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Working mama freak out

In theory (please let it be in practice as well, dear Bunter), my last day of work is 10/16. I’m scrambling to get everything ready for my departure. Friday as I was using my last few minutes at work to assemble my to do list for this week so it would greet me with a smile upon my arrival today, I got a call from IRB Lady. The IRB monitors research to make sure we’re not denying people treatment for their syphilis and so forth. While I am In Favor in general, it can also become a source of absurd bureaucratic nonsense, like making me learn how to conduct clinical drug trials. This is not a thing that will ever be relevant to my research. Anyway, IRB lady informed me that they were going through their own delightful bureaucratic process which required them to interview researchers and members of research teams. Immediately I detected a Thing I Do Not Have Time For and wished desperately I had not picked up the phone. Sure enough, my to do list exploded with petty, irritating things. And our consultants will need to meet with you and your team in November to prep you for the interviews, she continued. Pushing aside my astonishment that this process is so complex is requires consultants, and interviews that require prep, and also, is it at ALL possible that money and time are being spent on things that are a waste of money and time? I replied, Well, I will be on maternity leave, so that’s not possible. I’ll coordinate with my research team* but I’m not going to be able to be there.

A flurry of inefficient emails soon poured in (seriously, she must get paid by the email), and this morning one arrived asking me to confirm some dates in November for the interviews. I will be on maternity leave, so that’s not possible. I’ll coordinate with my research team but I’m not going to be able to be there, I responded.

What is so hard to understand about this concept of someone being on LEAVE? Why does protecting my right to go have a baby make me feel like such an entitled asshole? If I were having surgery, people would be like OH, OF COURSE. And in fact, I AM fucking having surgery. Maybe I should just describe it as that.

This I want to assert my rights and other people don’t want me to thing is happening with regard to my teaching, too. I’m teaching a small graduate class. While the meetings will be covered for four weeks, my Chair put some pressure on me to come back for the last two sessions, and grade the course projects. My first thought was this sounds unethical where is my faculty handbook, but normally I teach this course and Giant Intro Course, and he took that off my plate in return. I still feel a little weird about it because, well, leave should equal leave, and if I were having something done to my prostate he’d be all, OH TAKE TIME TO HEAL WE GOT YOU, but because it’s my uterus and a baby…but that knee jerk response aside, all in all it’s a good deal. Whether I am actually capable of doing this remains to be seen, but it’s two classes and four papers and I should be okay.

And with my assorted other students (thesis, seniors doing honors projects) and my Research Team (we’re getting t-shirts made!), I feel the need to explain to them why I won’t be able to answer simple questions, of which there will be many, many, many. It’s not that I won’t have time for simple questions, I explain, it’s that I won’t have the cognitive capacity to check my email, let alone answer it. You should expect a delay of at least two weeks. They blink at me with utter incomprehension. Which is appropriate, because they’re children. But annoying, because I know they’re going to be frustrated with me, and I don’t like that prospect.

And then I start thinking about all the trivial little things I have to accomplish and I am filled with despair.

In the end, none of this matters. It will be fine or it will fall apart. If it’s the latter, I can glue it back together in my typical haphazard fashion when I get back. I really have one priority, and it’s Bunter.

But yeah, I wish it were easier to do this working mama thing.


*Makes me sound so important! We’re talking about a handful of undergrads and a grad student or two here.

15 Comments Post a comment
  1. Ana #

    F the patriarchy! Good luck Bunny!!!

    October 6, 2015
  2. Oy. Yup. Where is your faculty handbook? One of my junior colleagues just gave birth and found all kinds of unofficial policies had become officially better in the few years since I had used leave…she got a much better deal, because she was less inclined to be agreeable than I was. More power to her.

    October 6, 2015
  3. Jos #

    Ugh, I so hear ya on this. I literally told my work I was going to refuse to answer phone calls or emails from them for the 8 weeks I was gone. It was a stressful mess when I got back, but I ultimately decided I preferred that to all the little check-ins. Best of luck for you figuring out what works best for the balance for you!

    October 6, 2015
  4. OMG, this exact same thing happened on my last maternity leave (technically *sick* leave because we didn’t have maternity leave until last year). But my coauthor on that project is also at the uni, so he took care of it. :/ I had to do it on another project when I got back, but my RA took care of most of that (I had about a 15 min meeting with the IRB person during which I kept saying, “Yeah, that’s in the lab across campus which isn’t my lab but my RA can show you the setup”

    October 6, 2015
  5. Don’t these people know thinking sours your milk? Heavens.

    My official cure for everything today is to chuck a copy of The Feminist Case Against Bureaucracy* at it. Your IRB seems like an excellent target.

    * Jenny F Scientist doubted me, but this is a real book! It’s actually quite good, at least the preface and first two chapters, which is all I’ve read. Some good Foucault jokes in there.

    October 7, 2015
    • I was amazed! But I believed you! It seemed too good to be true!

      October 8, 2015
    • I might need to check that out. Actually I definitely need to check that out but have no time to read it, given my own bureaucratic quagmires…

      October 8, 2015
  6. I get it. When g was born and work-related issues kept popping up, I pretty much lost it (ok, I had already lost it but I just did not have the capacity to do anything beyond taking care of little Mr Colic).
    But, honestly, I think this issue runs deeper than the problem of those pesky breeding women (even those who do it repeatedly, ahem). I think that our work culture basically refuses to treat anything from the personal sphere with consideration. And, you know, if it doesn’t have to……

    October 7, 2015
  7. My grad PI expected someone to do paper revisions the day after she had a c-section because ‘It’s not like she’ll have anything else to do.’. Whole lab group turned and gave him a dose of epic side eye.

    I vote you just switch to saying ‘ I will be recovering from major surgery and unavailable.’ It’s nice of you to go along with your chair’s clearly insane request too.

    October 8, 2015
  8. Ugh. There is something to be said for no Giant Intro Course, but the thought of that responsibility while supposedly on MAT LEAVE makes me want to punch someone for you. I do hate the state of mat leave in this country. On the bright side, it sounds like you are getting as organized as it is humanly possible to be, and there is nothing that anyone can say that convince child grad or undergrad students of the magnitude of what is required of you post any kind of birth. Thinking of you holding down all these runaway pieces. As ALWAYS, I like your ‘it will be ok or it won’t, and either way it will be OK’ attitude. Another Bunny tattoo. I’m running out of available body space.

    October 9, 2015
  9. Oh bunny, that sounds really over-whelming. I find managing my own life enormously challenging, so I can’t even imagine. So much (many?) minutiae!
    And those people REALLY need to get a fecking clue.

    October 9, 2015
  10. P S. I once heard IRBs referred to as ‘high volume red tape dispensers.’

    October 10, 2015
  11. Argh! Will they just leave you alone for a few months so you can quietly go and have a baby and content with a cranium filled with (temporary) cream of mushroom soup IN PEACE! Is that asking for too much? It appears so.
    And all those details before the B-day. Enough to drive a working mama nutso. Hoping that nesting energy hits you hard right about now when you need it most.

    October 13, 2015
  12. SRB #

    I don’t understand this “having a career” business, as I was woefully unable to do it for longer than a few months due to my own baby hoarding BUT HOLY FUCKBALLS

    October 14, 2015
    • SRB #

      Somehow I submitted this… I forget what else I was going to say, but “high volume red tape dispenser” seems very apt. Would you like me to be your answering service during mat leave? “Hello, Bunny’s office! Do fuck off. And have a nice day!.”

      October 14, 2015

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