Tuesday, May 10, 2011
My career is going very well. Recently, I was elected to the Executive Board of the national academic organization for cinema scholars, I am running the Gender Studies program on campus, my book, The Apartment Plot, came out a few months ago, I've organized some great conferences, I've had some good speaking invitations, and I just got promoted. It is all good, but I still feel ambivalent about it. It isn't that I feel success is undeserved. I don't have that kind of self-loathing. Instead, I both want success and fear it. Or, rather, I want success but fear what it entails. Mainly extra work. Every step up, every bit of recognition, carries with it the threat of more meetings, more committees, more travel, more time away from the family. Yes, I can tell my kids that it is good that their mom works and has her own identity, and they believe it, but when that means I miss a recital or some other school event or even when it means I miss a few breakfasts or dinners with them, it makes me feel guilty. And I know that every thing I do affects my husband and takes away from his work time. as he takes up the slack for me (in addition to doing his own usual share) with the kids. At the same time, when I tell a work-related person that I will only stay at the conference for a shortened time or will skip a dinner, because I want to see my family or need to got a recital, I feel like a feeb, a failure. This is the familiar bind of the working mom. But what to do? Sometimes I fantasize about having an Alice, like in The Brady Bunch. But, aside from the expense, I don't want someone else being my substitute at home or even being in my home that much. I treasure the private space of our home and our family. Watching Big Love, I sometimes think that what I need is a sister-wife, someone who shares my family and has the same stakes as I do, who can spell me and my husband when necessary. But I wouldn't like the husband sharing, or the assumption that my sister wife should be a stay-at-home mom herself (or the creepy polygamist dresses). I guess one way to look at it is that I have managed so far, and seem to be getting rewarded and recognized for good work, despite my constant feeling that I'm not doing enough or will be found out. Maybe the more we all assert our right to not be everywhere at every minute -- to miss a recital, leave a conference early, dodge a meeting -- we can help make new rules and new expectations.