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shadows of echoes of memories of songs
Don't underestimate the things that I will do
So over the last couple of days I've been thinking about "having it all".

On Tuesday morning after breakfast addedentry went off to work. I got Img dressed, took her to nursery in the cargo bike, came home, changed into smarter clothes, picked up my work laptop and my handbag, cycled into town in time to do half an hour's work from a café in preparation for a meeting, had the meeting (with a very senior academic), did some more work in a different café, cycled to St Anne's for a conference. After the day's talks had ended several of the delegates went to the pub; I texted Owen to check how he was getting on with Img, she was having a post-nursery nap, so I stayed at the pub between the end of the talks and the conference dinner. The conference dinner didn't go on ridiculously late (and Owen had texted to reassure me that Img had gone to sleep OK); cycled home in the dark, talked to Owen, did a bit of work on my presentation for the next day.

On Wednesday morning I was feeling really quite ill, didn't manage much breakfast (was going to have a rice cake but Img asked if she could have it after I'd eaten about two bites, and I felt too feeble to argue), cycled back to St Anne's for day 2 of the conference. Owen took Img to nursery, cycled home, and got the bus back into town to catch a train to Canterbury for a different conference. I gave my presentation, stayed for the rest of the conference (which finished at lunch), went for lunch with a colleague/friend, did an afternoon's work in the office (one of the three offices where I currently have a desk!), cycled home, changed into less-smart clothes, got the bus to nursery with the buggy to pick Img up, walked home with her (so that she could have a nap). Did some vaguely useful stuff while she napped, gave her a feed when she woke up, had a FaceTime chat with Owen, then let Img watch Andy Pandy on YouTube while I made tea (cheese & beans on toast). We had our dinner, played a little bit, read some books, then got ready for bed. Read Img a 'sleepy story', gave her a feed and got her to sleep; I stayed up for a little while, couldn't face doing the washing up, checked work email, arranged a meeting with a Professor of Russian for the next day, then decided to get an earlier-than-usual night: went up to bed with "Master and Commander" and a cup of peppermint tea, read a bit, went to sleep.

Wonder of wonders, Img slept until 5:15am this morning, so when she woke me I felt loads better; gave her a feed, got her back to sleep, had another doze myself, she woke me again at 7:30, at which point we got up, got dressed, went downstairs, had breakfast, played a little bit, then I took her to nursery in the bike. I had booked today off work (partly so I could do nursery pick-up and drop-off without worrying, partly so that I could go to an all-day meet-up with Oxbridge web folk -- this no longer really 'counts' as work for either my main job or the one I'm currently seconded to, but I'm interested and the people involved are friends too) but the web-folk meetup was cancelled at the last minute (due to illness and emergency meetings on both sides) so I had an unexpected free day. On the way back from nursery I stopped at the big charity shop that I don't often get to go to, bought some clothes for me and some books for Img, then went to the Co-op to buy food before cycling home. At home I did last night's washing up, put some laundry on, tidied a bit, ate lunch (leftovers from the meal Owen cooked for Img on Tuesday night), finished reading "Master and Commander", tidied a bit more, hung out the laundry, got changed into smart clothes, and went to meet the Professor of Russian (yes, on a holiday, it was the only day we could manage because she's off to Russia on a field trip in a couple of days) in a café (because it was near the station and she had to catch a train back to London). My line manager came to the meeting too (and bought us coffee), she'd forgotten I was on holiday. After the meeting we talked work for a bit, then I cycled home, changed into less-smart clothes, sorted through my postcards and stuck some nice ones up on the huge bare bit of wall in the dining room (which I've been meaning to do for a while), then walked to nursery to pick Img up in the buggy. She napped again, we got home, while she napped I read email/Twitter/etc, then when she woke up I fed her, we FaceTimed Owen again, then she played 'Happy Mrs Chicken' on the iPad while I made tea (pasta with broccoli, fruit salad for afters). After tea Img said she wanted to "see the dark" so I took her outside to help me get the laundry in (she said she was cold and wanted to go inside). Img checked that I was OK with her toy stethoscope, we read some books, then got ready for bed. She had her feed (too tired for a story) and went to sleep. Now I'm writing this before going to put more laundry on (nappies this time) to wash overnight, probably faffing a bit on the internet and then going to bed.

Tomorrow is my normal day off work, and my mum's visiting; we'll probably go out for lunch (unless she brings lunch with her), we'll play a bit, and hopefully Img will nap after my mum's gone home. Then in the late afternoon Owen gets back, and also Img's friend Zoë is coming over to eat pizza and watch DVDs (teenagers in training...) while Zoë's parents finish packing (they're moving house at the weekend and I gather it's quite hard to pack with a toddler who keeps unpacking as you go...).

The thing is... I've pretty much always lived like this. The only difference is that now there's a child in the mix as well. I have always ended up cycling frantically to and from home, work, meetings, pubs, the station, choir rehearsals/concerts, orchestra rehearsals/concerts, whatever. It's always been an endless game of fox/goose/grain with different modes of transport and assorted instruments/laptops/luggage/shoes/clothes/partners. I had to slow down a bit when I was off on maternity leave (I took a long time to get usefully mobile/functional again, I couldn't cycle with Img, and I wasn't going to work), but otherwise basically I've been "trying to have it all" for the last 20 years or so. Even more so when I was going out with Owen and he still lived in London, so we were trying to live together 90 miles apart and go to every gig/concert/film/party available and each hold down a full-time job. Why is "having it all" only used to apply to a woman trying to look after a child and does a not-working-from-home job? Why not anybody who has, say, a job and a time-consuming hobby and a long-distance partner and a garden to look after and... you know, all the kinds of things that people do whether or not they have children? And yes, I know the answer to that "why not" is "because patriarchy", and because if you're looking after children you're supposed to (or at least supposed to want to) do that 24/7 and never do anything else except [vague handwave] child things ... but, well, it's still silly. So let's stop saying it. PROBLEM SOLVED!

(I have a separate rant about the phrase "work/life balance" and the implied idea that your work is not ACTUALLY PART OF YOUR LIFE, but that will have to wait for another time.)

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khalinche From: khalinche Date: September 5th, 2013 10:40 pm (UTC) (Link)
Hah. This week should have given me some Grate Thorts on this but to be honest I've never thought of my daft busy life as in opposition to someone 'having it all' by having busy life + children, or felt excluded by not being accused of trying to have it all. I guess it's because I'm very conscious that my daft busy life is full of things which my perpetually-strained mother never got to do because she was raising children with no money, and also because I feel that I spend a lot of time loafing around reading poetry, eating peaches and trying on dresses and other things which are easier to excuse when you don't have a small insistent person whose needs come first.

BTW your mention of Img's stethoscope reminded me of this, which is in Spanish but still fairly understandable and ridiculously cute (although you may have some 'don't lie to children' objections to it, which I also understand)

The thing is, the unhappiest periods of my life have been marked by great periods of doing nothing: first as a teenager, in a place where there was nothing, just nothing to do, and secondly during PhD wilderness, before I discovered working for a living. So I do too many things to stave off the possibility of those long silences coming back, I think. True, this does occasionally result in weeks where, for example, I try to fit in PhD corrections around three days in the office plus going to a folk festival in mid-Wales and delivering two workshops there plus going from there to Swansea for two nights of filming for a TV show and a day of travelling back to London trying not to be dead and then more PhD corrections and trying to arrange an international visit from a Bolivian intellectual without actually being the one who is able to buy his plane tickets or reserve his hotel. And then in the next week I'm going to be in Cambridge then London then Leicester then London then the Forest of Dean then St Austell then Bristol then London and it's all a bit augh but mostly I feel SO GRATEFUL that I get to do all this and not live my life on a council housing cul de sac in the Highlands somewhere working part time in a shop and spending the rest of my time bringing up kids.

...which also kind of reminds me how much I do want to be spending my time bringing up kids, wich makes me all the more determined to wring every drop of scandal and long working hours and travel and boozing out of these few years before that happens, so I don't have any regrets. But what you've written is a great example of how it's not an either-or; you show how you can have a little child and still be doing interesting, demanding work, so thank you for that.
hairyears From: hairyears Date: September 6th, 2013 06:29 am (UTC) (Link)
Yes, this:

the unhappiest periods of my life have been marked by great periods of doing nothing

I might wear out, but learning to manage the chaos of overwork, friendships, Aikido, relationships, reading and 'idling' on the web is a lot more like *living*.
From: rmc28 Date: September 5th, 2013 10:41 pm (UTC) (Link)
I found myself very hackles-up at someone who was banging on about his wife's "perfectly natural desire to spend more time parenting and less time working". Clearly my desire to spend 1/3 of 5 days a week NOT with my children is unnatural.
venta From: venta Date: September 6th, 2013 08:11 am (UTC) (Link)
I think I would have described either way round as a perfectly natural desire.

I have no children, and don't wish to, which I think is perfectly natural. But I'd also think someone who was keen to jack their job in and look after their child(ren) full time was perfectly natural.

Mind you, finding your hackles rising when someone else bangs on is also pretty natural ;)
geekette8 From: geekette8 Date: September 6th, 2013 08:20 am (UTC) (Link)
atreic From: atreic Date: September 6th, 2013 08:58 am (UTC) (Link)
This post is excellent, and just what I needed to read.
aldabra From: aldabra Date: September 6th, 2013 09:07 am (UTC) (Link)
I'm wondering why that hasn't worked for me. Partly it's because there's only one of me, and by the time you're doing the to-ing and the fro-ing and the nap-supervision it's difficult to find a job which will fit round that and pay the rent. And consequently I'm only doing the job because it fits round that and pays the rent, and there isn't much over, and actually it's not part of my life, it's displacing my life which ought not to be co-opted into supporting a landlord-and-agent (and banker) class who are much richer than me already and are consuming my income fast enough that I'm never going to have an actual home.

But there's more to it than that. I stopped "having it all" when I started being in a full-time live-in relationship, when the time wasn't mine but ours. I stopped going to talks and meetings on my own, which I used to every night, and stayed in in evenings cooking and pottering instead. Sociably.

Never doing that again.

But I'm still staying in in the evenings cooking and pottering; it still doesn't seem reasonable to leave K on her own while I go out on optional jollies.
cleanskies From: cleanskies Date: September 7th, 2013 07:26 am (UTC) (Link)

you are living the dream :)

I love the idea of Img wanting to see the dark!
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