculous time that should be treasured. And that baby is not doing the same things every day. Each and every day the baby is slowly learning things about this world, adapting to the bright lights and people’s faces up close, and new sounds and new sensations & on & on. This is a very exciting time as they learn to recognize faces, respond to familiar voices, learn to smile & coo & interact. It’s all quite amazing!
Now, that said, that’s not to say it’s easy all the time…although there will be moments when you’re sitting down, cuddling that baby & nursing him/her when nothing else matters in the world (it’s the endorphins released, by the way, as you breast feed!). There will be other moments when you will say to yourself “What in the hell have I gotten myself into?” as you bawl most of the afternoon. This, too, is normal. That’s when you need to take a trip to the grocery store for escape or go out to tea (a quick one will do) with friends..that's when you leave the baby with daddy. And the next day you need to dig deep & find that place to help you get through that day…and always think of this beautiful little baby that you helped create and brought into this world and how much she/he needs you to quickly learn the ropes of becoming a mother.
Up to now, the person you are has been determined by you, yourself. Going forward, the woman you will be, will be determined by you and your husband as parents of a child/children. And the responsibilities and fun that goes with that will drive it. The element and dynamics will change. It will be different. This is a fact. Again: DO NOT OVERTHINK THIS. RELAX. TAKE IT AS IT COMES. AND ENJOY. BE GRATEFUL. IT WILL USE ALL OF YOUR MENTAL ENERGY TO MEET THE CHALLENGES OF RAISING CHILDREN. IT WILL BE THE MOST REWARDING.
To those couples who choose to have children…career, jobs, new car, clothes, new houses, money, classes – anything that is traditionally perceived to be success – cowers to raising a baby….because nothing else matters as much as family. Period.
As to mothering, the good part is that there are no rules for being a mom – you basically make them up as you go and you can only hope you’re doing your best…and I’m quite sure that you will. Just be patient and enjoy this special time with your baby. This time will go by quickly. There will always be jobs to be had, but only one chance to give your baby a good start in life. And believe me, the time spent is worth it…they will grow up to be WONDERFUL individuals who will choose WONDERFUL spouses and if they decide to have children…they will have WONDERFUL children…..oh…wait…I guess it IS happening!

Chrissy said...

Though I agree with most of gs's advice it's much easier to say, "accept that you have no control and enjoy the ride" than actual experience it. It's very hard for a Type-A controlling person to be totally controlled by another person, no matter how miraculous said person is. I have found that putting a high expectation on how wonderful and magical a newborn is often leads to a major letdown when the baby is born and its HARD. I love my sons and do see the wonder of them growing and developing each day but stand by my statement that the first month especially sucks. The first month of both of my sons lives have been the hardest in my entire life and to grasp any straw of control and self-identity helps to survive, even if it's just to say, "I'm going to take a shower every afternoon". I think it's a lot easier to see the magic that is a baby when it's not your own, or you've been removed from the process for awhile. Darcy, you may be one of those Moms that absolutely loves every second of it and savors every developmental stage (I hope you are) I just want you to know that if the time comes that you aren't loving it all, you're still an amazing Mom that wants the best for her baby and would give shim the world. Just be aware of both sides so you're not shocked when either happens to you. (sorry if this was a bit defensive but I do have two boys and think I'm a pretty good Mom most of the time so to hear that my opinions of babyhood are wrong is a bit hard to take)

gs said...

Chrissy, I think you misread some of my intentions. I never said the baby should totally control someone's life...that's when you get away and take a break with friends, go to the store, go to a dance class, exercise, take a walk...whatever. As to the high expectation of how wonderful it is,I said it isn't always like that. It is very hard the first month or several months. And I don't think anyone loves every second of it...that's unrealistic.
I understand that the "magic" of a baby is easier to see when it's been awhile. That's probably true. But I also think it's unhealthy to go into motherhood thinking that the begining month will be's hard...not terrible.
I'm sorry if this put you on the defense of your opinion, but opinions are just that...neither right nor wrong...just an opinion. And these are my opinions, neither right or wrong...just something for others to consider.

BD said...

At the risk of putting myself where I don't belong, as a middle child I feel like I have to play peacemaker (at least when I'm not playing instigator). So a couple of thoughts:

1. Having seen both Chrissy and GS in action, I can say unequivocally that they are both excellent mothers.
2. Everybody's experience is different.
3. Even if you both had the same experience, you're not looking at it from the same point in your lives.

One of my favorite poets is Wislawa Szymborska. This is from her poem Travel Elegy, and I thought of it while reading your comments:

Everything's mine but just on loan,
nothing for the memory to hold,
though mine as long as I look.

Inexhaustible, unembraceable,
but particular to the smallest fiber,
grain of sand, drop of water--

I won't retain one blade of grass
as it's truly seen.

Salutation and farewell
in a single glance.

For surplus and absence alike,
a single motion of the neck.

DarcyLaine said...

Oh my god, I love my husband.

gs said...

And rightly so! Well said, BD!

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