Notes at Four Months

Kent's big new thing is pinching. Hard. He'll grab our arms or our necks and hold on as tight as he can, which is more painful than you might think. It's actually much worse when he pinches me before/while he's nursing. Yep, you guessed where.

He's more alert and curious than ever about people and cats, and he's also laughing a lot more at things we say (mostly from tone of voice and our looking really excited), not just at tickles. He likes to be held, of course, but not all the time like some babies do. He likes the Bjorn for the most part, but he'll be too heavy for it before he's a year old, so I ordered a sling a few weeks ago that I can use now and as he gets even bigger (so he's kind of slung on my hip). He's not a fan yet. There have been three grocery store trips in the past week and a half that have included his screaming and turning red, and my pulling him out of the sling, carrying him with one arm, and running through the store, eyes straight ahead, desperately grabbing a few things to get out as quickly as possible. Now: funny. Then: not so funny. He definitely likes his own space to wiggle around, and his legs can swing free in the Bjorn, so it wins for now.

He also likes to kick around on the playmat or in his crib and grab for his toys, and he's rolling from his tummy to his back, but not the other way yet. He still arches his back, turns, and tries to swing his leg over in front of him, but it never quite carries him all the way over. It's very cute, and I'm fine with his limited mobility for the time being. Once he starts rolling at will, then he'll start crawling after that, and I'm pretty content to have him stay where I put him at this point. Not that I want to stifle his development... but crawling adds a whole element of lunacy that I'm not ready for yet.

Because I'm getting excited about our trip to Baltimore and entering the unknown world of Traveling With Infant, I did a run-through of packing last night. Yeah, laugh all you want. I was really concerned about what would fit in my suitcase and large duffle bag, since that's all I can take besides his stroller and car seat. What I should really get at some point is one of those gigantic suitcases that could fit all three of us in it, but I have a nice compact suitcase right now that's been fine for me but won't really work for me + kid. The essentials fit, but sadly, I have to leave two of my favorite things at home. Number one: the Fuzzi Bunz. We'll just use disposables. I can deal with that, even though I love the Bunz, and it means I don't have to do a load of them every two nights like we do at home. Number two: the Boppy nursing pillow. This makes me very sad, but there's no way I can fit it. It's bulky, but it's just SO comfortable to nurse with it. My mom is asking around to see if she can borrow one from someone in Lancaster, and I can deal with nursing without it, as I have at people's houses or at restaurants, but no combination of throw pillows or bed pillows will produce quite the same effect as placing him on a firm pillow that wraps around my waist. I'm spoiled, actually. But it'll work out. My biceps and wrist muscles will adapt, and it's going to be a great trip, regardless.

One thing that's been difficult for me lately is leaving him with Jack when I go away for Solo Coffeehouse Night or for tutoring on Sundays. I've gotten used to the part about being away from him, but there have been a few times when he's gotten hungry just as I was about to leave, and it about broke my heart to walk out the door and let Jack give him a bottle. I have this weird love/hate relationship with the bottle — it lets me have something of a life of my own, but it's also a plastic substitute for me that he doesn't like nearly as much. Logically, I know he's getting the same nutrition from the frozen breastmilk that Jack thaws for him, and it's wonderful to be able to leave the house for a few hours, but I'm fighting some major maternal instincts that would have me plop back down on the sofa and feed him until he's completely satisfied before I go anywhere. I can't exactly live like that, and I'm grateful that Jack can take over so that I can get things done without Kent, but it's still hard. He's my baby. He has those big, gorgeous eyes, and it's pretty hard to say no to him when he's looking at me to feed him. I'm not sure what working breastfeeding moms do to cope with that.

A lot of people at church asked me this summer whether I was going to start teaching again in the fall, and when I said no, they'd assume that I'd "at least" teach next spring. I usually feel weird explaining to people why I'm not. I'm thrilled to be able to stay home with my kid, and I'm so glad that Jack and I were able to time things right so that I'd be writing my dissertation (in short bursts, anyway) and he'd be making enough money to support us. If I needed to work for the extra income, I could do it, but since I don't have a Ph.D. yet, I'd be making less as an adjunct (the peons of academia who are basically temps) than we'd be spending on child care. There's not much reason to consider it. Not everyone seems to get that, though. I definitely wonder what it will be like if I decide not to apply for jobs the minute I think I'm about to finish my diss, especially when I do get around to applying and they ask me in an interview what exactly I've been doing for the past several years. I can almost see the raised eyebrows of all the childless scholars. I love teaching, and I'm very excited to get back to it, but raising Kent is just so much more important to me. The way I'm doing it right now is really working for us, despite the "minor" setback of not having much time to research and write.

Hopefully I won't feel too often that I have to justify my life choices, but that's yet another aspect of parenting that's challenging, especially in the world of academia. He's really quite the amazing little boy, and he came at the perfect time.




Ah, Erica. Enjoy being a stay at home mom. I feel I have the perfect balance. I work one or two half days a week and stay home the rest. Often, after talking with other working women, I get this almost guilty feeling that I should be trying harder to drum up some income and expand my world. This is usually followed by several days of me exploring work/childcare options and getting somewhat excited about being a more "productive" member of society. Then I wake up one morning and have one of those days where I can barely get my three children out of their pajamas and fed breakfast before noon and I realize what insanity it would be to try to balance all that right now. Maybe when they are older. I need to just enjoy the fleeting moments of baby and toddler hood because soon enough they will be marching off to school and these days will be over.
Really, we all spend a silly amount of time justifying what we do to others. Especially in the academic world. I am about to go to to the conference for marketing in higher ed and am already imagining the dumb conversations about not having a a degree. You know what, you are a successful person. I am a successful person. I measure that by being happy and loving those I share my life with. Let's tell the rest of the world to go take a flying leap.
I thought that an being an adjunct prof meant that you are part-time . . . did not realize that adjuct profs are actually "the peons of academia who are basically temps." Interesting perspective.
Annie Beth and Auntie A have great advice. As for eyebrow raising at future interviews, if it's not a family friendly place then you're not going to WANT to be there anyway. As for not taking an adjunct position, you'd also need to factor in the potential that it could slow down your time-to-degree, which is a big risk for not that much benefit. Besides, dissertating and raising a son certainly adds up to a job! And are you going to tutor while you're dissertating? (That seems like it could be a good way to keep your head in teaching while you're not teaching classes.)

It's good to hear the update on Kent at 4 months. I can't believe he's that old already, he's growing up so fast!
Thanks for the supportive comments, everyone. =) Kent is the best thing that ever happened to me (besides his daddy, who made the whole thing possible), and I'm so happy with the way my life is going right now. It's good to have other people remind me that my choices are fine as long as they're working for me.

Yeah, Anonymous, adjuncts being treated as peons has certainly been my experience, and I've not heard of adjuncts at other schools being treated much better. They're generally given the classes no one else wants, spare rooms instead of offices if they're given any kind of work/meeting space at all (I wasn't), and horribly low pay with no benefits and no guarantee of future employment. It's great to have the teaching experience, but not so good in other respects. That's just the way the system is.
Funny you should mention adjuncts -- I've just accepted an adjunct position (pending receipt of paperwork) teaching two courses at a community college this spring. While I'm definitely lowest on the totem pole (and I'm nowhere near qualified to get on a tenure track, so I'm definitely an academic peon), I was told that after 3 consecutive semesters, I'd be eligible to participate in their pension plan. (Maybe that's just NJ, where unions are strong.) And I was offered the job of teaching the intro Java course, because I have more experience with Java (through my AP CS work) than the others in the department. This offer was made by the department coordinator, despite the fact that she had already set up the course and developed materials herself for this fall (but it didn't have sufficient enrollment), and she had been looking forward to teaching it in the spring. She said that I have the most experience with Java, so I should be teaching it. (What a concept!) So maybe this is an abberation, and/or maybe it's partly due to differences between a community college and a self-important research institution. (Your mileage may vary.)
-- Mom
I think adjuncting in the HUMANITIES is particularly onerous. Perhaps not so much in the other depts. *shrug* a thought.

I agree with Annie Beth. Sometimes I feel like I could be out there "more productive". But, man, these vital baby/toddler years go by so fast.
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