Saturday, May 26, 2012

The Face of WIC

Did I mention that I'm on WIC? More accurately, my son is. It's an income-based government program that provides assistance in providing women, infants, and children with nutrition. When both I and Mr. Random became poor graduate students, we more than qualified for this program. And we put aside our pride and signed up, because our little guy is worth it.

We could have made it work without it. But why should we? We're qualified. The way we'd make it work is by taking out extra student loans. The program is there. We've paid and will continue to pay taxes. 

For the most part I'm fine with this decision. 

And for the most part, grocery store clerks are very helpful and courteous. But not always.

Today, while shopping, I had the great displeasure of a grocery store clerk who was definitely judging me, and poorly. [Disclaimer: I realize the following is entirely my interpretation, and my be inaccurate. But I think it raises a far point, whether true or not] She maintained a level of professionalism - enough that I don't feel it would have been appropriate to complain. But it was also clear to me that she saw me as a "WIC-Mom." 

What is a "WIC-Mom"? 

In her opinion, and those who are otherwise apt to judge someone on WIC, I'm sure it's someone who is not married. Who had a child too young. Who was too selfish to give it up for adoption. Someone who is not educated, and was too stupid to know what "protection" means. Someone who does not have financial means to provide for her child, and therefore, doesn't deserve him.

Here's the thing. I am a WIC-Mom. I am married. I've been married nearly 6 years. I was 27 when my son was born. I may have been selfish to keep him, but at the time we got pregnant we still had a house, we had 2 incomes, and our lives were very, very different than they are now, roughly 3 years later. I'm highly educated. I hold a bachelor's and master's degrees in a science field and I am working on my Ph.D. I definitely know what "protection" is and how to use it.

It's true - I don't fully have the financial means to support my son - but I went out and found some. WIC is helping. I work 3 jobs. My husband currently is job searching and working a part-time job in the meantime.

So we damn well do deserve our son.

And if I am one WIC-Mother, so very much the opposite of what you might assume...what do you think that might mean for other "WIC-Moms"? One thing is for sure, if a mom went out and got WIC support, she's at least done that one thing to support her child. How dare you judge her for that?

If parenting has taught me anything it's this:

You never know what path has led the person before you to the moment you are witnessing. 

And once you realize that, you'll realize you are in no position whatsoever to pass judgement. 

Friday, May 18, 2012

The Five Year Engagement

Spoiler Alert - I will be talking about themes and instances from the movie.

I just watched The Five Year Engagement with a friend. Overall, I thought I liked it.

But it also hit a little close to home.

In short, the main couple gets engaged, and then while attempting to plan their wedding, decide to move for the woman's "career". She just got a post-doc position in Michigan. So the man is giving up his successful career as a sous chef (he was about to be promoted to head chef) in San Francisco to support his future wife. It's supposed to be for 2 years. But she does well, the get more funding, and it starts looking a bit longer term. And he basically becomes a tragic shadow of himself who is borderline insane. To be fair, she has continually asked him if he's happy, and he's continually denied their move is a problem - but it's clear to everyone that it is. And still they persist. Until finally they break up. After 5 years. In the end, they do get back together. After a bit more drama and soul searching, blah blah blah.

Let's recap my history with Mr. Random. We married, then immediately moved to another state so I could go to graduate school. It was supposed to be for 2 years and then we'd move elsewhere. We're coming up on year 6 here as I opted to continue for my Ph.D. And I've worried a bit that Mr. Random is not happy here. Or has felt limited by my "career". Thankfully, he didn't give up some big career to come here, and he's not gone off the deep end like Jason Segel's character. And we don't keep putting off our life until things are "perfect" (see: Wiggles), but it was little close to home.

And the more I think about the movie, the more I am irked by several themes that cropped up.  There's the implication that a lot of the reason our main heroine has been miserable for the past 5 years is because she (selfishly) wanted a Career.

A counterpoint to the main couple is presented when the post-doc's sister gets knocked up by her fiance's immature "screw up" friend at their engagement party. This couple seems much less responsible, much less educated (he throws out the f-bomb at their quickie wedding!) but we're to believe this couple is much happier. In fact, we're encouraged to believe they are happier because they are less exacting. Less careful. Less responsible. Perhaps, even, because they are less educated.

As an exacting, careful, responsible, and highly educated woman...I find this somewhat offensive. Or at the very least distressing.

I can well believe that one will be happier when they're less exacting and careful. Even less responsible to some degree. And ignorance is bliss, or so they say, so I suppose less education can be helpful as well, in the pursuit of happiness. I'd say I'm more concerned that it seems to be yet another example in "popular culture" that vilifies or otherwise makes less desirable intelligence and education. When did we as a society become so anti-intelligence?

Thursday, May 10, 2012


I'm feeling really anxious and I think what would help the most is being able to talk about it. Sadly, I have no one to talk to about it right now. So, I'll write it out. It's the next best thing. Heck, it may even work out better.

I'm working on my dissertation. In short, it'll be three publishable papers. The content of the first paper is the development of a tool, the second paper is an assessment of the data used in the tool, and the third paper is an assessment of the tool itself, via user survey.

The tool was supposed to be built by March 31. I was working with another student on it. She was doing the coding. She said she could get it done in time. It's only just now done. So, you could say we're a bit behind schedule. I'm actually a full 6 weeks behind my self-prescribed dissertation schedule. It's immensely frustrating.

Further, the tool we were building was supposed to be a base tool. On that I was going to add some functionality specific to my dissertation, and the other student was going to focus on some new visualization techniques for the output of the tool. I'm not 100% sure yet, but from what I can tell, the way she wrote the doesn't actually work as I need it to for my dissertation. It works for hers. Just...not mine.

So, not only am I 6 weeks behind schedule. I may also be royally f***ed. Because if the tool cannot be modified...I'll have to make it for myself. From scratch. Starting now. When I was supposed to have it nearly 2 months ago.

So. There's a high level of anxiety. And I find myself wanting to just say f--- it all, and walk away. I'll just apply for jobs. I fold. But clearly not all of me wants that, or I'd have done it already.

Wednesday, May 2, 2012

Best for your Family

I was waiting in a doctor's office when I saw a news blurb on "Modern Families" and the new "Stay at Home Dad." The blurb was partially tied to a new movie coming out that's all about dads as primary child-carers. In it they interviewed two different stay-at-home dads to get their take. I only saw one dad's interview, but his words, and those of the interviewers framing the entire thing still ring in my ears.

Most poignantly, "I think you'll see a lot more families deciding to do what's best for their families." These words were from the dad, and echoed several times by the interviewers.

And by this, he meant, of course, that the "best" thing for families is to have a stay-at-home parent - whether that be mom, or dad.

I take offense at his choice of words, and what he implies.

First of all, I strongly believe most people are already doing what's "best for their families." We all want to be the best parents we can possibly be. I mean, Kids First, and all that is everywhere you look. Judgment free at every grocery store checkstand. Let's go ahead and recognize that most people are already choosing to do what's "best for their family" in their situation.

And let's go ahead and be clear - what's best for your family, may not be best for mine.

So while for this dad, the "best" thing was to have someone stay at home, I take issue with him suggesting that is the "best" for all families.

Because I can tell you - I thought like him once. Before we ever had sweet Wiggles we discussed at varying lengths our "ideal" or "best" scenarios for child-rearing. We both agreed that "best" was to have a stay-at-home parent, and we both agreed it would be whoever was earning less money. Or...supposing we were earning about the same or even the lower-earner made enough for us to all live on, then the one who disliked their job most would stay-at-home. Or some other criteria would be used. It was all very hypothetical - I was still in school after all.

Well. I'm still in school. In fact, Mr. Random went back to school. And for Wiggles' first year and a half or so of life, we juggled baby duties and student duties (and teaching duties for me) to make it all work. We were both stay-at-home and working-parents. It was tough. I'm glad we managed it. I really am. I think it really helped both of us bond with the little guy, helped our family grow strong together, and helped us really understand each others' position. Heck, we were both doing both jobs!

But I'll be honest. We'd reached a point of diminishing returns. When Wiggles was young, we could effectively study and work at home while sticking him in a bouncer or letting him crawl in a small baby-proofed space. But around 12 months of age, our little man started toddling all over and was into everything. And needed constant minding. And Mr. Random and I were staying up to wee hours to finish our work, which we could only begin after putting our little tyrant to bed for the night. We were both becoming exhausted, aggravated, frustrated, and just plain spent. We had little time for each other, or ourselves. Not to mention, we both wanted more for Wiggles. Our time minding him when he was awake was just that. We minded him. Sure I had ideas and pins on Pinterest and notions of educational and engaging activities I wanted to do with him. But I had no time. And hardly the energy. So once in a blue moon I'd manage something, but the day-in and day-out was very mundane, and starting to be quite boring for Wiggles. He loved going out so we'd try to do regular walks - but these often wound up more hurried than he'd like and never had any theme or other educational premise. Sure we'd read stories to him, but this was at his fancy and his attention was ever fleeting.

Finally, with Mr. Random student teaching and my teaching obligations, we reached a point where we could no longer physically juggle baby duties. There would be hours during the week we both needed to be out of the home. So very reluctantly and at the last moment, I finally conceded to look at daycares. And with a heavy heart and many tears, we put our sweet boy into a daycare setting. We signed him up for full time. Our sweet Precious Snowflake, cared for by strangers for approximately 37.5 hours every week. It felt wrong. It certainly felt like it wasn't the "best", but it was the best we could do.

You know what? It's The Best thing that we've done for our family. Wiggles loves going to school. He loves playing with other kids his ages, he loves his teachers, and I think most of all, he loves their activities! He gets to play with new toys and they teach him all kinds of things. His vocabulary took off at a stellar pace after starting school. He started being able to point to body parts and surprising us with the new things he's learned nearly every day. Best of all, we're not as exhausted and worn out from "minding" him, that now when we do have him - we really focus on having fun and playing with him. Which feels so much better than "minding," which induced a lot of guilt.

No, our weekends aren't filled with those activities I've pinned, but we usually do manage at least one adventure - even if it's just going to Costco (on a Sunday? That IS an Adventure) and enjoying a churro as a family. And yes, I do miss him a lot. But I also value the time we now have to work on our work. And the quality time we've re-captured as a family, and as the two of us after the little guy is in bed.

So. Mr. Stay-at-Home Dad. I want to commend you for doing what's best for your family. But I ask you - please don't deign to think that what's best for yours, is what's best for mine. Because we've found differently. And that's okay.

About this Blog

I have a journal. You know, the real kind...paper, bound in a book form...nice leather cover. And I do write in it...every few months. I like it, but somehow I find it hard to keep up regularly. I'm at a computer nearly all the time, so I find it easier to keep up on this blog. So, that's what this blog is for. To help me journal when I'm away from my journal. A place to collect my thoughts before I lose them to the chaos of my mind.

Or see my first post here. That's why I started this blog.