a hat, and hard things.

I started a hat:

almost done

It’s a larger version of the Aviatrix hat that I knit for M last winter, in some leftover Rowan Cork I had laying around in my stash. Gosh, that was a really nice yarn. Too bad it was discontinued (although the clearance sales associated with said discontinuation were the only reason I was able to HAVE any of that yarn, so there’s that).

It’s very nearly finished now, as you can see from the photo, and much like M’s Vahtralehekesed cardigan, it’s turning out none-too-big, but it should be big enough to fit her at Rhinebeck, and that’s what counts for now.

I’m really excited about going to Rhinebeck this year. We didn’t go last year, because it seemed like too much travel a month out from having a baby, and I missed getting to see my knitterly friends there. I’m really excited to get to introduce Madrigal to a lot of folks who’ve been following along online as she’s grown into the nearly 11-month old kiddo she is now.

I hope I’m able to show my excitement while I’m there. If you know me in real life (or on Twitter, which is a weird sort of extension of “real life” for me), you know I’ve been having a hard time lately. The stress of not knowing anything about what next year is going to look like has just been too much for me. I’m on the job market, and my husband is too, and while we know what we WANT (to move up to MN to be close to my family), given the nature of the academic job market, the odds of my being the one who’s able to move us there are pretty slim. My husband might have better odds (he’s looking for a programming job), but we just don’t know, and coordinating an academic and a non-academic job search is the stuff of nightmares. And it’s not like that’s the only stress in my life, but that’s the element I feel like has sent me a bit over the edge lately. My ability to be hopeful and optimistic is rooted in my ability to imagine a better future, and I just can’t really imagine the future at ALL right now. Me and (that kind of) uncertainty, we don’t get along very well.

There’s also coping with very little sleep (Maddy’s the sort of baby who wakes up every hour screaming for 1-2 weeks for each tooth she gets…I’m not even exaggerating, though I wish I were – I wish we could do more for our poor little bug!), trying to teach a very interaction-intensive class and make progress on my dissertation research while in that state of sleep-deprivation and with only part-time daycare, and then for the past month, having some sort of unkickable respiratory bug, which has put me even further behind on my class (I still owe them feedback on a paper they submitted almost 2 weeks ago, but I’m too exhausted to read more than a couple of papers at a time). It’s been difficult for me to reconcile the differences in my teaching that have been necessitated by the realities of motherhood (I’m so distracted, disorganized, and unfocused in class, now!), and I feel terrible about shortchanging my students (even though, based on my mid-semester evals, they don’t feel terribly shortchanged). Maybe it will get easier, someday?

There’s so much that’s wonderful about being Madrigal’s mother, and I feel kind of bad for writing about the stuff that isn’t so wonderful here, but I think it’s better to acknowledge the hard things than to do what I usually do, which is just put on a happy face and pretend everything’s just wonderful. It isn’t, but parts of it are, and I hope I can enjoy the wonderfulness of Rhinebeck despite my current exhaustion and gloominess. Thanks for listening to me vent, dear blog friends.

14 thoughts on “a hat, and hard things.”

  1. I hope you have a great time at rhinebeck! Wish I was going this year but it’s just too much w/ a 2mo and 2yo. Yikes. :) Good luck to you both on your job searches!

  2. I’m sorry to hear things are tough right now, but I’m glad you can let some of it out in this space. I think it’s healthy to acknowledge that, while you wouldn’t change it, motherhood is hard. Good luck on the job search! We moved from MI to PA over two years ago for J’s tenure-track job, the hopes that I’d get hired here eventually, too. I’m now on my third year of adjuncting (which, here, is a 5 and 4 load for part-time pay), and they’re not hiring next year. Again. I’ve been struggling with some severe depression the past six months for the same reason you’ve listed: I can’t envision a future where this situation changes. That’s coupled with the fact that we’re in an area where our values are not at all the norm, so we’ve really had a hard time making friends. We’ve been talking about a baby lately, but I really don’t know that I’m in the right mental/emotional space to handle it. Just seeing you being honest is really inspiring, though. I hope that Rhinebeck brings you the break you need and deserve!

    1. Thanks, Mick. It’s really hard for me to open up about having a hard time – I just have this compulsion to put on a “good show” for everyone, but I think this last round of sickness finally broke me down enough to stop faking it.

      I’m so sorry things are rough for you guys right now, too. So many people I know in the academic world (including me) are struggling with depression and the sense that there is no better future lying ahead. I don’t know what can be done about it, given the way universities are turning more and more to adjuncts and having their budgets cut and oy. The funny thing is, I’d actually be ok with taking on adjunct work, provided my husband gets a decent-enough paying job, because it’s basically the only way to work part-time in academia, and I’m not completely sure I have long-term full-time work in me given my health issues and whatnot. But I know it’s not a way of making a living.

      I’m also really sorry about the difficulties finding friends. The only thing that’s made having a baby while living so far away from our families possible is the fact that we DO have a network of friends here, but it’s not the same, and I have a hard time calling on them for help when things are rough. On some level, it’s nice that my grad school friends are mostly in a different place in life (mostly non-married, no kids), because it means they have less constraints and can more easily jump in and help out when I need it, but it’s really hard to not have anyone to look to as a model. If you ever want to talk babies and academia, feel free to shoot me an email. I might have advice and I definitely won’t sugarcoat anything!

      Best wishes,


      whit::knits https://whitknits.wordpress.com

  3. I love that you’re still praising the Cork yarn. I remember YEARS ago when you knit a sweater out of it and praised it then just as you do now – it must really be exceptional! And don’t beat yourself up about the teaching, it sounds like you’re incredibly dedicated and hard working. I have had professors who have taken up to 6 weeks to get papers back to me only to return them with no comments. Two weeks? That’s hardly anything to worry about (though I can understand that you might feel guilty about it.)

  4. I have endless reserves of sympathy for your job search situation—my ABD partner had a tremendously demoralizing year on the market last year, and we both kind of fell apart under the stress and ended up moving in with my family temporarily instead of trying to make ends meet with whatever adjunct work he could pick up. It’s pretty rough out there, and optimism is challenging!

    Mick’s right about the inspiringness of your honesty here, though (I definitely also slap on a fake jovial affect whenever anyone asks how the partner and I are holding up, how the job search is going, how the dissertation is progressing…). I hope Rhinebeck is invigorating and restorative for you!

  5. The hat is lovely. Wish I could offer you some advice on the other things. What I will do is say a prayer and send you good wishes across the blogosphere.

  6. I hesitate to offer advice (because I hate when people do that to me, esp in cyberspace where we don’t REALLY know each other), but it sounds like something needs to give. From what you have written, it sounds like you are running yourself into the ground trying to manage everything. Consider full-time daycare, consider the possibility of a job-search for one of you rather than both for next year, consider taking an extra semester or two to finish your PhD, I don’t know.

    I have not been in your exact situation (namely, dual job search with one child), but I can identify with the difficulty of balancing motherhood and grad school and I know many others who have, too. I remember feeling pressure to be a superhero even though it made me exhausted and tore apart my self-esteem. I remember thinking “Other women do this all the time, why can’t I?” because I knew the stories of all these women who had somehow pulled through and accomplished amazing things like writing books and heading up political campaigns and I could barely get the dishes done every night. I remember being so sleep-deprived I felt like a zombie, and being pulled in a thousand directions and feeling inadequate at absolutely everything.

    The thing I had to give up was looking for a job. The economy fell apart less than a year after I finished my degree, and at the time I was had two children under age 3 who neither napped nor slept well at night, so I didn’t even consider looking for a job. (Finding a job in higher education in the arts is hard enough when the economy is good; it’s basically impossible when the economy is bad, especially when you’re a woman with children. It’s an infuriating truth.)

    The truth is, you have to look at your overall health and the health of your family and figure out what’s going to work and accept that in the long run, things will work out.

    I’m sorry. I probably really stepped over the line here.

  7. I won’t be at Rhinebeck to say hello, but I am sorry to hear you’re having what sounds like a lot of stresses adding up right now. I have lots of friends job-searching right now and I know it’s a terrible, frustrating experience. I’m so sorry.

  8. It does sound llike you have a lot on your plate, and that you are juggling things masterfully! I hope things will resolve themselves into something very happy for your family! Ive been thinking a lot about what you said about imagining a better future, and how it applies to my life. I think motherhood has changed me so much that my goals are different, but I don’t know what they really are yet! Good luck!

  9. I think you’re a superwoman to even be attempting to keep all those balls in the air. I’m thinking good thoughts for your job searches and hoping that Rhinebeck can be the restorative respite you need!

    Should you decide that Vahtralehekesed is too much of a mouthful, I finally remembered the real name for the maple helicopters (in English): they’re samaras.

  10. Speaking as someone who lived through very much the same stage you’re describing here (new baby, teaching, dissertation, oh yes), it’s important to remember that talking about what’s difficult about doing all of these things doesn’t obviate all the good things about them, or mean that you’re not glad to be a mom! It does get easier, really it does. It’s not that things stop coming at you, it’s that you get better at triaging, and more forgiving of yourself, which is a huge gift, I think. The funny thing is that I’m feeling that exact same “I’m shortchanging my students because of my distraction/fatigue/etc” feeling right now, but it’s because I’ve just been made department chair, and I haven’t gotten my feet under me with that one yet. So, I don’t know if it makes you feel better, but the dance you’re learning now is one you’ll probably have to dance lots of times in the future, even when it’s not with kids :) But the best thing about saying all this out loud is that a) you remind other people in the same situation that they’re not abnormal, and b) you give people a chance to tell you that you’re not alone!

  11. Have you tried clove oil for the teething? Smart Medicine for a Healthier Child recommends mixing 1 drop of clove oil with 1 to 2 tablespoons of safflower oil and gently rubbing it into the gums. This reference book helped me a lot when my son was a baby and the clove oil really works. You have to be careful not to overuse it, but it acts as a natural anesthetic.

    We have been on soft money and living with the same uncertainty for some time now. It’s not easy. The important thing to remember is that you are not alone and it does get better. Just keep plugging along and doing your best, that’s all anyone can ask of anyone else.

    “When you get into a tight place and everything goes against you until it seems that you cannot hold on for a minute longer, never give up then, for that is just the place and time that the tide will turn.”
    Harriet Beecher Stowe

    Hang in there!

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