My 50th – ish Post

Somehow I missed the benchmark of my 50th post for The Sheep Are Out.  February has been a miasma of amazing family visits intermixed with flus, colds and other illnesses that we seem to be passing around like potluck dishes.  Somewhere in the middle of trying to stay healthy, to get my loved ones healthy, to not make family that visited or that we were visiting sick, and to more or less keep up with life I missed the 50th mark.  So I’m going to celebrate that today with my 52nd (I think…) post.

I started this blog last summer as a way to create purpose and focus in the middle of our new adventures in Canada.  We now feel like we are finally finding our feet… sort of…, but those first few weeks especially were a crazy mix of excitement for our new home, for the ability to be close to family for the first time in Little Man’s life, as well as the intense frustration of immigration issues and missing those we had left behind again.  Honestly I floundered for a bit.

This post is about that floundering… more or less…  It consists of two short pieces that I wrote months apart.  The first was written within the first couple of weeks of the move.  I wrote it and then decided that it wasn’t anything I was going to share on the blog since it felt too raw.  Then a couple of weeks ago I woke up after a dream and wrote this second piece; sort of a reversal from the earlier writing.  Now as I celebrate the 50th-ish post for this blog, it seems to make sense to share both of these pieces here.  If this is where the first 50-ish posts have gotten me, I can’t wait to see where the next lead.

Can this be the same view with sheep munching contentedly just a few short months ago?

Can this be the same view with sheep munching contentedly just a few short months ago?

“Homemaker”

Today, for the first time, I was described on an official document as a “homemaker.”

That’s a title that I have never worked for; hadn’t even considered it as a possibility or a desire.  Then my son was born and I was only able to take off two weeks after giving birth before I was back in the classroom teaching full time.  Friends have called me “super woman” for that, but I didn’t feel super or strong or anything near heroic.  At that moment I was envious of my friends who had the ability to stay home with their babies.  I never thought I’d feel that way.

In my mind I define myself as “University Professor.”  That’s who I should be on that blasted form, that’s who I am, or at least I was.  I spent a decade working on my graduate degrees, finally completing my dissertation and doctorate only a couple of years ago.  I am just now getting comfortable with introducing myself as Dr. Hopwood.  Now, with the great job offer for Dave that brought us here in the first place, and the expiration of my contract at the college where we taught in the States, now I am a “Homemaker.”  I am a Ph.D. who cannot work at the local coffee shop because I don’t have my work visa yet, and in fact cannot even volunteer in a position where a Canadian would be paid.  So who does that make me?

About a month or so before “the move” I was chatting with a dear friend about this; about what it meant to step back from or give up even temporarily a career that defines us.  What I was going to do?  We talked about the fear of losing the spark that makes us attractive to our husbands.  But we both married some pretty stellar guys, so that wasn’t really the issue that concerned us.  Then we talked about the even more pressing fear; that with the loss of career how would we stay attractive to ourselves?  For that we had no easy answers and drifted into silence.

So today was the first time that I was officially defined as a “Homemaker.”  It won’t be the last.    Who do I become now?

A nice view from our kitchen window while making dinner.

A nice view from our kitchen window while making dinner.

A Dream of Different Days

While it is not unusual for me to remember a dream, it is not common either.  I once kept a dream journal containing memories of dreams written down immediately upon waking.  Rereading those entries was amazing, and many of the dream I never remembered even having.

This morning I had a teaching dream.  I haven’t dreamt of being in the classroom for a while… at least not that I remember.  In the past I’ve had the stress dreams of teaching, never naked in the lecture hall, but instead having to deal with troublesome students; or lecturing in class and suddenly not having a clue about what I’m supposed to be saying; or realizing that my entire lecture is blatantly false and everyone knows it.  These were dreams not of my body being laid bare for all to see, but my inadequacies.  Or so they seemed at the time.  My dream from this morning, however, was not that kind of dream.

In fact, this was the most at peace I’ve ever been in a teaching dream.  I was in a small room in a modern university building.  Only one student.  It all felt right.  I don’t remember the course I was teaching or the lecture topic, but for some reason First Peoples of the Americas feels right too.

I woke up from the dream a bit blurry but peaceful to the sound of Little Man waking through the monitor, singing one of his favorite Imagination Movers songs.  It wasn’t until later, trying to remember the dream and the feeling of rightness that it left with me, that I realized my one student was quite short.  In fact he was exceedingly short for college, and he had a short mop of blond curly hair.  He wore a nice pair of black dress pants and a long sleeve white button up shirt.  He was calm and respectful in class, asking good if simple questions.

The dream shifted at some point to the same room, same class, but now full of normal-sized university students.  We were discussing a lecture and each student spoke in a slightly high pitched, and distinctively whiny voice.  They are getting nervous here, worried about how much they had to learn.  I was unperturbed, finding this a normal part of their learning process.  I answered their questions, worked through different misunderstandings, and we forged on.

Later something in my day triggered memory of this dream, and I recognized my one student, as well as the multiple whiny students, all as representing Little Man.  This thought stopped me in my tracks, and I sat down trying to remember more of the dream.  I came to realize that my current “teaching gig” has outrageous hours, an irascible student body, and a complete lack of school holidays or teaching breaks.  Yet it’s my favorite “job” so far, even if the pay is lousy.  This dream left me smiling for days.  While I can’t vouch for tomorrow, for today at least I’m at peace with my “career.”

A short walk down the drive.

A short walk down the drive.

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7 thoughts on “My 50th – ish Post

  1. Anne

    Marie, this brought me to tears. Not only because missing you is painful, but because I remember that talk we had during our craft night last year (unless you had this same conversation with someone else who has a stellar husband.) 🙂 I still know that internal conflict of homemaker and professional – I feel it every day and often finding myself overflowing with envy toward the few mothers I know who have found a beautiful balance of working full time from home and getting to be with their children. I have to remind myself that I did not choose a career path that would accommodate such an arrangement (nor would my talents be suited for the kind of work they find fulfilling, even if I dream I could do that kind of work). So you and I are left floundering some days. I’m trying to piece together a “career” that consists of raising the Sweetness, taking care of our home, teaching Yoga and children’s music classes and doing some extremely mind-dulling customer service quality assurance work that is my largest income generator. I am so grateful for your dream – Little Man is your most precious student, you are his most precious teacher and much of the professional working world just chooses not to recognize that we, and other parents who stay home, have the most absolute challenging and undervalues job in the world. You will teach for pay again – I have complete faith in that. I am glad you have found some peace (at least for today!) with your current profession and also the chance to nourish other parts of yourself more (I love your cooking, egg gathering, and pottery posts!). Hugs and cocktails to you, my friend!

    Reply
    1. TheSheepAreOut Post author

      Yes, that was our conversation. 🙂 I obviously think about it a lot. I’ve been very lucky to have some great female role models in my life; both family and friends. But it’s funny that I still don’t feel totally “prepared” for this current mom career. All the work I put into the Ph.D. to teach at the university level… and there are times when I feel like I need to put more “research” into my mom career too. Then I also try to remind myself to not take myself too seriously. 🙂 Play is good too.
      I miss many things about your friendship, but so much of it was also about staying both grounded and creative. Just from looking at some of the felt things I’ve done and you can totally see your creative influence on me. And I totally need to post the Craftini recipe… that post is in the works.
      I too have faith that eventually we both will get back into our “other” careers (Anthropologists love to write “other” with quotation marks. It’s a nerdy insider sort of thing.) I also remember us talking about your mom and her huge and wonderful influence on her kids as a stay at home mom. Due to unfortunate circumstances my mom wasn’t able to do that, though she really wanted to. It’s the idea of that influence that I try to focus on when I get frustrated with my lack of professional career progress. It’s not something written up in journals that only my academic peers will read, it doesn’t lead to pay increase or tenure, but the investment of time into Little Man is as the cheesy commercials say; priceless.
      P.S. Can you tell that when I’m writing glowing stories about the island that I’m trying to lure you guys to move here too? 🙂 Miss you!

      Reply
    1. TheSheepAreOut Post author

      Thanks, Mom. I’ve been super lucky to have two moms (and actually more when I count in family friends who have taken us under their wings) who are both excellent maternal role models. There are many situations on a weekly basis where as I way my response to whatever is going on, I find myself asking what mom would do… 🙂 It’s a blessing to have that sort of database of stories and experiences that you both have shared with me as I stumble and bumble my way through things.

      Reply
  2. Jen

    Oh, as you can imagine I related to this on many many levels. I love my job as a stay-at-home mom to my adorable little monkeys. But I also really miss teaching and mourn the fact that I have probably killed my chances at the academic career I once was sure I would have. And then I go back to loving my current job. And then I feel like I should be wanting that academic career. And then I realize how much I would dislike the pressures of it (to publish, to do grant seeking, etc etc). And then I feel guilty at how relieved I am to be free of those pressures. And then I have fun with the girls and realize how lucky I am and how important my work now is. And then I wonder and worry what I will do when they don’t “need” me anymore. And then, and then and then! Your post(s) did so well at crystallizing the evolving nature of those emotions. Thank you!

    Reply
    1. TheSheepAreOut Post author

      And as you well know, you are also a target of mine as I try to lure you out to the island. You know that, right? 🙂
      You know, this whole issue of a career as a stay-at-home-mom (or dad) wouldn’t be such an issue if we hadn’t found another outside career that we loved so much. I had jumped around through multiple careers before I landed in anthropological academia, and frankly I don’t think I would have missed them like I do teaching at the university level. Someone asked me once if I’d be interested in teaching at the high school level. I gagged on my drink and nearly tipped over the little bowl of munchies on our table. I give all praise and respect to good educators at the high school and lower levels, but that is so not my talent. Oy!
      As for this particular post(s) I was hoping that they would speak to my friends out there who are dealing with the same issues as I am. It was, in fact, my goal of honoring my mom friends and all the things that I learn from you all that I posted those thoughts in the first place. Blogging is weird in how there are some things that you end up laying bare for all to see. This was a hard one and I felt a bit exposed, but just like the sacrifices that go into being a stay-at-home-parent, the rewards are worth the effort.

      Reply
  3. Pingback: Super Women or Women in Hiding? | The Sheep Are Out…

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