Friday, May 15, 2015

Weekend Links: The Bon Voyage Edition

I have been practicing my French, getting ready for our week in France. One of my favorite new phrases is the phrase for "I'm sorry"- previously, I'd only learned "excuse me" (excusez-moi) and "pardon" (pardon).

"I'm sorry" is Je suis désolé, which of course makes an English speaker think of "I am desolated."

This makes me smile. To my English speaking ears, it seems such an emphatic way to say "I'm sorry."

Anyway, Je suis désolé mais... this will be a short post, and there may not be a post next week at all. I am taking my laptop, but will only write if I feel like writing.

If you are suffering from an absence of things to read, there's always the archives!

I do have a few links for you this week.

How women are erased from tech history. This starts to get at why I am uncomfortable about how some non-STEM feminists talk about women in STEM fields. It sometimes feels like they are ignoring those of us who are here, and that erasure hurts, even while I agree with them that we need to reform systems and improve the culture to encourage more women to get into STEM.

On hiking with children. As I said on Twitter, my main trick is to count things, particularly steps. That dates from our California Road Trip of 2011, when I used it to get Pumpkin to walk back up the hill to our car at Sequoia National Park.

This upcoming picture book looks really cool, and I'm not just saying that because I consider the author an online friend.

This is an epic and well-deserved troll of the NY Times.

I picked a quote for Tungsten Hippo this week that is an accurate reflection of what I suspect will happen while I'm in France:



This gives me hope for the future. I can't imagine most of the guys I went to high school with thinking to do this, let alone actually doing it.




C'est tout! Au revoir!

Monday, May 11, 2015

Work/Life Satisfaction, Worry Work, and the Possibility of Change

I moderated a panel about "work/life satisfaction" over the weekend, and it will probably surprise no one that one of the questions from the audience was about whether one person in a couple has to step back from their career a bit to make parenthood work. I hear this question a lot, and there seems to be a real societal resistance to the idea that for some couples, the answer to that question is "no." I have ranted on this before (the infamous unicorn post!) and the venom around this topic has driven me to avoid it for long stretches of time.

The panelists had good answers- one talked about how her partner has an equally successful career but has more flexibility than she does, and so it works for them. Another, who was divorced, talked about not being a martyr, and asking your partner to step up, and how that was something she only learned to do after her marriage ended. She said that she and her ex-husband are now a very good team, and she wishes they had figured out how to do that while still married. (The other panelist did not have kids, so passed on this question.)

I chimed in with how Mr. Snarky and I both feel like we took a small step back for a little while- I stopped going to networking events for about five years, he leaves work earlier now (but often works the "split shift" at home)- but that mainly what we did was get a lot more organized. I said that a career is more like a jungle gym than a ladder (a metaphor I believe I stole from Sheryl Sandberg), and told the person asking the question to trust her future self and her future partner to be smart and able to solve problems.

There was sooooo much more I wanted to say, but I was just the moderator, and not a panelist, and I wanted to make sure we had time for other questions.

Luckily for me, I have a blog and can say what I wanted to say here.

I wanted to tell that young woman that those of us in the working parent trenches now sometimes have to emphasize the bad parts, because we need to bring about systemic change that will make things better for everyone, not just the privileged women like me and the person asking the question. And those bad parts are real, more so for some people and careers than others.

But they shouldn't stop her from trying, if that is what she wants, because sometimes it isn't bad. Sometimes, it is pretty damn good, really.

My life is not perfect, but it is pretty damn good. I love my children, and I feel like I (usually) have enough time with them. I love my husband, and I feel like I (usually) have enough time with him. I love my work, and while there is so much I want to do and sometimes I wish I had more time for it- realistically, I have as much time for it as it makes sense to give it. If I gave it much more time, I suspect I wouldn't love it quite so much.

There are hobbies I miss. I miss playing fiddle. As I prepare for our upcoming vacation in France (we leave Friday! YIKES) I wish I had more time to learn French. I have an ever-growing list of books I want to read. I wish I grew more food in our garden. I want to travel more.

But, life is always going to require some trade-offs, particularly for someone like me, who has so many different interests. I would bet a large sum of money that I would still have hobbies I miss even if I didn't have children or even if I had "stepped back" from my career.

So I would tell that young woman not to let the scary stories she reads put her off having children if she wants them. There will be room for them. She'll figure it out, and while there may be some trade offs she wishes she didn't have to make, chances are there will be some of those even if she doesn't have kids.

The current scary story floating around is about how women carry more of the "worry work" at home than men do. This is because of the NY Times, of course. There was an op-ed about it.

This is a perfect example of the "we need to emphasize the bad to make change happen" dynamic. I absolutely agree that society at large (and probably a depressing number of men) expect women to take on more of the worry work- i.e., tracking which clothes need replacing, which activities need to be registered for, when the next dentist's appointment is, and things like that. In fact, I am sure that an even more depressing number of men are not even aware that this work exists.

The thing is, it doesn't have to be that way. I know this not because Mr. Snarky and I have it all figured out, but because we don't, but we're always getting better.

Do you remember that post I wrote ages ago about needing the mental space for my "big career"? This is exactly what that post is about. It is absolutely true that absorbing too much of the "worry work" at home makes it hard to focus on your work. Things were out of whack, and we took steps to fix it. We upped our organizational game: this was when the fridge calendar and the fridge white board appeared. We also redistributed the worry work a bit.

Read that last bit again. We redistributed the worry work a bit. Too often, when we talk about this issue, we talk about it as if it is an immutable law of nature that women will do more of this work than men. That's bullshit. We know it is bullshit because single sex couple manage to have more equitable splits, statistically speaking. (I am too lazy to look up the reference for that right now. Sorry. I think it may be referenced in that NY Times article.)

I also know it is bullshit because Mr. Snarky and I regularly redistribute this work. Right now, he has dentist appointments and swim lesson registrations. I have doctor appointments and gymnastics registrations. Soccer registrations bounce back and forth. He did the most recent one, I did the one before that. We put things like "sort through clothes" and "buy new clothes for kids" on the to do list, and one of us picks up that task. He keeps track of the cars needing service, I keep track of the school schedule.

We don't have this perfectly distributed 50-50, but we have gotten so, so much better at speaking up when we're feeling overwhelmed, and asking the other person to step in on something.

I know that it isn't always easy to get your partner to work with you on this issue, just like you can't always easily fix the problem of who does more housework. I suspect the options to deal with that are the same as they were in the chores case. In both cases, I guess we can also add an option to make a stink about in the NY Times so that maybe we start to get the systemic changes we need, even if that scares the generation of women coming up behind us.

So, that's my big secret to work/life satisfaction: give it a go, trust that you (and your partner, if one exists) can solve problems, and then solve those problems when they come up. Level up your organizational game. Divvy up the worry work. Keep getting better at these things. And remember that there are always trade offs in life, and the trick is to try to make choices that make you the most happy overall. There is no such thing as perfect work/life balance. But there is happiness and pretty damn good work/life balance.

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Laura Vanderkam talked about related issues on her blog all last week, in support of the upcoming release of her book I Know How She Does It. I haven't had a chance to read it yet- it isn't out!- but from the reviews I've seen, it will offer other examples of how women with "big careers" and kids make it all work. I wish I had thought to mention that book at the panel, but I didn't. Moderator fail.

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This is only somewhat related- project management skills are what I use to level up our organizational game at home!- but I want to mention it anyway: The early bird pricing on my Get More Done class ends tomorrow, May 12. That's probably "today" in the time frame of when you're reading this post! So, if you want to learn about the fundamentals of project management so that you can evaluate the available processes and tools and pick the bits that work in your specific situation... sign up now!

Friday, May 08, 2015

Weekend Reading: A Little Bit of This, A Little Bit of That Edition

The Mother's Day Tea was nice. The kids were super-excited about doing things like opening the door for the parents (and yes, two dads came) and showing us to our seats. I still think it would be better if schools didn't do things like this, but as this sort of event goes, this was a nice one.

My doctor's appointment was uncharacteristically quick- it was with my ob/gyn, who often gets off schedule due to the unpredictable nature of his appointments. But today, he was on schedule, so I was home a good hour before I thought I would be. I was excited by the idea that the day might not be a total work write-off, after all. And then I got an email from the people doing our remodeling project saying they needed a signature on some documents... so there went the extra time.

Also, when we got home from the tea, Pumpkin realized she'd left her umbrella at school. She was convinced it would get stolen out of lost and found and so I agreed to walk back to get it.  More work time, gone.

Still, I had planned for a short day, so I'm not too bothered by the lost time. It helps that the Get More Done class is selling well (early bird pricing only lasts a few more days!) and I'm starting to feel like I'll actually make it through all the work I need to get done before our vacation. I'm less convinced that we'll get through all of the items on our home to do list, though, so we may be working on that on Mother's Day!

Anyway, on to the links. They're a bit of a mishmash, but I've got some really good ones this week. And I've got a lot more interesting things saved in my "to read" lists, but realistically, I probably not going to read them in time to share them, so let's just go with what I have.

First, some politics: this is a long piece from Radley Balko defending Hillary Clinton's decision to speak out in favor of reforming our criminal justice system, but it is worth your time. Make sure you get to the part about Antonio Morgan.

An aside: I, too, am getting annoyed by the focus on the "horse race" aspects of this. I'm also annoyed by the fact that people seem to be unable to accept the possibility that Clinton's opinions on this issue have changed over the years. We all learn and grow. We come to understand situations differently. Maybe she's being cynical. But can we at least allow the possibility that she is not, and that she is staking out a position she genuinely believes in now?

I have been a bit ambivalent about her candidacy, mostly because I am tired of the venom that she induces in the people who oppose her. But her willingness to speak out on this issue actually makes me more energized in her favor. There's no doubt I would probably have voted for her, anyway- particularly in the general election, assuming she makes it through the primary. But now I feel more willing to speak up in her favor.

Moving on. I had heard about Utah's "revolutionary" approach to homelessness, but hadn't realized that the approach started elsewhere. Terrence McCoy wrote a really interesting profile of the man credited with the approach, and explains why it is considered so revolutionary.

Daniel Finney, a columnist at the Des Moines Register, is writing about his effort to lose 300+ pounds. His latest installment is really powerful.

I'm horrified by what Jesse Brown says is happening to some of the women who trusted him with their stories about Jian Ghomeshi. It sounds like Kevin Donovan is going to profit from their pain, and if that is the case, that is disgusting. This is why so many women don't tell their stories.

Acclimatrix had a really good piece over at Tenure, She Wrote about why women have a vested interest in arguing against the flawed research that said sexism no longer exists in academia.

Switching from the infuriating to the heart-breaking: Katie Hafner wrote a letter to Sheryl Sandberg about how to get through the sudden loss of your spouse that made me cry.

So did this story from Caroll Spinney, the man who played Big Bird. (Really, if you haven't read this one yet- it will probably make you cry. You've been warned.)

So, to dry your eyes:

Margaret Heffernan wrote a nice piece about what makes some teams more successful than others, which led me to a short piece by Uri Alon about how to build a motivated research group.

I posted about one of my latest designs over at Crappy Things I Made to Stop the Whining,

Did you somehow miss the wonderful cards Emily McDowell makes to give to people who have cancer? They are currently showing at the top of her shop. All of her stuff looks good, really.

Oh boy, I really need to end with something fun today, don't I?

This was one of my favorite tweets of the week. But then I'm a sucker for Pride and Prejudice in general and for the Colin Firth version in particular.




Also, Twitter thinks I'm a guy and that means I get promoted tweets like this:




And now it is time to make the pizza.

Wednesday, May 06, 2015

Offering It Up

I am not a religious person. I never have been, and I did not have a religious upbringing. I do have some very religious friends and family, though. I assume that one of them is the source of a phrase that has seemed very useful to me lately. Honestly, it has seemed useful to me since the fog of early parenthood cleared enough for me to remember things like useful phrases.

The phrase is "offer it up." It is used to refer to something that can't really be avoided and has to be endured, so the speaker is going to offer it up to the Lord. Or at least that is my understanding of the usage. As I said, I'm not religious, so I may not have that completely right, and if so, I apologize.

Anyway, when the phrase comes to me it is in that sense, except I don't believe in a God to which I can offer anything, so I'm not entirely clear to whom I am offering it  up. I just gloss over that part and say it anyway.

Since having kids my life is full of these moments that aren't all that great, and can't be avoided... so you just endure them. Don't get me wrong. My life is also full of moments that are delightful and wonderful beyond anything I imagined before I had kids, mostly because it would never have occurred to me that watching your kid do a puzzle could be that awesome.

Then there are the other moments. The poopsplosions. The "Mommy, I threw up in my bed" moments. The "the kid has a fever so one of us is going to reschedule our big meeting" moments.

This week, I am adding the Mother's Day Tea Party at school to my offerings. I suspect that for some moms, this is on the list of awesome moments. I am sure it won't be terrible. But for me, this week, I think about it and hear a voice in my head say "just offer it up."

The tea party is on Friday. I already have a doctor's appointment scheduled on that day, and it took me literally 6 months to get that scheduled so I won't be rescheduling it. However, this means that the entire day is essentially a write off as far as work is concerned. Unfortunately for me, I have a huge list of things to get done before I leave on vacation exactly one week from Friday. I have a conference at which I am a volunteer organizer all day on Saturday, so there will be no making up the work time on Saturday. I guess I could try to do some work on Sunday, but that is actually Mother's Day, and while we don't make a big deal out of it, we do try to spend it mostly as family time.

I could probably get past the lost work time. I think the real problem I have with this event is that fathers never get asked to do this sort of thing. There is no "Daddy day at school" event. There are some fathers who volunteer at our school, but there is no event that essentially guilts them all into showing up in the middle of the work day. Probably, if they'd scheduled this day just a little bit differently and called it "Parents Day" I'd be roughly 90% less grumpy about it.

And don't even get me started on what this sort of event does to kids whose mothers can't get time off work or are just absent from the child's life.

But Pumpkin is excited about the event. The kids have been asked to dress up, and she has picked out a dress and asked for (and received) permission to wear the fancy high heel shoes she mostly only gets to wear for dress up games. (I have insisted that she take a more comfortable pair of shoes in her backpack, just in case she is not too stubborn to wear them when her toes start to hurt from the heels. I am secretly hoping this will be the end of the begging to wear high heels.) I'm supposed to dress up, too, and tomorrow night she wants to help me decide what to wear.

So I will go. I will smile and do my best to be gracious and not worry about the work I should be doing, and to enjoy the chance to spend some time with Pumpkin and her classmates.

I will offer it up.

Sunday, May 03, 2015

Sunday Routine

We've fallen into a Sunday routine that I think everyone in the family really likes.

Mr. Snarky gets up with the kids (sometime between 6 and 7 a.m.) while I sleep in. I get up with them on Saturdays, to get ready for gymnastics classs, so Sundays are my only sleep in day. I sleep until 7:30 or 8.

Once I'm up, Mr. Snarky goes for a long run by the bay. The kids watch cartoons. I make myself a pot of tea and do some writing.

In my new work situation, the writing is often "work"- either something I'm writing for pay (e.g., my next post for Chronicle Vitae) or something for Tungsten Hippo or my professional blog. This is the only work I like to do on weekends. I try to keep the rest of the weekend relatively work-free.

That didn't happen this week. I had agreed to be on a panel for the Beyond the Professoriate web conference yesterday, so Mr. Snarky took the kids to gymnastics and I spent a couple of hours in our office, talking to the computer.

I'd already broken my usual "no work on Saturdays" rule, so I decided to do a little more work, too. The combination of the surprise visit with a potential client and the visit to Pumpkin's class had put me behind on my to do list for the week. Some of the items I've just rolled over to next week's list. But one item I really wanted to get done: I've decided to go ahead with the "intro to project management" course idea, and I wanted to get the registration page set up.

I've already emailed the survey respondents with this info, but I think this is a good time to break my usual policy against linking directly to my "real name" accounts, and will also share the link to the registration page here.

The course is called Get More Done, and is aimed at people who want to learn the fundamentals of project management so that they can pick and choose which tools make sense in their own situation and apply them to Get More Done.

This page has more details and a link to the registration page.

Based on my survey results, I decided to run the class on two Wednesday mornings in June. I am also offering a discounted "recording only" option for people who can't make the scheduled times. I am also open to running the course again in July or August- you just need to contact me with the weeks, days, and times that work for you. If I get 5 people who are sure they'll register for the course at a different time (and it is a time I can do), I'll open a second session.

I'm running the registration through GumRoad, and will manually add people who register to the class list in MeetingBurner. I'm doing it this way to keep my costs as low as possible, so that I can keep the registration fee as low as possible. If the fees are still too high for you but you really want to take the class, contact me and I'll try to work something out with you.

I'll be publicizing the class more on my real name account next week, but since you all helped me decide to do the course, I thought I should at least mention it once here!

I think this post fulfilled my Sunday writing routine! My tea is done, and now I'm going to go finish taking notes on The Argument Culture,by Deborah Tannen. I want to use some of the material from that book in an upcoming Chronicle Vitae post, and my copy is due back to the library tomorrow.

And then I want to do some research about cool things to see and do in Bordeaux... our trip to France is coming up soon. I don't have to do the level of preparation I do for a trip with the kids, but it is nice to have some idea of what I want to see. Besides, I really enjoy this part of trip planning!

Happy Sunday, everyone!
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