Thursday, March 25, 2010

I appreciate my job, I SWEAR.

Hot flashes seem to be triggered by actual thoughts. Do any of you find that to be the case? Several times I've thought about something embarrassing or upsetting, and HOOOOOOOOT! This morning I was thinking about the way I represent my attitude towards my job in this here online journal. It may seem that I don't value my job, and when I thought about the fact that a few people who drop in regularly are also academics, it occurred to me that this might be the occupational equivalent of those fertile women who complain about pregnancy while rubbing their enormous bellies. HOOOOOOT!

I've got some complex feelings about my job. I've mentioned really not caring about my career anymore, and that's kind of true. But it's also a major source of pride. This weekend my husband and I were spring cleaning the filing cabinet and encountered the file that contains my academic documents. There's my high school transcript, which sports a strange combination of As and Fs. My terrible SAT scores. My crappy-state-university transcripts wherein I show that yes, I can get all As, my transfer to a really wonderful institution of higher learning, my letters of acceptance to graduate schools, my offer letter from Mediocre Institution... And while my job is very hard on me--it involves public speaking and I'm socially phobic, it involves constant criticism, and I'm a delicate flower--I did love it until infertility struck. Then, weirdly, a couple of people said things that resulted in me somehow linking the two. I might have done so anyway, but these offhand remarks really sealed the deal.

1. My father (who then rudely died before I could make him take it back) said: Some people don't get to have everything, and you have a career. Implication: if you didn't have a career, you'd get to have a baby.
2. BFB, when she told me she was going to start trying, and I revealed I was infertile, said: I should get pregnant first because you have a tenure track job. (BFB has been on the job marked multiple times, with no offers.) Implication: her getting pregnant and my getting pregnant are dependent on each other.

As I sit here, writing this instead of combing the NSF website for some source of external funding that will allow me to get tenure, I begin to wonder. Does part of me believe, really believe, that if I abandon all ambition, I'll get pregnant? Is all this apathy I feel actually me sabotaging my career in the hopes that I'll get that baby? Should I quit my job so we can find out?


  1. Ha ha ha... I know you are not serious! Yes, you should completely quit in your mind, at least once a week. Tuesday is a good day to quit. I definitely think you are lucky to have a tenure-track position at this point. Tenure itself would be even better. Being a post-doc mired in the stagnation of infertility is pretty bad. I have a wonderful fellowship, so nobody is going to ask me what I have been doing (they are just going to keep depositing money in my bank account) for another 11 months or so. Then that will be over and I may have no choice about quitting.

    In spite of my overwhelming lassitude, I did manage to submit an article revision yesterday. To BMC Evolutionary Biology, a respected journal in the field... and guess what this journal's website subjected me to?? An ad for moms to go back to school. Yes. "Would you like to submit your article? By the way, are you a mom who would like to go back to school?" Noooo!

    Please people, if I'm on this website, that means I've spend nearly 30 years of my life in school, thus forfeiting any chance to reproduce back when my eggs were still 'fresh'. What is this, some kind of sick joke?

    So yes, there is a trade off. Unfortunately it's now too late to reconsider being a teen dropout mom who clicks on such ads.

  2. I was just having a conversation like this last night. I think it's that being an academic and being infertile are alike, in that one is never doing "enough." As an academic, there's this constant contradictory pressure to DO MORE in every direction. And those moments of feeling completely on top of your game are fleeting and far between. And it feels like "my" fault for not meeting these amorphously defined expectations.

    IF is sorta like that. There's always something else that one could try, and if one isn't doing acupuncture, guided meditation, or cashing in one's retirement accounts to pay for consultation with the world's best experts OR *heaven forfend* HAS A CUP OF COFFEE, we're left to wonder if maybe we don't want it bad enough.

    I mostly like my academic job, but, yeah, the further along the IF path I go, the more I want to take a break. I also find myself pondering if my work is getting in the way - makes no logical sense at all.

  3. I don't see why those things should be exclusive...I mean, what is it about holding jobs that keeps us from getting pregnant? I know my job was completely stressful because I had a douche for a boss and was completely overworked, so much so that I was having anxiety attacks and high blood pressure - so obviously negative effects on my health. Tons of women have jobs and get pregnant every day though, so why should it be any different for us?
    I think AmyG has a point - there is always something else we could try to "cure" our IF. I was sooo not invested in my job as a career, so there was an obvious answer for me, but a tenure-track job just doesn't seem to offer that chance to "try it and see".
    Haha, if I get pregnant in the next couple months with stage IV endo and adenomyosis and all, I'll come back and advise HELL YEAH you should quit :).

  4. Reading your post was kind of eerie. First, I feel similarly about my job. Without the fly in the ointment that IF represents I might actually be quite happy (though, AmyG is right on the money about the difficulties, amorphous expectations, etc.). It's actually quite terrible. We worked and worked to get where we are and it's impossible to enjoy that achievement because our eyes are stuck on the prize that needs swaddling.

    I also have a friend who can't get a tenure track job and who's pregnant - and there does seem to be an underlying, "Well you get A, and I get B" feeling to the whole thing. But I think that's artificial, something I've created. It's like some weird idea of whacked out justice - of a higher power apportioning "luck". I'd be more than happy to give up some of my variety for some of hers, but of course that's not the way these things work. But, yeah, I worry about it. I worry about being a tenured fuddy duddy with an impressive resume and crap-all to show for it on the baby front.

  5. Oh, what a good topic.

    To me this career vs. baby face-off implies some sort of cosmic or karmic force is doling out pregnancies based on who, for lack of a better word, deserves them. Which, logically, I know is not how the world works. But illogically and emotionally, it really does feel like that sometimes. I logically know that unless your career is directly hurting your chances (ie: you work late or travel and never get to have relations with your hubs, your health suffers due to stress, etc etc), then your job and your fertility are mutually exclusive.

    My Mom often tells me (she doesn't even imply, she just comes out and says it) that I "did this" to myself with all of my marathon-ing in my 20s. It hurts me to my core. She's telling me that not only did I put off pregnancy because I selfishly wanted to pursue these athletic goals (which isn't even true, there was a lot more to it...including being focused on my, um, career), but that I also hurt my body's reproductive viability in the process. In the dark of night, I think of that and it sucks. If I wasn't into running would I have a baby right now? (Ouch.) We can't turn back the clock. We are where we are. (Yoda Egg)

    But back to you. I don't get the impression that you complain about your job. I see your passion and I know you're good at it. (You rise to the occasion despite hating public speaking, it's amazing! I could NEVER do that!) If you want to quit because you want to quit, that is valid. But I think you love your job (a lot of the time!). And I believe that you can have it and a baby, too. I think you will.

  6. I know what you mean, trying to rationalize why you're not getting pregnant in any way possible so you can have some sort of control over why it's not happening. I've thought the same things about so many things, analyzing and trying to bring some sanity to the situation: if only I did yoga everyday, if only I follow the fertility diet, if I quit my job....

    If only it were that simple.

  7. Oh no! No, they are not linked! (Yes, I know you know that.) I even have proof, if you will accept anecdata: I am one of those failed academics, sitting here at my crappy admin job waiting for that magical TT opportunity to come along, and I can't get pregnant either. So there.

    I'm so sorry that people you love and respect said those things to you. They are NOT true. (Yes, I know you know that.)

    You are not doing this to yourself. It is happening to you. It is not your fault, and achieving things in your career (hello, keynote speaker despite social phobia) does not unbalance some cosmic scale full of babies. Your life is not a zero-sum game.

  8. I think we all like to complain about work at some point - for the most part you come across as enjoying your job. You have worked really hard to get where you are and you should be proud of your achievements.

    I don't think quitting your job will help. It's just that IF becomes all pervasive - I wish I could stop thinking about it. As someone who did take a work break - it actually made my obsession worse as I had more time at home to think about. Where is that magic elusive next thing I should do that WILL get me pregnant? It isn't out there and all we can do is live life in the meantime. No point putting life on hold for a maybe.

    That said, if you truly want to change careers, I am sure with all you have achieved so far that you could do that too. :)

  9. I wish I had a better way of articulating this, but maybe it's not so much that your IF and job unhappiness are linked together, but more that the IF is shedding light on aspects of your job in ways that are making you feel less satisfied with it. IF seems to cast a shadow on everything in life these days, so maybe your job is an easy place to put your frustration.

    If you are truly unhappy in your situation, by all means seek out alternatives. But I'd be careful of having any expectations on it sorting out the IF situation. I guess for me, I've just become so embittered by the limitations IF seems to be putting on me that I'm reluctant to let it dictate the other aspects of my life.

    I also do add that as with all the other commenters, I'm really impressed with your achievements in academia. I've seen many a friend go through it - don't let IF dilute your success. (Easier said than done, of course - I can barely follow my own advice.)

  10. Hmmm...I think you could/should be able to have career and baby. I agree if it were an extremely stressful job that effects your health or other reasons that would prevent you from getting pregnant you should quit your job. But if you're job isn't that way, I don't why you can't have both. My job isn't very stressful, rarely these days. But it's not really a "career" either. I didn't really try too hard for that b/c I planned on being pregnant and having kids and letting my hubby be the breadwinner. I guess I effed up. Oh well.
    I also don't think you complain about your job much. No more than the normal person. I complain about mine a lot, just don't write about it much because it's lame. ;)

  11. I think we are all nice people and because of that we expect that the universe should be nice and fair to us. We are always looking for some underlying reason why things havent worked out and we are always searching for the cryptic code that the universe is sending us so we can unlock it and finally figure out the correct path to get us to motherhood.
    But the universe has no tact, it does things without reason and without feelings.

    Its sad that two close people in your life have had such an impact with what they've said to you, and I know you KNOW it's untrue but still a tiny part of you looks inside yourself and questions the reality... Its sad that your dad said that to you because it automatically makes you feel guilty for wanting to be a mother when you have a perfectly good job... like you are not allowed to have both? Or are you not allowed to wish for more than one aspect of your life to be successful? This is the part of IF that I really struggle with... It's seen as being selfish that we try so hard to concieve. Many people mistakingly think we should 'get over it' and stop being so self obsessed. But unless they are walking in your shoes they have no right to judge.
    I wish we knew when this journey would end for us, its the unknown that makes it a ridiculous mind game.

  12. I don't feel that you are complaining about the job, just that you aren't where you want to be. Fuck those people who say that you can't have both or all of it. Why the hell not? I want it.

    That IF cloud covers a lot of sunshine. I think that all of those incidents where it works out that someone's career fails, but they have children are coincidental and irrelevant to the overall picture. You could be miserable and without a career or baby or have a career and be miserable. Given those, options, I'd still take the career behind door b. I think of those comments as misguided messages of hope. People are trying to say that you have something to be proud of. You want it all, of course, but they are focusing on something we do have.

    Not that we are happy about it. Nor should we expect to be happy about being in the IF world. I know it's not much help to say that it's well intended, but not many people get first hand experience. Sure, that's a bit of silver lining that they are looking for, but you are still looking for the rainbows and unicorns. :)